CBS Forms Special Ad Division for Brand Integrations

New 'In-house Agency' to Start Talks With Marketers Earlier in a Show's Development

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NEW YORK ( -- CBS Television Distribution, the syndicated-programming arm of CBS Corp., is forming a special ad unit within its ranks that aims to spark discussions of product integration earlier in the program development process -- yet another sign that advertisers and media outlets are tackling deals that are more complex than in past years.
Greg Bennett
Greg Bennett

CBS Television Distribution, which syndicates shows such as "Jeopardy!" "Wheel of Fortune," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Judge Judy" and "Entertainment Tonight," has hired branded-entertainment executive Greg Bennett for a newly created position, senior VP-branded integration and online. The idea, said Mr. Bennett, is to develop "an in-house agency" that can talk "to the ad agencies and the promo agencies in their lingo."

Knitting brands and programs
The Bennett hire and the development of the new unit are indicative of a new push in the effort to knit brands and programs in closer patterns. NBC Universal has for the last year or so trumpeted its efforts to get advertisers and the network talking earlier in the development process, all to generate ideas that tie in to particular programs, plots and characters. At CBS Television Distribution, demand for wide-ranging programs is "just becoming too voluminous for us" to handle with ad-sales executives who also sell traditional spots, said John Nogawski, president-CBS Television Distribution.

Product-integration deals drive much of the early business, Mr. Nogawski said. "We start these discussions now. Most of these concepts will be driven and budgets will be allocated over the next month. When we actually get to the upfront, the integration conversation has already happened, and then we complete the business when we do the upfront selling."

While TV viewers may be more familiar with deals that put Nissan automobiles in episodes of "Heroes," CBS's syndicated-TV offerings have proven fertile ground for clever ideas. Mars Inc.'s animated M&M characters often turn up in "Entertainment Tonight." Capital One was able to create a card that was handed out to celebrity guests on different programs who could then use it to make donations to a favorite charity, Mr. Nogawski said.

'Wheel' deal
An example of how deals of this stripe are becoming more complex was unveiled in fall of last year when Time Warner's People magazine struck a multiplatform ad deal with the game show "Wheel of Fortune." The pact encompassed print ads, online advertising and exposure within the show itself over a six-week period and celebrated the 25th anniversary of "Wheel." The advertisers involved include Kraft Foods' Maxwell House, Sony Corp.'s Sony Card and Procter & Gamble's Febreze and Dawn. Each marketer was able to serve as a provider of prizes on the show and sponsor a "double wedge," or a sign that takes up two slots on the wheel.

Mr. Bennett joins the company from his own firm, O! Branded Entertainment & Marketing, which he founded in 2003. He also founded Luna Bacardi Group, another company specializing in promotions and integrated advertising. He sold the company in 1999.
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