Meet the Branded-Entertainment Matchmaker

NextMedium's Bluhm Helps Brands, Producers Find One Another

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NEW YORK -- What's been keeping branded entertainment and product integrations from growing even more? Oftentimes the brands and the producers don't know what the other has to offer. David Bluhm hopes to change all that.
NextMedium CEO David Bluhm: 'We're not trying to replace the Camaro being launched in 'Transformers' or the 'American Idol' AT&T deal.'
NextMedium CEO David Bluhm: 'We're not trying to replace the Camaro being launched in 'Transformers' or the 'American Idol' AT&T deal.'

The former chief executive for GoTV Networks has joined NextMedium as its new CEO, and will be spearheading the company's efforts to serve as the ultimate go-between for marketers and the entertainment programs they would like to reach. Mr. Bluhm likened the company's approach to eBay: "We don't own anybody's inventory; we're just sitting in the middle to provide all the things people need. There's also value in how the workflow is managed, so if they buy through us people get alerted."

So if a coffee brand wanted to be a part of every morning breakfast scene on TV -- regardless of the show or network -- NextMedium could find all the scripts that have morning breakfast scenes in them for that brand. It requires lots of effort and manpower, but Mr. Bluhm said the end results should hopefully streamline the communication between agencies and studios.

"We have all these brands waving paychecks, yet Hollywood doesn't even know what's being greenlit. We're here to give people visibility, so that all those brands who do or do not buy TV can get exposed to all these productions."

Mr. Bluhm spoke with Madison & Vine to elaborate more on his new gig, his efforts in mobile branded entertainment with GoTV and what brands he thinks could most benefit from NextMedium's aggregate approach to product placement.

Madison & Vine: In your most recent role as chief executive at GoTV, you helped pioneer brand integration in mobile entertainment. Where do you see that market's growth at this stage?

David Bluhm: I think mobile's an awesome way to reach people, but it's still called the fourth medium for a reason. There are 3 billion phones in the world, but whether or not you believe everybody could potentially become a broadcaster, most [of the content] will be professionally developed. Once we find those stars that discover themselves and put themselves out there, a network will buy those guys up, put money under them and crank them up. Today, on a current trajectory, if you look at where brands want to spend money for branding and emotional connection, TV has been No. 1 for awhile, film is No. 2 and broadband will cross film at some point in the pretty near future.

M&V: Although we're still very much in the experimentation phase with mobile, what are some examples of integrations or promotions that have worked?

Mr. Bluhm: At GoTV, we built a series of integrated properties for Procter & Gamble brands on the mobile phone. They also have companion websites where you can interact with the content, chat with the characters and all the virtual aspects interact. Once they're reproduced under the current rules for commercials -- live on all three screens -- then we start talking about what we learn from them. When you realize that the only property that has gone from mobile to TV is "Lil' Bush" [on Comedy Central], which doesn't have any tangible interactive components, you see we're just dipping our toe in the water at this point.

M&V: What will it take for mobile to reach broadband-levels of consumption?

Mr. Bluhm: I do believe mobile's a lot different from broadband, and it's definitely a lot different than TV. Nobody's got time to sit on a park bench and watch TV on their phone. It's more about being interactive and that's closer to the web than TV. Even so, it's probably more about messaging and sending things to your buddy list. That's what I suspect we'll probably find out. Once you start attaching a brand to all your experiences and what you want to deliver, consumers won't care about the delivery or the type of connection you're trying to make.

M&V: You helped play a role in getting brands into LonelyGirl15 and, more recently, helped create a branded mobile series for Tide with GoTV called "Crescent Heights." What's the potential for projects like that, where brands can create their own miniseries?

Mr. Bluhm: "Crescent Heights" was developed to be a prime-time TV show from the people who developed "Felicity" and "One Tree Hill," but today it's a mobile episode and a broadband episode. But on the website you can click and move into the show's apartment itself, create your own little apartment and voyeuristically go into the characters' apartments, chat with them and have a complete interaction area. This is not just some repurposed CBS show on the web. In this case a virtual apartment is the metaphor; you're not chatting with stars behind the roles. And the Tide brand manager is in charge of that, and can learn what people care about, put new products in there and start to play with interactive brochures. What Tide wants is insights from consumers. That's what clicks get you, that's what interaction from a mobile phone gets you. TV doesn't give you that. The only way you get interaction from TV is if Nielsen tells you so.

M&V: Your goal for NextMedium is to act almost as a script supervisor for brands. Give me an example of how that would work.

Mr. Bluhm: Not to get technical, but it's a tagging strategy, using meta-tags and algorithmically index it and match it so that it's relevant to this brand, then target by demographic and target by user experience.

One brand that comes to mind here in the Pacific Northwest is Jones Soda. They will never have the budget in the short-term to advertise on TV. But they can come to our site and search for opportunities to put Jones Soda in the context of that laundry machine [on "Crescent Heights"], or maybe they want to reach 22- to-28-year-old guys and they're trying to figure out how to do that.

We're not trying to replace the Camaro being launched in "Transformers" or the "American Idol" AT&T deal. What we're trying to do is create a huge value space here where there's endemic opportunities in every single show you watch for brands to participate in the script and studios to capture that value.
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