Best brand integrations are 'feel-good' stories

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NEW YORK -- CVS Pharmacy's integration on ABC's canceled "Miracle Workers," GMC's placement on Bravo's "Queer Eye" and Sears' role on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" were the most effective brand integrations of 2006, according to data released by IAG Research.

Rounding out the top five integrations of the year -- all of which occurred in reality programming -- were 7-Eleven's task sponsorship on NBC's "The Apprentice" and Saturn's giveaway of an '07 Sky roadster to the winning designer on Bravo's "Project Runway."

The findings are based on 868,308 online surveys of roughly 350,000 TV viewers who watched programming on major broadcast networks and 10 cable stations. IAG assigns the highest scores to the integrations that were most successful at improving consumers' opinions of a brand.

While the average product integration scores 100 on IAG's brand opinion index, CVS' gift of covering the cost of patients' postsurgery medications on "Miracle Workers" netted an average of 330; GMC sport utility vehicles driven by "Queer Eye's" Fab Five scored an average of 325; and Sears' regular role of providing tools, appliances, furniture and supplies to remodel homes on "Makeover" scored 304 on average.

"When advertisers are integrated in a positive, feel-good, prosocial kind of way, that really seems to resonate with viewers, and they walk away with a better feeling about the brand," IAG co-CEO Alan Gould said. Three of the top five integrations of '06 involved some sort of advertiser benevolence.

Four of the top five integrations involved brands placed on multiple episodes of a show. The only single-episode integration was 7-Eleven's on "Apprentice," using the platform that gives advertisers the opportunity to have an entire episode revolve around their brand.

"Essentially, the brand is the story line," Gould said. "The top placements of 2006 illustrate the trend that brands integrated across multiple episodes perform better than those that appear in just a single telecast."

IAG also tracks whether placements occur on their own or along with spots that air during a show's commercial breaks. CVS, Sears and Saturn involved what IAG terms "ad adjacency."

"We do see overall that if there's ad adjacency the integration will perform better, but the data indicates that even integrations that don't have ad support can work well if they're executed well," Gould said, adding that brand integrations sometimes can be more effective than traditional 30-second spots at impacting consumers' brand opinion.

IAG also ranks the most effective placements by subcategories. In the category of single-episode integration with ad adjacency, the most effective were Pantene Pro-V on UPN's "America's Next Top Model," Nissan on NBC's "Star Tomorrow" and Apple's iPod on Fox's "House."

The top placements in the category of multiple-episode integrations with ad adjacency were CVS on "Miracle Workers," Sears on "Makeover" and Saturn on "Runway."

For single-episode integrations without ad adjacency, 7-Eleven on "Apprentice," Norwegian Cruise Lines on "Apprentice" and the Pontiac Solstice on "Big Brother 7" ranked best. In multiple-episode integrations without ad adjacency, GMC on "Queer Eye," Sony's portable video player on TLC's "What Not to Wear" and TRESemme on "Project Runway" led the way.
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