Streaming is fast becoming the method of choice for audiences to consume and engage with content. How can brands make sure they’re not shut out?
The rise of streaming looks unstoppable. With 74% of US consumers subscribing to a streaming service, according to findings from The Leichtman Research Group, the landscape has become intensely competitive. There are over 200 platforms now available to viewers globally, and more than 20 in the US alone.
While the focus is often on established streaming platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, the shift to streaming has taken hold for traditional broadcast powerhouses such as NBC (Peacock), ABC (Hulu and Disney+) and CBS (CBS All Access and Paramount+). In today’s television landscape, every show – regardless of where it originally airs – is now a streaming show.
Networks are now making decisions about which shows to greenlight or renew based on a program's streaming audience, more than its live audience. This represents a fundamental shift in how content is distributed and consumed. And it demands a shift in how advertisers think about reaching audiences.
Brand integration strategy for streaming
Erin Schmidt, chief of product placement at BEN, recommends that brands take a sophisticated, cross-platform marketing approach and embrace the idea that all content is now stremaing content. The viewership numbers for a show like Jane the Virgin support this recommendation.
On CW’s linear network, Jane the Virgin will typically garner about 1.25 million impressions, but then achieve an additional 5 million through its digital release on CWTV.com and Hulu and a total of 9.25 million through further distribution across Netflix and Apple. Put differently, 92% of Jane the Virgin’s audience watches the show onplatforms other than linear TV.
Schmidt says: “If you’re only buying a television spot around that show then you’re not only limited to those 1.25 million impressions on linear TV, but you’re also missing out on the opportunity to reach 92% of Jane the Virgin’s passionate audience. But if you integrate your brand into that show, you have the potential to reach every viewer while delivering a far more efficient CPM, because you have an exponential viewership over a 30 to 90-day period.”
As consumer behavior continues to evolve and further embraces streaming, advertisers that rely solely on traditional TV spots risk seeing efficiency levels decline while those that integrate into the content will likely achieve better results. That's evidence in falling overall CPMs for brand integrations due to the long tail efficiences that they deliver.
There is an urgency for brands to act now, Schmidt belives. The momentum behind the mass adoption of streaming has only intensified as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Streaming viewership was up 67% from February to March 2020. The average number of streaming platforms consumers are subscribed to increased to five in March of 2020, up from 2.34 in 2019. Schmidt says: “Content is our connector right now. If you think about everyone being home and trying to connect with everyone outside the home, every conversation starts with ‘what are you watching right now?’ and it’s a unifying factor among all of us.”
Older shows are also seeing new life in streaming. The two most popular streaming shows in Q1 2020 were originally broadcast – Grey’s Anatomy (14m views during March across Netflix and Hulu) and American Horror Story (13.8m views during March across Netflix and Hulu). The acceleration of streaming viewership and the fluid nature of modern content means brands have even more incentive to integrate their products and services into the entertainment themselves.
Building brand authenticity
Schmidt warns, however, that not every product placement is successful. Selecting the right opportunity to create an authentic integration is essential. If the product placement feels like the commercials that audiences are trying to avoid, it won’t work.
What that means is that a product placement strategy needs to go beyond simple time on camera and connect to the reality we live in, across channels and tactics, in ways that are subtle enough not to distract, but impactful enough that they get noticed. When done right, it seems natural that the family in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel would eat Cheerios, that partygoers would eat Lays in a China & Nacho music video or that Ray Donovan would drive a Cadillac.
How brand integration works in 2020: AI and deep learning
As the content landscape expands, so too does the challenge of determining which shows are the right fit. With new streaming platforms emerging every month, technology has become a necessity for marketers looking to understand where they can best invest their budgets.
Schmidt says brand integrations are getting even more efficient for brands by applying AI to measure and predict show success. BEN has invested in algorithms specifically designed to predict which new shows are likely to be hits and which will flop.
Additionally, BEN’s AI takes the human subjectivity and guesswork out of the process of integrating brands across content – something that’s vital now that BEN works with brands on more than 3,500 films, TV and streaming opportunities each year. “How do you scale human subjectivity out of looking at content?” she asks.
“Our AI looks at the cast, producers, genre and synopsis to predict the performance of unproven properties.” The 2019 Upfronts highlighted the power of AI in predicting show performance. BEN’s tools analyzed all the shows across the May Upfronts and predicted 10 out of 10 of the top broadcasts in the new September season: “It’s human gut versus technology, that’s how we’re helping brands,” Schmidt says.
The future for streaming
This need for powerful technology will only grow as we work through the implications of the pandemic.
Schmidt predicts that the rise of streaming will continue, leading to a significant cultural and societal impact on content by making larger spaces for diverse storytelling and providing platforms for stories with more breadth in which brands will be able to integrate. She’s also seeing a big increase in unscripted reality shows because they’re easier to film and produce while maintaining safe conditions, also helping audiences disconnect from the pressures of their own lives. Just consider this: CBS topped the network ratings with the Big Brother premiere, Freeform commissioned Love in the Time of Corona, while the Kardashians are shooting their own footage.
Looking more broadly, advertisers are now part of a world in which everything is streaming. This provides an opportunity to go beyond simply applying old tactics to new media, but to think more broadly about reaching audiences by creating partnerships with content creators across platforms. Brands that understand this, and appreciate that product placement is a powerful and efficient way to connect with audiences, will thrive.
The rise of product placement and influencer marketing, created in partnership with BEN, explores the latest developments and capabilities available to marketers through brand integration, with insights, tips, and case studies to inspire your next big campaign. Click here to download this critical intelligence today.