The evolving state of content and viewer habits
Indeed, the opportunity in front of brands in entertainment is vast and some brands are seizing the moment. According to BEN, 92% of the top 25 streaming shows in 2017 had brand integration. Standout examples include KFC in the highly-regarded Netflix series Stranger Things and Zillow in the network’s Grace & Frankie franchise. Outside of streaming, in unscripted television, GoRVing partnered with Ellen DeGeneres for an extremely successful campaign.
Despite the high percentage of shows utilizing brand integration as a marketing tactic, Butler believes that the space remains nascent and there is ample room for brands to participate. Fox is reportedly exploring the possibility of shaving ad units to two minutes per hour, citing the ad-free streaming landscape. Additionally, 73% of viewers state that integrations are more intrusive than ads, presenting an argument for brands to get in sooner rather than later.
“The data that we’ve looked at shows that there are still 98% of available integration impressions not captured, meaning that no one is taking advantage of them,” says Butler. “2% are being used, 98% are available and that doesn’t include influencers. So there’s plenty of tonnage out there and we’ve proven that we can execute against that.”
Streaming, and especially binge-watching, is another new phenomenon that marketers are faced with, yet its relative ‘newness’ is not at all a disadvantage. According to research BEN conducts on a monthly basis, 70% of streaming audiences are binge-watching.
“For a brand, what that means is that it’s not just about one moment,” says Caressa Douglas, senior vice president of global strategic partnerships. “The recall and retention of a brand is greater because of this behavior.”
Additionally, according to Douglas, audiences may not necessarily be watching the shows that have the biggest buzz or are considered most popular.
“Your audience may be somewhere else,” she notes. “Which is why it’s important to be diversified in brand integration.”
Measurement matters more than ever
Much like the transformation of content itself, measurement is undergoing its own changes.
Brand integration in the past was sometimes hard to measure, resulting in a brand’s reticence to engage with the practice.
In today’s digitally-led marketing environment, marketers understand the importance of metrics against KPIs — and can understand their return on investment. The good news in brand integration measurement is that it’s happening quickly, utilizing tools that marketers are familiar with.
“There are a lot of different data sources out there,” says Frank. “We use Nielsen for television and Rentrak for film among other sources. As an entrepreneurial company we have great depth in our proprietary research and data. Netflix, Amazon and other large streaming players don’t release much data at all. So, we’ve created online surveys to get a sense of the size of those audiences. We look at who is watching this particular content, their behaviors, bingeing habits and more.”
Part of BEN’s data evolution includes psychographic information, so brands can see which shows, especially in streaming, over-index against a specific audience a marketer would like to target.
“The holy grail for any brand is to be able to get straight line of sight to the right data,” says Isaacs. “Our job is to pull all the best data sources as well as using our own capabilities to give a brand a clear picture.”
Myths and misperceptions
Like any practice in marketing, brand integration has its own set of misperceptions, most of which are working from a dated model and demand further education.
The first is that brand integration is a vanity project — again, more of a ‘nice to have’ than a ‘must have.’ Quick to point out otherwise, Frank notes that being more data-driven shows that, in fact, brand integration is a viable, measurable part of marketing.
Another misconception is scalability. Often the thinking is that brand integration is about one-offs and big splashes when, in fact, the vast availability of opportunity addresses the need for tonnage.
Also, comparing impressions between an ad surrounding content and impressions from an integration are telling. In one example, each episode of CBS’s wildly popular Big Bang Theory averaged 12m viewers during 2017. In comparison, the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why grew from 9.7m impressions in its first month to 23.7m in the second, 32.7m in the third, 43.2m in the fourth, 50m in the fifth and 56.3m in the sixth.
“Integration really is the gift that keeps on giving,” says Isaacs.
Control is another issue that pops up in discussion. Though brands don’t necessarily control the content they are part of, content creators, according to Douglas, are “very savvy with how to work with brands and how to make sure that brands work for them in the best possible way. Our job is to match brands with the right content creators.”
“You need to think like a marketer and act like a producer,” adds Nathan Tan, associate director, brand partnerships and experiences at Cadillac. “For a marketer, you need to think about the content beyond the content itself. When it comes to creating, you need to be thinking like a producer. That’s how you are going to create the best piece for yourself.”
A further misperception is that of personal preference and comfort. While marketers may like a particular show or influencer — or may not be comfortable with certain types of content, as Frank says: “it’s better to look at the data and see what the data is telling us related to the right audience.”
“We were with Bill Gates (BEN’s founder) and the topic of Narcos came up,” recalls Isaacs. “We showed him that Tecate and Jose Cuervo were part of the series. Those are examples where no one would’ve ever considered integrations but we were able to do it and the brand benefited.”
The new gold standard of integration
Though the classic examples of brand integration still retain their cache, a new generation of success stories emerges. And with over 65% of audiences skipping ads, getting inside content is the best way for brands to ensure that they are seen.
GM’s support, with their GMC brand, is a consistently high performer.
“This integration is organic and authentic,” says Rob Eric, chief creative officer at Scout Productions, the company that produces Queer Eye on Netflix. “It’s probably one of the best we’ve done and holds up, even after 15 years.”
A more recent example is Buick’s integration in the HBO series Big Little Lies starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern. Featuring their SUV has proven to be a big hit so far.
“It was an unexpected choice to have [Witherspoon] in that vehicle,” says Frank. “What they are trying to do with those integrations is change perception of the brand from being mid-market to luxury. What our research shows is that these integrations can really change perception and it is an effective way to get people to look at that vehicle differently.”
As the consumer landscape continues to change, expect more categories to embrace integration. Integrations from Zillow, Microsoft, beverage brand Proximo, Dyson and Ubisoft may not be getting the same publicity as the classic E.T. example, but the impact for brands is undeniable and becoming more important: gold standards for success.
Consumers continue to avoid ads and brands can’t afford to be left behind. Additionally, streaming content has moved the advertising goalposts. The Definitive Guide to Brand Integration gives brands the upper hand on making a real, tangible impact. Learn what makes integration effective, how measurement continues to evolve, the influencer space and more. Download this critical intelligence today.