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When Money Talks, Martha Listens

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
Television commercials are now technology roadkill. There is no such thing anymore, well, practically not. Where once the phrase "integrated partners" referred to people who married somebody from a different race, it now means products used within a film, television show or sporting event. This is to make it easy for the viewer to believe the celebrities actually use those products, not that they're paid to pretend they do. Who needs commercials breaking up the entertainment when the entertainment can now actually BE the commercials?

When you see products scattered here and there on your favorite television show, that's called "integrated partners," or "branded entertainment." The advent of TiVo and other technical advancements to bypass television's relentless commercials, has forced advertisers to push their marketing envelope right over the edge of our entertainment centers and onto the floor of our minds.

The days of trying to spot which brand of cereal Kramer stole from Jerry's kitchen are over. Guessing is out and in-your-face product placement is here. Never mind the poor slob who just wants to be entertained. There's a word for them: Dinosaurs.

America's heroes are no longer funny-hatted bronze generals on a bronze horse, or PT-boat-saving young naval lieutenants or even lanky western movie stars. Today, our heroes are the marketeers with original strategies that work in the 21st Century.

We don't mind if they can change the name of our sports arenas, theaters and even our theme parks, to names of their clients' products. We don't care. We've amended "Let there be light" to "Let there be G.E."

By the year 2009, consumer media spending is predicted to pass $1 trillion dollars -- that's almost as much as the pork in Congress' legislation -- with the average consumer spending 10 hours each day with media, the majority of which will be DVDs and the Internet. The data comes from the Communications Industry Forecast by Veronis Suhler Stevenson. This year, advertising is growing at a steady 6.1 per cent, and will be 6.8 per cent through 2009 to $260.9 Billion.

And who is going to get a large chunk of that change? Martha Stewart, that's who.

Martha has paid her debt to society and baby, now she wants society to pay her. On her new syndicated daytime television show, executive produced by Mark Burnett, the undisputed leader of integrated partners on TV, more than 20 integration partners, such as General Motors, General Electric and Procter & Gamble, will spend from $300,000 to $3 million for placement on Martha. And she has not one, but two shows. Soon she might even make as much as the innovative Messrs. Diddy and Dogg.

Martha's new NBC primetime series, "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart," has led to a rare opportunity for advertisers integrated into "The Apprentice" to be featured the next day on "Martha."

In addition to having a GE range and double oven featured in Stewart's kitchen on the show set, GE will sponsor a four- or five-episode segment in which the winner of a contest gets his or her entire kitchen renovated. GE appliances will, of course, be a major element of the renovation, reports the Hollywood Reporter.

A Whirlpool washer and dryer will be part of the "Martha" set; Dell TV monitors will be featured whenever taped segments are shown or the audience is panned; Nestle products will be featured in baking segments, and because Stewart loves pets, brands from Nestle's pet division will be on the show as well. Note the word "pets" does not discriminate. Specifying canines, cats, or a carp, might get Martha sued back into the slammer for being politically incorrect.

Now when Martha says, "It's a good thing," it doesn't necessarily mean literally; it just means Nestle paid the big bucks.

Integration partners signed up include Whirlpool, Dell, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser (manufacturer of household products like Lysol® and Easy-Off®), Kitchenair, L'Oreal and Sherwin Williams.

The list of blue-chip integration partners ready to associate with Martha comes as a strong indication that her reputation has not been discredited by conviction and imprisonment. The media divorce from Martha has been annulled. Money talks, Martha listens.

The only anticipated problem is that Martha's tough-businesswoman image from her primetime show might sour her happy-homemaker image from her daytime show. NBC Agency president Vince Manze said, "...all the promotion .. does not have her being mean but on the other hand has her being strong. We did not want anyone to be confused that this is warm and fuzzy."

Said Liz Koman, vp TV advertising sales at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, "While all "Apprentice: Martha Stewart" contestants will appear on "Martha" the day after they are voted off the primetime reality show, only those "Apprentice" task sponsors that do a separate deal with "Martha" will play a significant role on the daytime series as well.

"We are working with people who are on Martha's 'Apprentice' to integrate them further or enhance their task on 'Martha,' " she said. "We're doing some very interesting stuff that has never really been done before, and it gives new meaning to the world 'multiplatform.' "

Koman said that after sponsoring a task on Martha's "Apprentice," the advertiser's product will not only be used the next day in a segment on "Martha" but it will be given to the studio audience, advertised in one or two issues of Martha Stewart Living magazine and posted on the special "Martha" section of the MSLO Web site with additional product information.

Integrations on "Martha" will be extremely diverse and range from Stewart using a certain spice in a recipe to the fully integrated GE multiepisode segment. For a quicky product look, the cost is $300,000, jumping to $3 million for integration.

"We have structured deals in a lot of different ways," Koman said. "When they start getting into more complicated things that require more customization, that's when not only your price increases but your level of spending would have to increase as well."

It doesn't take a Harvard Business School grad to figure that one out.

Unlike most network shows that require integration partners to purchase commercial time as well, "Martha" offers smaller advertisers that haven't even produced creative spots the opportunity to "get exposure on a show in 98% of the country for a couple hundred thousand dollars," Koman said.

While "Martha" takes integration to a whole new level in daytime, it still pales in comparison to what Burnett is achieving in primetime this season-- fees of $1 million-$4 million for "The Apprentice" with Donald Trump and "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart," industry sources said.

In an effort to ensure "Martha" does not go overboard with integration, Koman said the show will limit major product integration to 15% of its episodes. Either Stewart or her set manager approves all products that appear on the show. "Martha won't use anything that doesn't feel right to her," Koman said. "We go through a rigorous vetting process of products before they even get to Martha." That's very reassuring.

Maybe if they'd appoint Martha as head of FEMA instead of two TV shows, we could get some "rigorous vetting" done in New Orleans.

Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand

"A Balloon In Cactus"
September 19, 2005 column
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