Have we hit “peak integration”?

James McGrath
By James McGrath | 5 May 2015

Viewers aren't so much getting frustrated with ongoing product integration within TV shows, as with the inventory surrounding the shows becoming repetitive.

With product integration-heavy shows House Rules, MasterChef, and Renovation Rumble set to debut at 7.30pm tonight, viewers are increasingly questioning whether there's simply too much integration within TV shows.

Anecdotally, viewers are switching off from TV shows which are overtly marketing to them within the program structure and heading for alternative forms of entertainment, raising the question of whether free-to-air TV is hitting “peak integration”, particularly around reality TV formats.

However, several media buyers this morning said the problem wasn't so much with the integration, but with the deals surrounding them.

UM managing director Mat Baxter told AdNews this morning that brands and agencies were getting better at integrating within TV shows, but it was still a mixed bag.

“It's a bit mixed, really hit and miss. You still get integration that makes you scratch your head, where you can tell it just doesn't fit with the tone and context of the show,” Baxter said.

“I don't think it's volume that's the issue if it's done right, but maybe with volume you risk more bad examples getting through.”

PHD managing director Toby Hack told AdNews that while integration was a mixed bag, agencies getting a whole bunch of spots in return for integration deals was presenting a problem.

“I think what viewers are being frustrated by is not so much the integration of the brands within the shows but the spots around it,” Hack said.

“Say you're a brand and you pay for this massive integration, the agency is going to go to the network and say: 'we want a whole bunch of spots as part of this integration deal'.

“More often than not, a brand has just the one set of creative. So you're not only seeing the brand in the show, you're seeing the same set of creative again, and again, and again during the show.”

Baxter said agencies could get up to six or seven spots associated around a show as part of broader product integration deals, and said brands and agencies needed to plan for these spots better.

“I think spot saturation is always a concern, but brands really need to plan to switch up their creative knowing they may have six, seven, or eight spots within one show,” Baxter said.

“There usually is some spot inventory available as part of the integration deal, and we're thinking about how to appropriately use them.”

Hack also said PHD was increasingly thinking about the ongoing value of the spots gained from integration deals, but said “the bad agencies” were using spots to demonstrate return on investment to clients.

“I think part of the reason why agencies are insisting on that arrangement is that spots are easy to measure, you have a CPM. However, it's harder to demonstrate the cut and dry value of good integration pieces,” Hack said.

“There is some really cool stuff going on out there with brand extensions pushing off the in-show integration piece, but there are some really bad buyers of media out there who are using the integration to push for spots.”

More broadly, Baxter said that networks needed to get better at offering organic integration opportunities.

“Locally they're probably still a little bit late in offering their integration opportunities when you compare with a place like the US where they're masters of the form,” Baxter said.

“Local networks really need to get a bit better at planning for integration right when they start planning for these shows.

“There are still networks coming to clients and agencies a couple of weeks into production trying to cram those integration pieces into the show.”

A Seven spokesperson said that networks were getting better at offering integration at an earlier stage, and clients were seeing the benefits of this.

"We have identified this [integration] as an area which is highly sought after from our clients. Seven was the first network to put in place a working team which pulls through marketing campaigns seamlessly into the highest rating shows in Australia," they said.

"Client results would indicate that the value of integration has increased via huge increases in brand metrics and the key indicator, being sales increases.

"Across our key tentpole programming, our clients have have seen sales increases anywhere from 10-50%."

Further comment is being sought from TV networks.

Mat Baxter will be among the raft of speakers to front the AdNews Media Summit in Sydney on 22 May. You can book your tickets to this highly-anticipated event here.

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