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Broadcast Network Execs: Expect More Integrated Campaigns This Upfront Season

Few things are certain about this year’s upfront ad market, but one thing is for sure: There are likely to be more integrated product campaigns on the broadcast networks next season than ever.

That was the message from top broadcast network execs convened in Beverly Hills Tuesday for a panel during the ANA Alliance for Family Entertainment's (the advertising group formerly known as the Family Friendly Forum) fifth annual symposium.

CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler said the product integrations her network did with Unilever this season -- involving the company’s Hellman’s mayo product on New Adventures of Old Christine and Bertolli pasta throughout CBS’ Monday night comedy lineup -- was held up as a “gold standard” for how these deals should work. “We’re in talks about doing it again,” she said.

Unilever, which spends nearly $500 million annually on TV, has made efforts to switch up the upfront process by requesting media companies create campaigns around products rather than buying plain-old spots in TV schedules, according to (Subscription required)

Fox Broadcasting Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said all of the networks have been increasingly involved in creating new ways of collaborating with sponsors and that “we are likely to see more as this upfront unfolds.”

ABC Primetime President Stephen McPherson concurs, saying “both sides [networks and advertisers] are getting more creative at it.”

United Front

NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Marc Graboff and The CW’s President of Entertainment Dawn Ostroff also participated on the panel with Tassler, Reilly and McPherson. In this rare get-together of network bosses, the execs were united in the argument that broadcast television is the best medium to reach consumers.

Reilly noted an example of an iPhone application developer – one of tens of thousands – who was plucked by Apple to appear in a TV commercial for the iPhone. As a result of the exposure on TV, the application soared to become one of the most popular iPhone apps.

The theme of the symposium is family-friendly fare, and the execs all argued that by being in the business of “broad” entertainment, that is precisely what the networks are positioned to deliver. One of the biggest keys to broadly successful programming is that it is relatable and features credible depictions of family life, the execs said.

Still, “family programming” has a broader definition than ever, says Ostroff, who targets women 18-34 at the The CW. “For our audience, family takes on many meanings,” she says. “There is no prescription for what family means right now.”

Graboff underlined the pitch for NBC’s upcoming Jay Leno vehicle at 10 p.m., calling it comedy counterprogramming to the dramas on his competitors at that hour. He expects Leno in primetime to have appeal throughout American households as its topical nature will “encourage families to talk about the days events,” he said.