Brand Integration in The Age of Cutting the Cable

The climactic scene of the grand finale of “Madmen” has Don Draper envisioning the classic Coca-Cola “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial while he’s meditating cliffside by the Pacific Ocean would be a perfect example of brand integration if Coca-Cola had actually paid for that. There have been other paid brand integrations on “Madmen” but that wasn’t one of them.

While brand integration has traditionally been the role of the ad agency, the lines between advertising, marketing and public relations are increasingly blurred.

Meanwhile, in the world of broadcast, satellite and satellite television, the business models are constantly evolving. For a while, the subscription model was the gold standard for cable, but ESPN is suddenly losing subscribers—it may finally be priced too high and revenues are shrinking. One of the reasons is more consumers are completely cutting the cable.

A fallback for revenue has always been brand integration which is often front and center and very obvious in sports—whether it is on the actual uniforms in Major League Soccer and the WNBA, or on billboards in baseball, or plastered all over vehicles and helmets and fire retardant suits in NASCAR.

Brand integration is especially important in this age where consumers are zapping commercials with their Tivos and DVRs, but also increasingly consuming media through services like Netflix and Hulu. Where are the commercials? Moving happily to the web, social and mobile media.

PRSA New York just hosted a media panel with producers from The Wendy Williams Show, Access Hollywood, Talk Stoop, Coffee With America and PopSugar. While all of these outlets are open to brand integration, some are pricier and more restrictive than others. If you’re trying to do something on Access Hollywood, be aware that you have to meet the standards and practices set by NBC News which oversees the show on an editorial basis, and that you better have a major celebrity endorser and realize you’ll be restricted to one plug. One work around is the old step and repeat backdrop tactic at almost all red carpets now—there’s no way to edit around all those logos in the background, no matter how much the lawyers at NBC would like their producers to do so.

Some outlets are more receptive to brand integration as it’s a major source of their revenue, TV shows like Coffee With America and PopSugar, which garners most of its audience online and in social media. Since the rise of branded content on the web, it’s almost easier online, but all metrics indicate TV messaging is still more influential because there is so much disinformation on the web. (That’s not to say there isn’t disinformation on TV, but it is perhaps less obvious and certainly less malicious. You won’t get your identity stolen passively watching TV).

Comments, questions, I’d love to hear from you! (Disclosure: I’m one of the owners of one of the brand integration opportunities mentioned here, Coffee With America).