At a recent meeting with a creative director at a large cable network, we were discussing the promotions of their shows. As this has been a mainstay of production music and custom music for a long time, it’s fascinating to see where the industry has evolved to, staying ahead of the curve of getting their productions recognized and looking deeper into the ripple effect this has on music needs.
Not so many years ago, product placement within a program was a somewhat novel yet “invisible” method of advertising a product. Now, the lines of product placement have gotten significantly more blurred as networks and their programs are offering their sponsors pseudo episodes highlighting the product in even a more opaque way. The competition for sponsor dollars requires new creative ways for a show or network to lure that advertiser to their channel.
As it relates specifically to music placements, more and more record labels are placing new artist’s songs in shows and promoting that act at the end of the program with information (in a promo format) about the music used – artist’s name and website address. That promo may also incorporate other products “seen” within the show (i.e. – the artist driving a Ford).
For instance, look at a show like “Extreme Home Makeover.” Though this is a somewhat simplified illustration, it
makes the point: Sears is a sponsor of the show. When the kitchens get designed and assembled, the appliances installed are generally all from Kenmore, Sears’ brand. It’s a great showcase for their latest and greatest technologies in a real world environment. Sears will also post an understated message acknowledging their involvement in the program, but the advertising work has been magically achieved, and the viewer doesn’t even realize they’re being sold something.
Of course, there are other examples. An action drama program may show a “behind the scenes” or “the making of…” format within their show. But within this, as much a highlight and star of the program as the paid talent is, they may travel to their investigations (or whatever event the plot would require) in a new Ford, utilizing all of the tricks that are now offered with that car. At the same time you’re getting caught up in the storyline, you’re also watching an incredible promotion for a key sponsor.
This is nothing new, but it is getting more difficult (in some cases) to see where the show ends and the advertising begins. It’s necessary with our media culture. Research would indicate that we’re becoming even more immune to the traditional :30 or :15 spot, but we’ll sure stick around to watch our heroes and heroines in a little different setting as long as the storyline’s good. And, while we get caught up in the plot, we’ve just seen a formidable advertisement that we didn’t even realize will register as such. Further, you may be watching this on any number of mobile devices at any time.
More formats with more music licensing needs make for a very competitive and challenging landscape for music companies. It requires our own product and marketing to be just as forward thinking as the clients from whom we are seeking placements.