Syndicators' Integrated Thinking

In March, CBS Television Distribution launched a feature in Entertainment Tonight and on called “Get the Celebrity Look for Less,” featuring stylist Lawrence Zarian recreating a celebrity's look using products from Kohl's department store.

Viewers can check out an outfit and, if they like what they see, click on those items right there on ET's Website. Those links take viewers to Kohl's site, where they can make purchases.

After the segment airs on Thursdays—in time to shop for the weekend—Kohl's finds it tough to keep the often deeply discounted items in its stores, says John Nogawski, president of CBS Television Distribution.

The ET/Kohl's brand integration is one example of the complex partnerships that syndicators are creating with advertisers in a post-Tivo world. While the extent of advertisers' in-show involvement once only went as far as applying their name to a segment—think Smucker's sponsorship of The Today Show's birthday feature—brands are now incorporated throughout a show and on their Websites.

Headed into the upfront, syndicators are hoping to win new advertising dollars with creative and effective integrations. This year, syndicators have found integration to be a bright spot in an otherwise dim market.

It remains a small part of the business compared to license fees and barter sales, but CTD's brand-integration business has increased 35% in the past year, Nogawski says. “It's also grown our 30-second business,” he says, because advertisers find their spots are more effective when run in tandem with integrations.

Day-and-date first-run shows featuring popular hosts such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Regis Philbin lend themselves well to integrations. Fans typically tune into these shows several times a week and are amenable to messages from these hosts. And even if shows are recorded, brand integrations are TiVo-proof.

Warner Bros. has incorporated such advertisers as Bertolli, Chevrolet, Curves, GMC, L'Oreal, Niva, Toyota and Walgreens into its three talk shows: Ellen, Bonnie Hunt and Tyra Banks. Disney-ABC works with such brands as Chrysler, Walgreens, T-Mobile, Dr. Scholl's and Quaker Oats in Live With Regis and Kelly, with features such as the show's “Beautiful Baby” week and its 3D Halloween special. NBC Universal has a long-running integration with Subway in Access Hollywood, and this season incorporated Mars, Tums, Sears, Hewlett-Packard, Evian and Splenda into Deal or No Deal.

“I think we can look forward to integrations being here to stay,” says Bo Argentino, NBCU's senior VP of media and advertising sales. “Viewers and clients really identify with a very strong brand or personality. And when you put brands in a show as opposed to a commercial pod, you get that much more acknowledgement for your brand.”

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Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997 - September 2002.