Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Can marketers go backwards?

In the early days of television, programming costs were underwritten by a show sponsor. The one that most people probably know, thanks to Quiz Show, is "Twenty-One" with its Geritol sponsorship. (Incidentally, whatever happened to Geritol? If it's still available, I think I might start taking it.)

We all know that history often repeats itself. For a number of years, it's been clear that advertising is going to cede considerable ground to sponsored entertainment, and Stuart Elliott notes the latest developments in his recent piece in The New York Times. In a society that is increasingly impregnable to advertising, attaching a brand to the appropriate piece of entertainment becomes more than a little appealing.

So far, most of these efforts have been clumsy. The challenge might be that it requires a rather abrupt paradigm shift for the traditional marketing brain. In a business that has long prided itself on seeking pinpoint accuracy – always lauded, even if rarely achieved – sponsored programming requires one to take a giant leap, ceding control to others who know more about creating content that people will seek out. The problem is that marketers, the people at consumer companies and agencies who are trying to sell things, don't really think the same way as the entertainment types, who are trying to create things that are just plain interesting. This is a world without much in the way of pie charts or bar graphs.

I think that on the way to successful efforts – vehicles such as Extreme Home Makeover and American Idol spring to mind – we're going to witness to a great deal of clunkers. Programming that is thinly-disguised advertising will bomb, as old school sellers stumble and try to have things like taglines and other obvious signs of hackdom into scripts.

Real success will come to those who stretch, don't try to absolutely mimic the few efforts that have been successful and find news ways to go forward.


Blogger Dave J. said...

My kids are hooked on, created and sponsored by General Mills. A great example of a successful sponsored entertainment.

Bigger question is how can B2B companies leverage such a tactic? Are blogs enough?

9:27 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home