Struggling Canadian Broadcasters Embrace Paid Product Placements

Conventional networks are following Hollywood and slipping brands and logos into their channel offerings to boost revenues.

TORONTO - The floodgates have been opened to product placement on Canadian TV as advertisers grab a bigger stake in homegrown shows for a commercial plug.

Struggling conventional broadcasters have rolled out a raft of campaigns where marketers pay to have goods featured across a range of channels and platforms.

Retail giant Canadian Tire, in a competitive dogfight north of the border with Walmart and Target, has unveiled a multimillion-dollar partnership with TSN, the cable sports channel, and RDS, its French language counterpart.

The agreement calls for Canadian Tire advertising on a broad range of TSN sporting events, including regional NHL games, and for RDS to integrate branded content across its varied channels.

"We still deeply value access to television broadcasts that draw large audiences, but increasingly we’re facing the need to produce unique and relevant content for our many digital and mobile channels," Duncan Fulton, senior vp at Canadian Tire, explained.

Increased product placements come as broadcasters see their traditional advertising-backed business model come under threat from Netflix Canada and other competing media.

The result has Big Brother Canada houseguests snacking on Pepsi’s Twistos, having a pizza party courtesy of Pizza Pizza, and completing a Divergent-inspired obstacle course sponsored by Entertainment One, which released the Lionsgate teen tentpole in Canada and discovered social media gold with the product placement.

"The social footprint was unmatched on the broadcast premiere of the Divergent challenge as both #Divergent and #BBCAN2 were top trending in Canada for that night," Lisa McAlpine, director of marketing at eOne Films, recalled.

And TD Home Insurance, a major Canadian insurer, has turned to rival broadcaster Bell Media to reach first-time home buyers in Quebec with a TV and Internet campaign on a range of channels, including RDS, Canal Vie and MusiquePlus.

Bell Media is producing video vignettes that feature Quebec celebrities Katrine Paradis, Vanessa Sicotte, Joël Legendre and Stéphane Richard talking about their homes.