Scripps Networks Builds Branded Interstitials

'Short Stories' in Commercial Pods Incorporate Themes of HGTV, Food Network, Others

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NEW YORK -- Programming on Scripps Networks -- home to HGTV and Food Network, among three others -- has always been a brand-friendly environment, but the commercial pods are becoming more of a place to keep the branded themes of the networks going even after the last nail has been hammered or egg white has been beaten.

In La-Z-Boy's short story, a family is shown throughout various stages of remodeling their home, including furniture selection.

Branded interstitials
La-Z-Boy is the latest marketer to sign on for a three-part series of branded interstitials called "Short Stories," scheduled to premiere the week of Sept. 17 on HGTV, Food Network and the DIY Network. The short-form programming has existed in various forms across the entire suite of Scripps Networks under names including "Food Bytes" on Food Network and "Short Cuts" and "Great American Minutes" on GAC (formerly Great American Country).

Jon Steinlauf, Scripps' senior VP-ad sales, said the spots will be staggered across three different commercial breaks within a half hour, and are designed to augment the programming for each network. "If this were done on a general entertainment channel, there would be a disconnect. But when you watch it on [a Scripps network], it feels almost like you haven't left the network."

The "Short Stories" clips are designed to tell a real-life story aided by an advertiser from a category endemic to the network. In La-Z-Boy's short story, which is in production, a family is shown throughout various stages of remodeling their home, including furniture selection in act two. That's where the recliner comes in.

Like a real show
"You'll see the family shopping at the store, the product being shipped and coming off the La-Z-Boy truck, the furniture being placed in various areas. It's the equivalent of a real HGTV show," Mr. Steinlauf said.

The brand will take a similar approach on DIY, while the Food Network's version of the La-Z-Boy spots will put more emphasis on the redesign of the kitchen -- complete with money shots of home-cooked meals, natch.

The partnership with Scripps is part of a larger campaign rollout planned by La-Z-Boy's new agency, RPA, which will kick off a national TV campaign for the furniture maker the week of Sept. 10. Lisa Herdman, associate director of network programming for the Los Angeles-based media agency, said the opportunity to work with Scripps on a network-specific basis offers more than just a brand integration for a Mark Burnett show or a run-of-the-mill product placement. But there's also a fine line to straddle in order to keep it authentic.

"[The brand] needs to be woven within the voice of the networks, and the spots absolutely have to carry the voice of La-Z-Boy and how we need them to be positioned," she said. "We want to make sure it is a blatant commercial for La-Z-Boy without making it seem like it's overly blatant."

Commercial retention ratings
For Scripps, the ability to offer such unique opportunities to its clients came in particularly good use during this year's cable upfront, which was all about commercial engagement and audience retention after Nielsen's switch from program ratings to commercial ratings. Mr. Steinlauf said the Scripps networks overall have a commercial-retention rating higher than the cable average -- losing only 5% of viewers during breaks vs. 8% to 9% -- but to him, the commercial-average-plus-three currency, known as C3, is the least common denominator of commercial engagement.

"All the C3 research is really telling you is who is available during commercial breaks," he said. "We've been doing research here and with other research companies about the quality of the audience and the commercial impression, how much trust there is in the information, audience [engagement], and are they willing to go to the website based on how much they saw in the commercial break."

Brand recall
An internal Scripps study found brand recall of previous "Short Stories" clips was 40% higher for endemic brands and 25% higher for non-endemic brands. Oscar Mayer's series of "Short Cuts" for GAC produced the highest unaided recall (69%) as well as the highest purchase consideration for any brand (93%). It's metrics like these that Mr. Steinlauf said make Scripps a better selling environment.

"We're fortunate in that we're specialized and we have viewers so passionate about our categories and brands," he said.
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