Marketers fear being fleeced at corner of Madison and Vine

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Amidst a fierce and ongoing struggle between networks and producers over who should get the cash from branded-entertainment deals comes the troubling news that marketers already feel they're being fleeced.

Seventy-nine percent of major marketers polled in an Association of National Advertisers' survey believe branded-entertainment deals are overpriced.

The survey, presented at last week's ANA's annual Television Advertising Forum in New York, was designed to gauge ANA member companies' attitudes and activities related to branded entertainment. The 118 respondents included United Airlines, Tyson Foods, Campbell Soup Co., Best Buy, Ford Motor Co., KB Home, MasterCard and Visa.

A sizeable 63% said they are already participating in branded entertainment projects, with another 11% saying they plan to do so in the next year or so.

But 71% of those that have gotten involved are spending less than 5% of their total marketing budgets (much of the money, it appears is coming out of TV budgets, with 52% dipping into that pot for their Mad & Vine plays), and many (56%) felt branded entertainment was hard to measure, and overpriced.

The presentation was part of panel discussion featuring David Burwick, senior VP-chief marketing officer, Pepsi-Cola North America; Mark Kaline, global media manager, Ford; and Stuart Schlossman, senior VP-media and client development, Madison Road Entertainment.

On top of the measurement issues and the pricing debate, Mr. Kaline said one of the key obstacles to devoting an increased percentage of the marketing budget to branded entertainment was the time and personnel required to get it right. "The numbers will increase for sure, but it's extremely time consuming," he said. "The question is, `How high is up?' given the challenges we all face for time and personnel."

Mr. Burwick compared the slow spending increases to the Internet. "Spending on the Internet, which has been growing for the last five years or so, is at 7% or 8% [of marketing and communication budgets]," he said. "So I'm not surprised that [branded entertainment] is where it's at."

The Pepsi CMO pointed to his company's efforts to launch Pepsi Edge on "The Apprentice" as a prime example of the genre. Although sales aren't doing as well as the company had hoped, "the brand went through the roof," he said. "It's about lining up with your objectives."

But how to measure whether a project is meeting objectives remains elusive. While 40% of the survey's respondents thought there ought to be an industry standard measurement for branded-entertainment deals, 80% of those who are involved in brand entertainment said they are forging ahead on their own and assessing the impact of their branded-integration efforts themselves.

`HOLY GRAIL'

The most important measure marketers sought was who was reached by the entertainment, with 85% citing that as their primary concern. About 60% wanted to measure the quality of placement, with the rest questioning what programs their products were placed in and how much exposure the deal got them. Only a quarter cared about how memorable the brand exposure was over time.

"The holy grail for marketers is trying to get the ROI," said Mr. Schlossman, who insisted branded entertainment couldn't be measured for return on investment the same way TV is. "The companies that are doing this are measuring change in attitude. If your CMO says `If I give you a $1 for branded entertainment, what am I going to get back?' that's a tough question." For that reason, he said the easiest way to measure the results of branded entertainment is when it involves a new product.

Survey results are being released as the industry preps for the upcoming TV upfront ad-buying period-an arena in which 60% of those surveyed negotiated their branded-entertainment deals in the past. An estimated 80% expect branded entertainment to be part of future upfront discussions.

In analyzing the benefit of branded entertainment deals, 42% of marketers said it allowed them to forge a stronger emotional connection with consumers; 19% said it enables them to build brand affinity with a desired demographic. The two benefits that are most often associated with branded entertainment's growth-thwarting increased consumer control of media and avoidance of commercial clutter-came in at the bottom of the list of benefits, perceived by those surveyed at 9% and 6%, respectively.

Projects that respondents considered successful included Sears' involvement with ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," NBC's "The Apprentice," Coke's sponsorship of Fox's "American Idol," Campbell Soup's placement in NBC's "American Dreams" and BMW's Internet film series "The Hire."

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