How David Brenner's Company Changes Media Reality

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Who: David Brenner, president and founder of Marathon Ventures.

Why you need to know him: Mr. Brenner’s company, based in Wakarusa, Ind., developed Digital Brand Integration, a process that virtually places products in TV shows, films and other forms of entertainment after they’ve already been produced.
David Brenner, president and founder of Marathon Ventures.

Credentials: Before starting Marathon Ventures in 2000, Mr. Brenner worked as a member of the WTBS sales team with Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, and later joined CNN’s original sales team in New York. He then spent 16 years at MCA/Universal, starting at the company as director of advertiser sales for syndication division MCA TV. For five years, he was one of two MCA executive committee members who oversaw worldwide operations of the USA Networks. He left the company in 1997, as senior VP, sales and marketing for the MCA/Universal TV and Home Entertainment Groups. He is a graduate of Stanford University.

How did you get involved with digital integrations? “The development of Digital Brand Integration evolved naturally out of my career in media sales. While 30-second commercials have been and will remain the foundation of the business, both advertisers and agencies were searching for new ways to meaningfully connect with consumers. The ability to plan product placements in the same way as commercial schedules seemed like a step forward for both buyers and sellers.”

Who are your clients? “Companies that deliver video to consumers. In television, that means broadcast and cable networks as well as syndicators. For DVDs, Internet and other forms of video distribution, it is the studios and independent producers. We have done the bulk of our work to date with CBS and Fox in prime time. Other clients include NBC Universal Television and Warner Bros. Domestic Television. We expect agreements with additional networks and studios this year.”

Which shows have used your technology? “Our technology has been used in a wide range of shows including the CBS fall season lineup contest/promotion that made use of DBI technology on hits such as 'CSI' and 'NCIS.' DBI images have also appeared in network telecasts of 'Yes, Dear,' 'Still Standing,' 'Out Of Practice' and 'How I Met Your Mother, as well as in syndicated episodes of 'Will & Grace.'"

Describe some of your most recent placements and how they appeared. “DBI placements have occurred during the past few months for Cheez-It Crackers in both 'Yes, Dear' and 'Still Standing.' In each case, the box was integrated into a relevant scene in which snacking would seem logical. With the 'Still Standing' DBI integration, we included a digitally-created bowl filled with the product to add a touch of realism and a sense that the product was actually in use.”

Talk about the technology that you created. How does it work? “Marathon Ventures has a patent pending system of Digital Brand Integration [DBI] that includes frame-by-frame analysis of video programming and evaluation of each frame against a matrix of variables designed to identify the best digital product placement locations. Information is stored in a database that can be searched by advertiser and/or network needs, such as context, length of exposure and telecast date.”

Could your technology also be used for other forms of media outside of traditional TV? How about film or videogames? “The technology can be used for any form of video content including film, television, DVD, and video for both the Internet and mobile applications, such as video iPods and cell phones.”

What brand categories are best suited for digital integrations? “Virtually any product that has a recognizable package, logo or shape can be digitally integrated into video programming. Much of our work to date has been for packaged goods, but we have successfully integrated digital images for restaurants, financial services, retail stores, wireless providers and a wide range of categories that, at first glance, might not seem like logical candidates for DBI.” 

Could it also include the automotive category at some point? “We have already successfully produced images of automobiles that have been digitally integrated into existing scenes.” 

How long does it take to digitally insert a product? “Although we can deliver broadcast-ready digital insertions in 24 hours, we prefer to have several days to complete the process.”  

How can your service most benefit an advertiser? Could it play a key role in brokering multiple deals with an advertiser's products across multiple media formats? “DBI is valuable because it provides an extraordinary degree of control over product placement that can have a positive impact on ROI [return on investment]. DBI helps reduce the impact of commercial tune-out and clutter because brand images are contextually placed within programs which can enhance both the reach and recall of 30-second commercials.” 

Explain the costs for a brand interested in doing digital placements. Is the process cheaper for them? Why not just have the products on set in the first place? “DBI works in conjunction, not in competition, with traditional product placement and brand immersion, in which products are elements of a storyline. DBI can also get products on-air in a fraction of the time required by traditional product placement; so the process meets the constantly evolving needs of marketing and media plans. DBI makes it easier for advertisers to choose the specific airdate and program in which they want their brand to appear.”

What are some challenges that still exist when it comes to digital placements? “Advertiser demand is strong. The issue is program supply. We are working closely with both networks and studios to make more programs available for DBI so that it will become an essential element of a complete marketing plan.”

How soon before most advertisers use the place-it-in-post practice? “We already have a solid base of advertisers and we expect the number to increase dramatically this year.”

What's on your TiVo? “A cross-section of programming that reflects the range of shows for which we are currently, or soon expect to be, using DBI -- both daytime and prime time, sitcoms and dramas, scripted and reality programs.”

What do you do on your downtime? “Read history and run.”
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