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Reality Producers Discuss Integrations at HRTS Lunch

Apr 22, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Executive producers of unscripted programming questioned the effectiveness and seamlessness of integrated product placement in their programs at a Hollywood Radio & Television Society luncheon today.
“America’s Next Top Model’s” Tyra Banks, “Survivor’s” Mark Burnett, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’s” Michael Davies, “Big Brother’s” Allison Grodner, “The Bachelor’s” Mike Fleiss and “Hell’s Kitchen’s” Arthur Smith spoke about the changing elements of advertising regarding their programs to a full ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hilton.
The panel agreed that working more closely with advertisers is the easiest way to make more effective product placement for viewers. Mr. Burnett said the biggest problem with producing a show is the disconnect between the advertising and creative sides.
Mr. Burnett said the sales department is selling ad time on a program after getting a third-hand description of the project. A clearer concept and explanation, he said, would allow for more effective service to advertisers.
“It would help everyone if we were involved in those [advertising] meetings,” he said.
Ms. Banks said advertising executives don’t necessarily understand how savvy viewers are in terms of integrated products, meaning an obvious plug will scare away viewers. She said the integration has to be practically subliminal.
“They want [the product being promoted], but they don’t know why they want it,” she said. She added that she sometimes watches her own programs and grimaces at how a product was woven into the show.
“A lot of times,” she said, “we fail.”
Mr. Davies said integration rides a fine line, because if a product is too natural a fit, it won’t necessarily sell more units. He questioned “Millionaire’s” AT&T phone-a-friend branding, which he said was touted as a brilliant piece of placement.
But he added it wasn’t clear how much more AT&T product was sold based on that.
Ms. Grodner said it’s much easier on a production if the integration arrives early in the program’s development, as opposed to shoehorning something in at the last minute.
Integration itself is becoming a hot topic due to the proliferation of time-shifted media via DVRs and online viewing, something Mr. Burnett said is only going to get worse.
“I would bet that my 11- and 12-year-olds don’t know what channel ‘Survivor’ is on,” he said. “My kids have a different channel. It’s called TiVo.”
Mr. Burnett said he would like to see broadcast networks receive a subscriber fee like cable networks, as dual-stream revenues for the cable nets aren’t on a level playing field with broadcast.
Some sort of broadcast network subscriber fee collected via cable systems would give networks more money to play around with, allowing them to invest in more unusual projects.

17 Comments

  1. What did Fleiss have to say ? Was that the only topic?
    Other than showcasing lovely destinations (Legoland! The whole Country of Canada!) and accommodations, product placement on The Bachelor seems clumsy and ridiculous. What are they supposed to do? Pop a breath mint before jumping into the hot tub? Hand out safe sex advice in the Fantasy Suite invitations?
    Top Chef, a show that is really well cast, edited and produced, has clumsy segments produced entirely for the benefit of some sponsor. I completely agree that it interrupts flow and integrity.
    Biggest Loser seems to have that problem as well, with those little “chats” about good nutrition or whatever. Jillian holds glass of milk, talking to contestant, cut to Drink Milk Ad. Groan.

  2. Only those intellectually vacant enough to commit the offense in the first place would need to hold a self-indulgent symposium to discuss if it works.

  3. Boo Hoo Mike Austin, upset you weren’t invited to the symposium or are you just another boring, psuedo-intellectual twit who isn’t in the business yet thinks he knows better than anyone who actually is? Go back to reading Variety online and let the pros do their thing…

  4. Boo Hoo Mike Austin, upset you weren’t invited to the symposium or are you just another boring, psuedo-intellectual twit who isn’t in the business yet thinks he knows better than anyone who actually is? Go back to reading Variety online and let the pros do their thing…

  5. Boo Hoo Mike Austin, upset you weren’t invited to the symposium or are you just another boring, psuedo-intellectual twit who isn’t in the business yet thinks he knows better than anyone who actually is? Go back to reading Variety online and let the pros do their thing…

  6. Boo Hoo Mike Austin, upset you weren’t invited to the symposium or are you just another boring, psuedo-intellectual twit who isn’t in the business yet thinks he knows better than anyone who actually is? Go back to reading Variety online and let the pros do their thing…

  7. No mention of the panel host, Jeff Probst? Ouch.

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