April 14, 2008

A new poll by Entertainment Weekly shows three out of four TV viewers prefer product placement over commercials.

What EW didn't survey was whether TV viewers would mind seeing 20 different product placements over 40 minutes of program content -- or around one every two minutes -- every night for every TV show.

I use this equation because that is what it would take to replicate the current financial TV model, where there are 10 minutes of national TV commercial messages per hour of prime-time programming -- plus two more minutes for local advertising time, as well as additional minutes per hour of network promotion time.

This survey suggests viewers would rather see an entire show full of product placements than 12, 14, or 16 minutes an hour of non-program time. I wonder what that would look like. Not too organic, I would guess.

Still, branded entertainment proponents will make sure that product integration continue to grow. But the math gets in the way. One-hour TV shows are not getting any cheaper, averaging $2 million an hour or more.

Unless you are Mark Burnett with "The Apprentice" or "Celebrity Apprentice" or a select few other reality shows, branded entertainment deals today can only do so much in bringing down production costs.

Loading up more product placement would mean less time to make these deals work creatively. Organically driven deals? Forget it. The problem with loading more product placement into shows is that they will start to look like commercials.

EW's survey does concur with results IAG Research has come up with concerning branded entertainment, which is that the worst of it -- the most in-organic, slapped-on-stuff -- doesn't seem to faze viewers. But this is only snapshot of where product placement now, which is - for the most part - only lightly sprinkled in shows, and where DVRs are only in 20% of U.S. TV households.

The majority of branded entertainment still occurs on reality shows. Give me analysis about overloading product placement onto scripted shows -- especially when TV producers still complain it takes much more effort and time to work products in "organically."

If viewers still don't mind, I can only hope they are saving time and the economy by not watching an entire show and, instead, going out shopping.

A media critique by Wayne Friedman
Courtesy of http://www.mediapost.com

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