|19 Entertainment's Staci Weiss: 'From a business perspective, we highly value the opportunity for a brand to be embedded into a show, where viewers are more likely to stay tuned, and the deals reflect that.'
Why you need to know her: Ms. Weiss is a deal maker for 19 Entertainment, a U.K. independent production company run by global TV impresarios Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe. She shepherds any and all business deals around the company's hit "So You Think You Can Dance?" including brand extensions such as the popular live tour that happened this summer. 19 Entertainment is "keen to keep viewers interested in our brands by providing content across all media, even when the show isn't on air, with live events, music and merchandise," she said. "We are trying to redefine how people are entertained and we're willing to bring the right advertisers along with us."
Credentials: Ms. Weiss began her career at Salomon Smith Barney before moving to the Fox network, where she worked in business development and then digital media. She helped launch the National Geographic Channel, Fuel TV and Fox Reality, and was involved with the sale of Fox Family and the purchase of Speedvision. Later, she focused on Fox's moves into the new-media space, where she helped launch Fox Sports Network HD and National Geographic Channel HD, Fox On Demand and other online and mobile offerings. Now at 19 Entertainment, she oversees TV properties for the U.S., looking after production and business-related initiatives from the budget to ad integrations and marketing, both on- and off-air. She'll be involved in shows launching from 19 Entertainment, which has branched out into dramas, children's shows and movies in other parts of the world and could start dabbling in those formats here.
What are some of the challenges of working with marketers that want to be embedded into entertainment content? "You need to achieve balance in the show. The challenge is to come up with a creative way to incorporate both brands and creative visions, all while entertaining the viewer. You have to think outside the box."
You recently facilitated a deal between the show "So You Think You Can Dance" and the movie "Step Up." What were some of the challenges of putting it together? "Creatively, they were a perfect pair. Part of the story line of the movie related directly to the plight of our dancers -- dancers learning and performing genres of dance outside of their areas of expertise. We were able to develop a seamless integration that pleased the producers, the studio [Walt Disney] and the network [Fox]. Timing was perhaps the only thing that posed a bit of a challenge. The premiere fell between the TV show's two-part finale dates. We were still able to integrate through not only the movie but also the soundtrack and continue to bring value to the TV show, the movie and soundtrack."
What do you look for in a brand integration deal? What are the important points, both from a business and a creative perspective? "Ideally, from a creative perspective we would like the integration to have a strong tie to what we are doing with the show. We would want the image, campaign, slogan or actual product to have some connection that can be organically blended into the show. Once we have a prospect in mind, we like to think of ways to incorporate the two that will be different than what can come across in a 30-second spot. The in-show elements then complement the 30-second spots that the brand has within the show breaks. From a business perspective, we highly value the opportunity for a brand to be embedded into a show, where viewers are more likely to stay tuned, and the deals reflect that."
How do you measure success? "It's hard to measure the success of an integration, but I would start by saying a successful integration is one where the integration is so organic, relevant and entertaining that the viewer remains engaged and interested in the content at hand. Then, it's a success if the client respects the work we've done and both they and the viewers come back for more."
There's still considerable debate about what branded entertainment is. How do you define it? "All entertainment is branded, whether it's branded by the network it airs on, the stars that are cast, the production company that produces it and, last but not least, by an advertiser whose vision is able to be aligned with the creative and audience for a TV show."
How do you think brand integrations will evolve over time? What will the deals look like in, say, five years? And what will the content look like? "Brand integration has been around for a long time and has continued to grow with this past year being its biggest yet. Marketers will still be pushed to come up with innovative- and cutting-edge content, and in my opinion interactivity will increasingly play a larger part, allowing viewers to dig deeper into the brand or product when they choose to."
What are some obstacles brand integrations still face? How can those be addressed? "Oversaturation. Perhaps the best way to address oversaturation is for producers, marketers and networks to be savvy in picking their partners."
How do you work with networks when it comes to brand integrations in your shows? What has to happen in order to make these deals beneficial for all parties involved? "Integration is something we work on jointly with the network. We have a great relationship with the networks because we all realize the value associated with integrations. Our deals aim to bring advertisers and viewers 360 degrees with the brands. By that I mean is an integration in the show, which is reinforced by 30-second spots during the show and then perhaps online, mobile or off-air components, as well."
What's the best integration you've recently seen? "Cingular and 'American Idol' on Fox. Together they changed the marketplace. Then I would say that the Sprite, 'Lost,' ABC campaign was definitely a unique effort for branded content."
And the worst? "If you don't have something nice to say ... I don't want to knock any particular deals."
What's on your TiVo? "In the office, most of the new pilots. At home, 'Prison Break,' '24,' 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Lost,' 'Rescue Me' and, of course, 'American Idol' and 'So You Think You Can Dance?'"
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? "I travel a good bit to see my friends and family sprinkled across the country, but if I'm here I spend as much time outside as I can. Swimming, going to the beach and skiing are at the top of the list."