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Strike Zone: Latest on WGA talks

NEW YORK -- For advertisers who have cut deals to integrate their brands into TV shows this season, a prolonged writers strike could be a double-edged sword.

There could be many additional integration opportunities in the numerous reality shows expected to replace the scripted series, which won't get written or produced as a result of the strike. But on the downside, advertisers will not only lose the opportunity to connect with consumers through integrations in highly rated scripted shows, but make-goods from the networks might come at times that don't bode well for the brands' own marketing goals and initiatives.

Even worse, those advertisers that have built marketing programs around an in-show integration will most likely have to pull the plug on those plans, risking additional dollars that they won't get back in the form of make-goods from any of the networks.

"I think that clients will potentially suffer the loss of integrations and undoubtedly suffer some loss in the quality of the programs they purchased," said Fred Dubin, managing partner at Mediaedge:cia. "And the implications are potentially greater than the loss of an integration. Many clients build activation programs around integrations, and those will be lost."

Robert Riesenberg, president and CEO of Omnicom's Full Circle Entertainment, said the impact of a long-term strike would be more reality programming, which is much more conducive to product integration than scripted shows.

"As a result of that, we'll see more branded entertainment," he said. "Reality is primarily where the opportunities are, but at the same time all those brands chose specific scripted shows for a reason, and if it's a long strike, they might not get the benefit in the weeks and months that they wanted."

Brand integrations into late-night and daytime talk shows will go first, with those daily produced shows immediately impacted by the strike. Placements in scripted primetime shows will have a little more breathing room, with the networks most likely having banked a month or two of completed episodes.

Advertisers and their agencies are expected to demand make-goods for both media and integrations if the strike puts production on hold and the shows they bought don't air. While advertisers also could demand their media or integration dollars be returned in the event of a strike, experts said that was unlikely being that there were not many other options for their ad spends, especially with prices expected to rise in an already tight media marketplace.

"Any show that was in the works that is sort of put on hold because of the strike will eventually come back," Riesenberg said. "The question is, is the association still relevant when it does come back given the time of year? If it's relevant, there's no harm. If it's a problem for budgetary or seasonal reasons, the brands and networks will have a problem on their hands."

But despite all the potential pitfalls, one expert said he thought many advertisers already had discussed contingency plans with the networks.

"Everyone has known there might be a strike for the last three to four months. As an advertiser, if you haven't planned for it, you've got a problem," he said.
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