Will Product Placement Measure Up?

IAG to measure 'in-program performance'

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% While marketers and the TV networks have attained varying levels of success with product placement deals, the lack of a standardized metric to evaluate return-on-investment has stymied the execution of many others. Recognizing an opportunity, the Intermedia Advertising Group is launching an audience-derived syndicated ratings service to gauge the effectiveness of TV sponsorships and product placement.

IAG, a venture-backed company hatched in 1999 to measure TV commercial effectiveness, is launching In-Program Performance and will be employing a methodology that will assess primetime reality and sitcoms, as well as sports programming in primetime and on Sundays. The data is collected via an online panel consisting of 400,000 members.

The service will measure all six broadcast networks as well as several of the broad-based, ad-supported cable channels like USA Network, Time Warner's TNT, and Viacom's MTV.

"The first question that typically comes up is what is the relationship between the product presence or in-show sponsorship and my 30 second commercial," said Alan Gould, IAG co-CEO. "We're in a very good position to be able to offer that [integrated] measure…we think this data will have profound impact on the current pricing model." Gould said the company has been developing In-Program Performance since September 2001. The service is available online and Gould said he's already signed up 40 clients, including American Express and Ford.

Phil Guarascio, the former VP-general manager, marketing and advertising for General Motors' North American operations, who serves on the IAG Board of Directors, appreciates the real-time quality of the data. "There is a range of marketers, who aren't mega-marketers that could benefit from marketing-through-entertainment but don't have budget flexibility and can't afford to take risks. They might be more willing to try it if there was a better,[more timely] process to evaluate it."

CAUTION

Tera Hanks, a partner at Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing shop Davie-Brown Entertainment, is glad to see the industry move towards developing better ROI models but also expressed caution. "There are probably 6 or 7 companies offering data with methodologies that are sort of all over the place. It's critical for the industry that there emerges an accepted, industrywide standard of measurement." Some other outfits touting similar products include iTVX and Virtual Media Services.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Gould and his team also intend on selling the data to the networks. "I think they'll want to understand different performance levels that are being attained. Afterall, it might turn out that they're under-pricing. They may also have to buy it just to keep up with their advertiser clients."

One Madison Avenue executive, who requested anonymity, wondered if the networks won't be somewhat threatened by the level of transparency that IAG and its competitors are trying to establish in the nascent product integration space. "If any of these companies comes up with an accepted, industrywide standard, it could embolden more advertisers to try to weave their messaging into the program, which is not necessarily what the spots-in-pods crowd would want."

All broadcast networks contacted for this story either declined comment or were not available.

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