|ABC Family continues to be a destination for marketers looking to reach young adults. MasterCard is the latest to work its brand into the network's programming.
"Relative Chaos," starring Terry Bradshaw, Nicholas Brendon, Christopher Gorham and Charisma Carpenter, shows what can happen when marketers and producers are flexible about working together. ABC Family ad-sales executives, who bartered the deal with MasterCard and its media agency GSD&M, promised two integrations in the film.
There ended up being four, including a "Priceless" line in a climactic wedding scene.
"If marketers can relax a little and let the writers do what they do, they can end up with more than the initial deal called for," said Laura Nathanson, exec VP-advertising sales at the network. "MasterCard was great to work with -- they were not intrusive."
MasterCard is the exclusive presenting sponsor of the movie, airing Sept. 4, and will use its print and online real estate to promote it.
The marketer has been active in branded entertainment for several years, recently working with cable network TNT on a two-minute thriller that's airing during the Saturday night movie block. ABC Family was an attractive partner, particularly because the original movies there have become a popular destination for the desirable 12- to 34-year-old demographic.
Michael Lao, MasterCard's VP-media, said it's important to get across branding messages and, when it fits, placements for its new products. Scripted programming, while requiring a bit more finesse, is often preferable because the marketer has more ability to tweak its brand's portrayal, he said.
"We never want to write the script," Mr. Lao said. "We just want input."
MasterCard and GSD&M executives read three original movie scripts and picked "Relative Chaos" for their integration. The movie focuses on three highly competitive siblings who converge on their parents' house for an annual week of ridiculous contests.
The marketer and its agency worked closely with the network's production and writing team to shape the MasterCard mentions within the content. The movie was produced by Von Zerneck/Sertner Films and Sony Pictures Television.
Integrations revolved around the siblings vying for the dinner check and one brother telling another during a fierce game of Monopoly that he would take MasterCard to pay off a massive debt.
"We wanted it to feel like the way people use their credit cards in the real world," Ms. Nathanson said. "Nobody wanted the movie to look like a race car with logos everywhere."
The "Priceless" mention came from the writers.
"The goal wasn't to ram the 'Priceless' tagline in the movie," Mr. Lao said. "It just happened to work nicely in the script."
MasterCard has been a media buyer on ABC Family on and off for the past few years. The interest in being embedded into the network's content is indicative of a trend not just on cable TV but across the dial as marketers look for TiVo-proof ways to reach audiences.
ABC Family is becoming a destination for marketers that want to reach out to tweens, teens and young adults, and its ad sales executives are looking for appropriate partnerships at a time when brands and their agencies are increasingly sophisticated about what they want from integrations.
"When the client is specific and really knows their brand, it helps us find a program that makes sense for both of us," Ms. Nathanson said.
The channel recently linked with OfficeMax, sister Disney division Hollywood Records and Google Video for a one-hour special called "Schooled." OfficeMax financed the show, which pulled in solid ratings, and sponsored it commercial-free on the network. Ms. Nathanson's group also put together a deal between the network's new hit "Kyle XY" and Sour Patch Kids candy that includes an on-air and online sponsorship from the marketer and several integrations into the show.
MasterCard made a significant commitment to the network during the upfront buying period, and brand integration was key to sealing the deal, Ms. Nathanson said. She declined to put a dollar value on the agreement.
The partners are already looking for their next venture, which likely will be a scripted project, either another original movie or a series.
Though marketers are increasingly talking about financing their own entertainment content, MasterCard probably won't go that route. The marketer will continue to repurpose its popular "Priceless" ads on Priceless.com but intends to look for existing projects on TV and the web as integration vehicles. There's an ongoing alliance with Yahoo Music, for instance, that gives consumers a year free when they use MasterCard to buy a year's worth of downloads.
"We feel that there are a lot of potential partners out there for us that are far better at creating content," Mr. Lao said. "Our focus will be to tap into their expertise."