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When Does Advertising Influence TV Content?

October 11th, 2018   ||    by Callie Wheeler   ||    No Comments

If asked, “When does advertising influence TV content?” you might be tempted to say, “Never!” While we know ads are the lifeblood of media—and not just television, but online, print, and radio, too—we think of advertisers as enablers, not contributors or influencers.

However, from the basics of product placement all the way to the plot, today’s brands are finding new ways to influence the content we consume. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways brands may be reaching television audiences.

Tried and True: Product Placement

Advertisers have been placing their products in television shows and movies for decades now. Product placement usually has a minimal effect on a show’s content itself, but it can add color to a story line. As Adweek recently highlighted, the use of Cheetos in Orange Is the New Black added a bit of realism to prison life as well as familiarity to the audience.

In another example, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s beers are exclusively used in House of Cards. The company isn’t paying for product placement but is instead providing the beer that will be consumed on the show. While annoying to some viewers, others may enjoy seeing their favorite characters drink their favorite beer.

Going the Extra Mile: Continuing Conversations After the Show

While not a brand-new idea, a more recent tactic is for brands to extend the program beyond its time slot through web extras, behind the scenes content, or branded content spots. A classic example is The Bachelor franchise’s partnership with Clorox to create “Bleachable Moments,” where bloopers and embarrassing clips are shared. Ad Age noted that the content had double the average rate of engagement for the industry.

A more recent example, according to CNBC, is Comedy Central’s “Handy,” which is a series of longer-form branded spots that are designed to replace smaller advertisements. By partnering with brands like Zales or Joe’s Crab Shack, the broadcaster aimed to keep viewers happy with humorous content instead of standard ads.

The Works: Paid Plot Points

When does advertising influence TV content the most? The answer is both simple and surprising: when brands pay for plots. While not as common as the other options mentioned, there are several examples in modern television.

Earlier this year, Procter & Gamble partnered with ABC to show the brand’s ad, “The Talk,” on the network’s series black-ish. Leveraging their ad as a central plot point, P&G facilitated a conversation around race and worked their advertisement into the main characters’ family and work life.

Another memorable example is Pepsi’s work on Fox’s Empire. The brand worked with the show creator to make a Pepsi partnership a key plot point in three episodes of the series in 2015. And as an added bonus, according to Variety, Pepsi partnered with the series again in 2017 to create extra content, checking all three of the boxes on this list of how advertising influences TV content.

There are many ways advertisers influence the content we see on TV to reach audiences more creatively and effectively. Do you know any others we missed?

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