New Online Service Lets Marketers Hunt for Integration Deals

NextMedium's Embed Product Heats Up Talk of Auction-Based System

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LOS ANGELES -- An online marketplace for brokering branded-entertainment deals is getting closer to reality.
Embed, the service from NextMedium, lets marketers search for scenes of how their brands might appear or descriptions of characters that might be using the brands.

NextMedium, a Los Angeles-based market research firm focused on branded entertainment, has launched Embed, an online service that enables buyers and sellers to search for integration opportunities across film, TV, music and video-game properties.

Through the system, users can search for individual scenes of how their brands might appear or descriptions of characters that might be using the brands, as well as the demographic of a property's audience or its ratings performance, among other customizable criteria.

Criteria crunching by NextMedium

Buyers can also monitor their brands' market share, video of their past placements and their entertainment IQ, which rates the success of previous integrations, based on data crunched by NextMedium, that can be compared with rival brands.

Integration deals can be made via auctions or bought outright on the service, and made either on an individual basis or in bulk.

"We're not making the case that all negotiations will happen online," said Hamet Watt, CEO of NextMedium. "The system allows for offers and bids to be made throughout the system. There are a variety of ways to sell inventory."

Results of deals will be measured through PlaceViews, a database that NextMedium developed for Nielsen Media Research that tracks integrations based on how long they appear on screen and who sees them.

Listings and results will remain confidential -- buyers will be limited to viewing only inventory, while sellers will only be able to interact with buyers.

"We're very respectful and sensitive to all of the confidentially issues," Mr. Watt said. "We maintain enormous confidentiality around rates and pricing."

Of course, which opportunities users can peruse using Embed depends on who has signed up to post their projects on the service.

Launched during upfront

NextMedium, which launched the service during this week's TV upfront, has already recruited OMD, Magna Global, 20th Century Fox, Ford Motor Co., Staples, Reveille Entertainment ("The Office"), Scout ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"), Vivendi Universal Games and Atlantic Records to sign up as charter members.

Naturally, deal-making on the service comes at a price. NextMedium will charge for subscriptions and collect transaction fees. It said that memberships will range from the tens of thousands of dollars to more than $100,000 per year, based on the size of the companies.

With a growing number of marketers looking to devote more of their dollars to nontraditional advertising -- namely branded entertainment -- NextMedium said the industry needed an efficient way for entertainment companies to present their available inventory to advertisers and their agencies, and to provide them with a way to effectively broker deals directly.

"We've often heard that this space is the Wild Wild West," Mr. Watt said, "and this industry has called out for some sort of standardization in measurement and a structured marketplace. We're trying to put out that model on how this can take place. Branded integration is where most of the pain is. We're providing infrastructure that hasn't had a streamlined, efficient way of doing business."

Creating a standard

NextMedium hopes that Embed will provide the technology that creates a standard way to make such deals and ultimately create a new measurable ad unit.

"The industry is not fully grasping the value potential for this inventory," Mr. Watt said. "[Embed] gives you a standardized way of looking at the value created from integrations."

Once marketers do get a grasp of how branded entertainment can benefit their brands, activity in the branded entertainment space should only increase, Mr. Watt said.

"You'll see the value and understanding of value be more normalized," Mr. Watt said. "As people understand the efficacy more, they'll be willing to invest more."

But NextMedium isn't first to market.

The company's service becomes the second online marketplace for buyers and sellers of branded entertainment after Media Matchmaker launched in January with Sony Pictures Television, 20th Century Fox Television, Starcom Mediavest Group, Magna Global and A&E Television Networks as clients.

Touting Nielsen relationship

NextMedium is hoping that its relationship with Nielsen will help it stand above its rivals and lure the larger advertisers and content creators. That may be easy, considering that Media Matchmaker is focusing on smaller players looking for branded-entertainment opportunities.

Mr. Watt hopes that Embed will ultimately help grow the branded-entertainment industry, but he hopes users will use the service to broker deals that make sense.

"We have the utmost sensitivity to the creative process," Mr. Watt said. "There are some people who will go overboard, but we understand the importance of organic placements."

Either way, the services from NextMedium and Media Matchmaker are launching as marketers are expressing interest in brokering year-round rather than buying most of their ads during the upfront TV market in May.

The launch of the services could end up speeding the deal-making process for buyers and sellers who are looking to quickly find the right properties or brands in what's becoming an ever tighter production cycle. It could also level the playing field, by exposing just how much producers are demanding in fees at the click of a button.

Just last week, Wal-Mart said it would begin discussions with other major marketers about launching an auction-based online trading system to facilitate the purchasing of advertising across various forms of media.

While marketers are expressing interest in online marketplaces, they have yet to prove whether they are willing to use such services to conduct much of their business. It's still too early to tell.

"We're ringing the bell of this new marketplace," Mr. Watt said. "We're giving companies an example of how transactions can take place in the future."
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