This Historical Fact Brought to You by Hyundai

Carmaker Sponsors Daily History Channel Segment, Shows Up in Classrooms

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NEW YORK -- Since you can't exactly rewrite them, historical events are hard to merge seamlessly with branded entertainment. But the marketing teams at the History Channel and Hyundai have teamed up for a major multiplatform initiative that will not only get the automaker brand placement on the network every day of the year in 2008, but in every eighth-grade history classroom in public schools across the country as well.
The deal with Hyundai and the History Channel shows the need by networks to take a meaningful stance on commercial engagement.
The deal with Hyundai and the History Channel shows the need by networks to take a meaningful stance on commercial engagement.

The pairing is for "This Day in History," a series of 30-second spots co-branded by Hyundai that began airing daily on History Channel last week, as well as on the program's micro-site on History.com and via mobile messaging through a "This Day" WAP site.

The project will also be shipped out to public schools at the beginning of the year in the form of "This Day in History: Classroom in a Box," which will include a teacher's guide, student posters, DVD and other study materials provided by Hyundai.

A shout-out from teachers
Libby O'Connell, senior VP-corporate outreach and chief historian for A&E Television Networks, said, "Now we can tell teachers, 'Here's some ways to use short-form pods in your classroom,' and they have been proud to say, 'We want to give an extra thank you to Hyundai for making it possible,' because they know without that sponsor they wouldn't be able to pay for the materials."

But what's really driving the Hyundai initiative is the need for History to take a more meaningful stance on commercial engagement. In the first round of Nielsen's C3 data for broadcast and cable, the channel scored an average commercial retention of about 90% during breaks -- better than the MTV entertainment networks and even FX, but enough of a gap left to capitalize on keeping the attention of its increasingly young male viewership. (C3 refers to the new ratings data that measures commercial breaks when watched either live or over the course of three days after a show's original broadcast.)

Amy Baker, senior VP-ad sales, History Channel, said the results of several IAG engagement studies with Hyundai's first round of "This Day" spots showed a 14% brand recall, something the network wanted to guarantee to an even larger extent this year for both Hyundai and its incumbent agency, Carat Fusion.

"If we were going to continue to produce so much new material, we wanted it to exist in as many places as it could," she said. "We were able to command everybody and rally together every discipline in the room to say, 'How can we make a piece of content come alive for an advertiser?'"

Improving digital expertise
Executing deals with so many moving parts might have seemed a lot more labor intensive as recently as a year or two ago, when the agencies were still getting their digital teams staffed to handle them. But the TV side had to catch up too. Lori Greene, VP-digital media for History, said prior to the Hyundai deal, most marketers were typically signing up for stand-alone pieces online. "Most of their partnerships were very show-based, the low-hanging fruit shows that are easy to get in and out of," she said.

Hyundai gets its own micro-site and mini-game on History.com, something the channel is ready to accommodate more often. "Now we're able to integrate brands really well and still make it unique to wherever you're experiencing the brand," Ms. Greene said.

Beyond Hyundai, Ms. Baker said the sales group has already started looking into similar deals with 10 clients a year as it begins to make branded entertainment and cross-platform integrations a regular part of its business strategy. "The big learning here is we have to be so creative on how to handle our pods." That requires fresh content and willingness to do things the network has never done before, like programming in commercial time with 30 seconds of content and 30 seconds of creative, she said. "We do realize we can't partner with just anybody, but when we do we want it to be meaningful."
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