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Promax Panel Examines Art of Brand Integration

New York -- Seamless, organic brand integration remains an elusive pursuit. But a panel discussion Wednesday at Promax/BDA North America 2008 here produced a simple by-law for advertisers and content creators looking to successfully marry advertising and programming: start early.

Titled “Building Business Through Brand Integration,” the panel brought together executives from the network, advertising and talent sides of the business: Dana Locatell, executive producer,; Seth Matlins, brand agent, CAA Marketing; Doug Scott, senior partner, executive director of branded content, Ogilvy; and Dario Spina, senior vice president of integrated marketing, MTV Networks Entertainment Group.

B&C senior writer Marisa Guthrie moderated the discussion and began by noting the difficulty of reaching increasingly distracted consumers in a fragmented media environment. "Brand integration is a delicate art," Guthrie said, "and like Japanese fugu, if prepared incorrectly, you're dead."

All agreed that while brand integration can take many forms, it is not product placement -- something "bolted on" after the fact, as Scott characterized the injection of Proctor & Gamble products on CBS' Survivor.

"Done well, it's good marketing," said Matlins, whose agency was behind the partnership between Hasbro and Paramount/DreamWorks for the film Transformers.

"If done well, it's effective, entertaining programming," added Locatell.

Speaking from the perspective of a network "on the receiving end," Spina said he found advertisers to be overly focused on product placement.

Despite the success of the Pond's integrated campaign for USA Network's The Starter Wife, Scott recalled the "very uncomfortable" conversations that characterized the process. "It's a new environment," he said. "For every one [that succeeds], there's nine train wrecks."

Locatell said it was incumbent upon ad agencies to "recondition" their clients on the content-creation side to work more collaboratively to better integrate branding.

But Matlins said he has found "wild openness" among content creators to the opportunities of brand integration, particularly given the increasingly risky economic environment for producing films and television programming.