Media is migrating to digital platforms, and that is a problem for traditional advertisers.

It’s no surprise that people hate the clutter, the hype, and the interruption of advertising. But what has surprised advertisers is the extent to which they will go to block, skip, and avoid them. Digital media has given them more ways to do that.

In the process, it has set a new standard for advertising aversion that affects all media, including television.

People can now skip over commercials in recorded programs on their DVRs. They can enjoy commercial-free programs on subscriptions services like Netflix, HBO, Amazon, and Hulu. Broadcasters and advertisers are feeling the pain.

And brand marketers are facing a dilemma: How do you connect with people who resent the intrusiveness of TV ads, who don’t trust ads, and who actively avoid them?

Some television executives are hoping to find the answer in another trend from the digital media world: sponsored content.

NBC has been the first to dip its toe in the water. In the past year it has featured extended program segments on The Voice, Blindspot, The Today Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers all sponsored by American Express. It is part of a strategy to win back viewers with fewer commercials.

“We see a great challenge, but also a great opportunity to reinvent what the advertising experience can look like in different shows and in different environments,” said Alison Tarrant, EVP for client partnerships at NBCUniversal.

This season Saturday Night Live is part of the NBC sponsored content experiment. It has cut its advertising load 30 percent and offered to partner with advertisers to fill some of the extra time with original branded content. It will be a gradual shift that will happen six times throughout the year on SNL.

Gradual is the operative word for networks flirting with sponsored content. All of these programs will continue to run commercials. Advertisers and TV programmers will have to be more innovative. Instead of reinventing the “advertising experience” they need to reinvent the viewer experience.

Innovative branding meets innovative programming

Stu Newmeyer has a big idea that could blow the lid off of the concept of TV sponsored content. He is president of Variety Entertainment Group, the production company for The Stu and Laurie Variety Hour, which debuts this summer on Pop TV. The program is a family-friendly classic variety show updated for today. And it is perfectly suited for sponsored content.

In fact, the show will have no commercials at all.

Instead it will feature sponsored segments Newmeyer calls SponsorMagic. “Viewers will stay engaged with the sponsor’s message because it is integrated into the show’s entertainment,” he said. “Brand messages take the form of songs, comedy sketches, parodies and other programming that doesn’t interrupt viewers with a commercial.”

Newmeyer believes SponsorMagic is the future of brand-building on TV. Not only will brands be able to associate themselves with the good feelings audiences get from the program, but they will have fresh messaging in each segment of each show, he says. Plus, brands will not have to bear the cost of producing commercials, which can cost more than $300,000 for a 30-second spot.

Viewers will stay engaged with the sponsor’s message because it is integrated into the show’s entertainment.

SponsorMagic partners will also have the opportunity for reach well beyond the broadcast segments. They can reach the show’s audience through cobranding on its website and social media channels, as well as national promotions and non-theatrical screenings.

Brand marketers will also be able to cobrand on the show’s website and social media channels, as well as national PR promotions and non-theatrical screenings. Newmeyer’s vision for sponsored content on TV could revolutionize how brands connect with viewers. TV advertising doesn’t work like it once did. Interrupting people to get their attention only creates negative brand sentiment.

But quality engagement will earn their favor and trust.


About the Stu and Laurie Variety Hour

The Stu and Laurie Variety Hour is a classic variety show updated for today. Its star-studded family entertainment is designed to bring the generations together. The program features big-name musical guests, sketch comedy, spectacular dancing numbers, stand-up, and games and giveaways that appeal to the Boomer and Millennial demographics. It is also the first television show to completely integrate branded entertainment into the programming to replace TV advertising. Brands can connect with TV viewers in more relevant, meaningful ways through sketches, songs, product placement, demos and other storytelling techniques. For more information on promoting your brand on The Stu and Laurie Variety Hour, contact John Gregory Olson at 888-328-3830.

Photo by Amos Bar-Zeev