Marketing Document Prepared for Distribution to Interpublic's Clients

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Marketers considering producing their own branded entertainment projects are about to get some pointers from Magna Global.

Magna Global Entertainment, a division of Interpublic Group of Cos., is preparing to release “The Magna 15,” a checklist of questions

Magna Global has distilled its experience in the branded entertainment business into a 15-point list.
advertisers should ask themselves when considering investments in the branded entertainment space.

Many of the suggestions in the list have already become standard in the space, such as launching a marketing campaign around a project, setting approval processes and determining how to measure a project’s success. But others, like developing a set of content guidelines with producers or questioning whether a project is in development or already has distribution, and even making sure that all of the episodes a brand is backing will air once produced, are often overlooked.

Questions from clients
“Some of it’s common sense,” said Laura Albers, vice president of marketing and client services at Magna Global Entertainment. “But entertainment marketing is a complicated space. Many of our clients have been pitched multiple projects. We were being asked so many questions. We thought we could put all this in one place.”

The company will distribute the points in a pamphlet to the clients of Interpublic’s Universal McCann, Initiative Media and other of the holding company's media shops.

While the list is expected to make branded entertainment a little more approachable for advertisers, the pointers might also drum up additional business for Magna Global Entertainment --especially at a time when other media buyers have also launched their own internal branded entertainment units.

For example, suggestions on measuring the effectiveness of a project steer marketers to Magna Global Entertainment to design research tools. Another claims that Magna “will not accept any distribution deal that does not guarantee all episodes in a series will air,” or that the company “anticipates production needs to get the product to set in a timely manner.” Others tout Magna’s relationships with “the networks and their business affairs departments to ensure that the advertiser is protected in matters of category exclusivity, show marketing rights, ratings delivery, etc., and that everyone has a clear understanding of the parameters of the project.”

Magna's branded entertainments
Since forming in 2002, Magna has produced brand-backed TV fare such as the WB’s Young Americans, the two seasons of NBC’s The Restaurant and Bravo’s Blow Out, as well as TBS’ House Rules and a series of TV movies for TNT through the Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation banner.

The 15 points MGE advises marketers to consider when developing branded entertainment projects for TV are:

  • Clearly articulate your brand’s goals to entertainment partners. The clearer the message, the better the execution. Doing so will give brands something with which to measure results on an attitudinal basis, and receive the best return on a company’s objectives.

  • Develop an internal process to provide timely review and approvals at both the planning and final stages. Opportunities within projects can come up at the last moment. Being as prepared as possible will allow you to take advantage of these last-minute opportunities. Consider providing the outside project manager a style guide or written explanation of legal guidelines/limits and/or branding language that is specific to your products or industry. In return, your outside project manager should be able to tell you what to expect, and when.

  • Is approval power focused on one person or are multiple checkpoints needed? Turn-around time for production and marketing approvals can be as little as 24 to 48 hours. Even if more than one person needs to review the material, to maximize effectiveness one point person (and a back-up for emergencies) should be empowered with the authority to give approval.

  • Have a clear understanding of the content boundaries of the programming you are investing in (sex, violence, etc.) and share the guidelines with producing partners. Once these boundaries are clear, advertisers need to understand that it is the network, not the producers or brand, which has final say on the content. Networks will also have a say in whether the brand integration goes too far. This provides an excellent checks and balance system that protects the brand from going beyond what viewers will accept.

  • Research who you are doing business with. Make sure you are working with a company that has the experience and relationships to protect you.

  • Question whether the property you are considering is in the development stage or if it has firm distribution. Making an agreement with a producer does not guarantee the project will get on the air. Beware of funding development costs that may not be recoupable and may be used to leverage a network pickup. It is often advantageous to be in on the ground floor, but be sure to have a thorough understanding of expectations in the event of either success or failure to gain distribution

  • Are you assured that all the programming you have invested in will air? If a network cannot meet this minimum commitment, then a plan for financial recourse or another outlet should be considered.

  • Is there sufficient time in production to allow for product to get to set? Many producers don’t know the timetables to get product to locations, especially outside the U.S., and are apt to request items at the last minute.

  • Do you have the rights you need to exploit properties, personalities, products, etc. in marketing to support your investment? This is a significant advantage and potential cost savings -- experienced entertainment legal counsel can run $500 an hour. In some instances, clients are advised to retain counsel for specific areas or initiatives that are particular to their interests.

  • Can you leverage your programming investment using other assets? To get the best return on investment it is wise to leverage your association with a property across other media, marketing, PR and retail programs either already planned or created specifically for this initiative. It may be as simple as tagging existing media via swipes in print ads and five-second end-tags with tune-in messaging. Or, as in-depth as a retail program that includes on-pack promotion, consumer sweepstakes, guerilla marketing, events, etc.

  • Share with your partners important timing issues that will allow you to execute around the property you are investing in. Consider whether there is sufficient time before broadcast for you to create meaningful ancillary offshoots.

  • Are your expectations reasonable? Branded entertainment content is meant to augment rather than substitute for your commercial messaging. To be authentic and to be accepted by viewers within the context of programming, use a subtle approach. American TV audiences are sophisticated. Don't turn off your prospects by assuming they will accept a commercial when they are watching content.

  • Who will project manage your investment? Consider the manpower hours required to provide information about your brand and give the necessary reviews and approvals. Ask whether there is an experienced project manager who can coordinate production timetables, marketing, legal and other deliverables.

  • How will you measure success? Measuring success in branded entertainment is not simply a matter of counting ratings and recording screen time. When you have a clear understanding of expectations, measurement is an easier task whether it is specialized research, ratings measurement, or a checklist to ensure that expectations were met. Setting realistic goals at the onset and linking measurement to those goals will provide a focused approach from beginning to end and ensure that you receive a good return on your objective.

  • Consider attitudinal research to measure results. Since branded entertainment is often more about impact than screen time, measuring whether more subtle communications have augmented the overall communications plan is recommended.
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