Following long-awaited change in the Ofcom (independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries) guidelines, consumers in the UK are getting a taste of the full range of product integrations in British TV productions from ITV’s This Morning to the universe of Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay’s shows on Channel 4. Prior to February, 2011, any product placement happened in the form of props and most definitely without any marketing support.
Now it is perched between paid advertising and earned media much like it is in the US. For brands that are advertisers, the large dollars will unlock exciting possibilities, and for those that are not, brand integrations and prop placements open amazing new opportunities.
To be sure, UK consumers are accustomed to seeing brands incorporated into plot lines and reality shows through imports, and will not tolerate clunky, badly scripted integrations. Authenticity is core to every deal. “Off the shelf” packages leave the consumer uninspired and certainly do enhance brand affinity.
There are six truths to successful integrations and placements that have been honed by our brand integration team at Ketchum Sports & Entertainment:
Ratings are only 50 percent of the equation. Understanding how to best work with (and maintain relationships with) producers is the other 50 percent. Therefore, when sifting through entertainment opportunities, it is critical to evaluate both the qualitative and quantitative values. Knowing if the show producers are willing to create customized, meaningful and authentic integrations or generic brand placements should sway a decision for fewer eyeballs to achieve a more effective end product.
Develop the placement with writers and producers, not those responsible for media sales. The highest quality integrations are perceived as editorial content and that starts with the creative decision makers.
Paid does not mean owned! Understanding and respecting the roles of the production team gets results. While sometimes it’s hard to give over creative control, it’s vital to respect the show’s creative integrity for credibility
The devil is in the details. When crafting the agreement be very clear on how the brand is represented. If you say ‘a clear brand product shot’ does that mean a close-up or a medium shot? Does the logo have to be seen? Can a competitive product be in the show?
Take it to the tape; the contract is just the first step. The transaction comes to life in the follow-through including close scrutiny at the shoot and constant communication through to the air date.
Merchandise with 360° ways to leverage the investment. For example, although the ‘onscreen’ integration may be relatively minimal in duration, brands should always endeavor to acquire all the footage shot with the brand. It’s also valuable to shoot additional content solely for the brands use.
In the UK, brand integration is a young discipline – to say the least. The unwritten rules of engagement will evolve quickly in the coming months, and clients can expect to hear integration ideas as part of the core PR programs just as easily as their media buying plans. In the best of all possible worlds, these ideas will coexist and support each other, just as they do in the US.
Ann Wool is partner and managing director, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment