Time travel and TV sponsorship

A number of news sources reported this week the decision of the Omnicom Group to employ Robert Riesenberg as Chief Executive of ‘Branded Entertainment’. In a nutshell, this business is all about media organisations and clients working with agencies to produce TV shows that promote a product or brand.

Worried that consumers are skipping 30-second commercials or surfing the Internet, advertising executives are looking for new and creative ways of imbedding their products in entertaining television programmes. But is the idea really anything new? Far from it. The early days of television in the United States were full of this kind of sponsorship. Back in the fifties, it wasn’t uncommon for shows to be named after the sponsor and the boundaries between the entertainment and commercial elements of the programming were unclear to say the least. What’s more, market research showed that recognition of the respective brands was high. Anyone who’s interested in the detail would be well advised to check out Stephen Fox’s excellent history of American advertising, The Mirror Makers*.

In the UK today, there is probably fairly low tolerance of overt product placement, but we are very much used to television programmes including references to their sponsors at the opening of the show and the start of commercial breaks. I think viewers would be left in little doubt that “French Leave”, for instance, is sponsored by Bonne Maman (the fastest way to France). And where would Graham Norton be without light, silky smooth TIA LUSSO® Cream Liqueur?

It’s interesting that advertisers are returning to some of the oldest tricks in the book in order raise brand awareness among their target market. And it ties in with the theme of one of my earlier blogs: there are very few spaces left today in which it’s possible to escape a sales message.

Offers of sponsorship for 108th Street are always welcome, of course 😉

© Phil Woodford, 2004. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford is a creative director at a London-based advertising agency and a lecturer in advertising theory. www.philwoodford.com

Read more:

Riesenberg to join Omnicom


Graham Norton and TIA LUSSO® Cream Liqueur


*The Mirror Makers: a history of American Advertising, Fox S, Heinemann, 1990