Marketing execs such as John Santanella at Hasbro, who's closing in on a deal with NBC to integrate the classic kids' game Operation into hit sitcom "Scrubs," and Bill Nielsen, who recently did a deal with the House of Blues live music franchise, represent the growing shift away from traditional paid media.
Nielsen, for one, has shifted a good chunk of his print budget toward the Internet, where his Xbox Live franchise lives. While not taking sides on the "missing men" rhubarb between brands and the broadcast networks at the beginning of last season, he does admit that he generally eschews the networks in favor of cable, where his 16-to-30-year-old audience is more "efficiently" engaged.
Both Santanella and Nielsen have embraced the music industry for their brands as well, doing tour sponsorships and branded CDs.
Arguably, the most resonant soundbite from AmEx CMO John Hayes' keynote speech at this year's M+V conference in February was his admission of gradually having shifted a huge chunk of his marcomm budget out of TV over the past decade. Guys like Santanella and Nielsen, in their own way, seem to share the same ethos.