The ‘New’ Traditional Marketing: How Time-Shift TV Changes Ads

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Part Six in ‘I Smell a Rat’ Series
Michael explores how traditional marketing changes thanks to digital’s influence.

I smell a rat

Part One: Michael introduces why he’s writing this series and hopes everyone will stick through it as he explores that smell…
Part Two: Michael introduces what he called “agency magicians” and how they create the “illusion of dimensions”
Part Three: Michael tells CMOs and VPs of Marketing that their luck has run out. Time to really integrate digital into marketing.
Part Four: Michael defines an expert and suggests that social media is not the savior of all marketing.
Part Five: Michael dances the tango — but not always for free — with the job lottery
Part Six: Michael explores how time-shifting will change traditional TV commercials and programming.
Part Seven: Michael explains Anti-Product Placement© and hopes someone hires him for this most-excellent idea.
Part Eight: Michael suggests you buy a talk show rather than commercials, infomercials or direct response TV.
Part Nine: Michael asks for addiction intervention for magazine publishers.
Part Ten: Michael officially becomes an expert, earn the Social Media Advanced Certification[/box]



[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ady Gaga is brilliant. No, I am not a mons†er (what she calls her fans) and, quite frankly, I never got the meat dress or the egg. If you searched my iPod, you’d only find one song and I actually downloaded the video. It’s not because I love the song. It’s because, from a marketing standpoint, she rocks the house. I wrote about the “Telephone” video a while back and I still think it’s brilliant. The amount of product placement and pop culture references takes music video to a new level. If only a channel on television actually played music videos like back in the old days.

Product placement is vital because, I regret to tell my traditional marketing friends, commercials will soon become useless except in few circumstances.

With the exceptions of the most major sporting events like the Super Bowl, the World Series and certain live shows like the finale of American Idol, more and more consumers [wiki search=”time-shifting”]time-shift[/wiki] programming and skip the actual commercials. Since an hour-long program will have at least 22 minutes of commercials and other filler, I will not start a program until at least it’s a half-an-hour into it.

With digital video recorders (or DVRs) like TiVo and on-demand websites like or commercial-free options from iTunes or Netflix, television commercials have significantly less influence than ever before and will continue to decline.

Further, you might notice movie commercials (and a few others) now include the name of the film in a space at the top of the screen along with the opening date or website address. That’s because studios — which probably excel at integrated campaigns more than any other industry — also know the bottom of the screen is occupied with the fast-forward indicator used by DVRs.

By moving that branding to the top, consumers will at least glimpse the name and might even slow down or back up if they see a sexy star half naked or a good explosion (sex and violence sells).

Many television producers figured this out, of course. The reality programming we all consume shows it off. The pasta brands on Top Chef, the vodka on RuPaul’s Drag Race and the toilet paper on Survivor: Redemption Island isn’t just happenstance. It’s by the dollars paid into the show. And they make commercials for good measure, usually.

Bravo and HGTV also do a good job with what’s called “bumpers,” which blur the line between what’s actual programming and the commercials. Bravo lulls the remote puncher into a short vignette near a longer commercial break at the end of the show while HGTV creates an extra little featurette sponsored by some company with a teaser just before commercials and the conclusion just before the big reveal on their design shows.

Could You Miss the Product Placement on Idol?

American Idol is probably the king of product placement television and, for the most part, overwhelms the senses. From the Coca Cola couch to the Ford music video to AT&T voting. Still, I bet Pepsi, GM and Verizon would give almost anything to get a chance to bid on that business (and I’d love to see the contestant who accidentally drinks a Mountain Dew live on air or sings about a Chevy).

Fast forward indicator across the bottom

Idol makes the mistake of iconizing and overwhelming the senses with advertising (and the urge to consume, consume, consume). But still, the interesting tidbits of digital marketing out of the most popular reality program makes for speculation. Up until last week’s surprising elimination and subsequent save by the judges, predicting which contestant would end up in the bottom proved simple: Just look at how many followed each on Twitter (courtesy Reality Blurred).

To be honest, I actually enjoy the Ford music video and I’m surprised Ford doesn’t do a little more with it considering the popularity of Idol. Still, Ford’s success with Idol across the integrated realm is obvious.

(As Jonathan Salem Baskin points out in his Ad Age article “Do Campaign Failures, High-Profile Firings Signal the End of Social Media?” that “Ford’s Fiesta Movement produced lots of leads for its dealers and helped win its CMO marketer of the year honors.” That campaign had a full season on Idol. Again, a little traditional but it was new traditional — product placement. I seem to recall even a Ford music video or two featuring the Fiesta.)

And Now for Something Completely Different

What about normal, scripted television? Not everywhere, but there’s some good news here too. Some programs do it. It’s expensive — I’ve heard most won’t even begin to consider it without a minimum full-season investment around $5 million.

Still, integration on a program like “The Closer” can be fun. The Angelina Jolie movie “Salt” didn’t do so well, but at first the studio seemed pretty behind it. Throughout one episode of TNT’s “The Closer,” movie billboards and posters kept showing up. I found it enterprisingly subtle. But the best moment came when the wired witness couldn’t say the word, “Cinnamon.” So, Kira Segwick, who plays the main character Brenda Lee Johnson, says in frustration, “Just say, ‘Salt’!”

Nice. Nothing about going to see the movie. Just get the name in there and let the audience figure it out.

On CBS’ “Hawaii Five-O,” we get Nokia phones and GM cars — although earlier in the season, some iPhones showed up. And “House” has been trying to break into his girlfriend’s MacBook — does hospital patient flow software run on Macs?

While the kudos to “The Closer,” more scripted programs will need to do a better job integrating product placements in subtle ways without obvious use. And the major investment needs to be broken into levels.

Further, I can’t wait for the first Anti-Product Placement© (this is a copyright of Michael Cheek).

What’s an Anti-Product Placement©?

Come back tomorrow… I will tell you.

PART SEVEN Tomorrow: The Anti-Product Placement Is Copyright © 2010, 2011 Michael Cheek, All Rights Reserved

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Michael Cheek

With more than 20 years of communication experience, Michael Cheek offers solid marketing expertise, especially in the digital frontier. He currently resides in Georgia but he's open to relocate anywhere the opportunities take him. Learn more at You can follow him on Twitter at and see more about his professional experience at Reach him via e-mail at

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