The NBC Universal cable network finished 2007 with some of the highest engagement and brand-recall indexes of IAG Research's annual integration rankings, with shows such as "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" cementing their status among the most effective branded-integration shows on cable TV.
The success is in the formula Bravo's research and ad-sales team has developed over the last three years to weave advertisers' brands within the fabric of the show, but also keep their involvement going during the commercial breaks. "Hybrid ads," as IAG has labeled them, allow the network to plug a show, as well as the marketer's involvement, during the first commercial in the pod. Bravo scored five of the year's top 20 most-recalled hybrid ads, while BlueFly.com's sponsorship of this season's "Project Runway" scored the highest brand recall of 2007, with a score of 195 on IAG's index. (According to IAG, 100 is an average recall score on the index.)
While similar integrations have paid off on broadcast series such as NBC's "The Apprentice," CW's "America's Next Top Model" and ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," Bravo has innovated the approach by giving extra weight to its "A" positions, the show promos, by sprucing them up with brand mentions and show highlights to remind the viewer whose integration they just saw. And in recent weeks, Bravo has rolled out a fourth integration component, interactive voting, to engage viewers and brands in a whole new way by allowing marketers such as Brother International sewing machines to sponsor real-time voting for "Project Runway."
No network turned out as many examples across as many different shows as Bravo's four competition series this year. Even Nexxus' integration into "Shear Genius," a series about hair stylists that drew mediocre ratings, scored a seventh-place finish on IAG's top 10 brand-opinion list.
Bravo's secret ingredient
Tony Cardinale, Bravo's VP-research, said the secret ingredient of Bravo's ad-engagement formula is likability. "If people see an ad on Bravo then see it on six other networks, if they say it was more likable when it was on Bravo, that's a manifestation of people's satisfaction with watching the shows."
As one major media buyer put it, "From what I've seen in the reports, almost overwhelmingly the response is more positive to commercials in the show when there's an integration in the show as well. The results for attention paid, purchase intent, all those metrics seem to go up pretty significantly as opposed to just running spots."
Although IAG doesn't track commercial ratings, the effectiveness of the integration is measured in direct relation to the amount of ad inventory it has. In other words, start buying those hybrid ad slots, marketers.
"Having an ongoing relationship between a brand and a program between multiple episodes really creates that engagement between the audience and the program and the advertiser," said Rachel Mueller-Lust, exec VP of IAG's network division.
Bravo continues its winning formula next week with its latest entry into the competitive-reality genre, "Make Me a Supermodel." Alltel has signed on as the show's wireless partner, with Luxottica eyewear and Mercedes-Benz also onboard for luxury integrations. Susan Malfa, Bravo's ad-sales chief, said the established integration formula has made it easier to attract clients who are looking to get more accountable metrics out of their TV buys.
"Between all the places that attention gets diverted to and all the other known obstacles to get people to pay attention to commercials, I think that what an advertiser really tries to do is tee themselves up in the best possible way so you can hit it out of the park," she said.