This prime-time brand placement aired last spring before an audience of 6.6 million. According to iTVX, a data service that measures brand integrations in TV shows, the exposure was worth no less than $514,259. That's a very good deal indeed, considering that a 30-second ad in an episode of Gary Unmarried costs $79,986. KFC also bought traditional ads during the show, and iTVX's final analysis gave the integration a score of 86 on a scale of 100. Little wonder, then, that KFC was back on the show in January for the launch of its grilled wings, with Mohr's on-screen friend describing the food as so fiery he felt like he was "sucking on a blowtorch." The pain couldn't have been that bad; both men ate all the chicken. This second integration didn't quite back the wallop of the first, but it was still worth a cool $373,588, according to iTVX. At a time when TV viewing is down, ad skipping via DVRs is up, and ad clutter is rampant, these scenarios are what some call the future of brand marketing on the first screen. Rather than just featuring a product in the background, advertisers and networks are making sure viewers won't miss the integration by simultaneously running commercials and, at times, giving a brand a starring role.
Chances are, this wouldn't be happening if the networks didn't need the money nearly as much as the brands need the exposure. Hungry for ad dollars, the networks are courting these placement deals more than ever. In fact, integrations have been growing each year for nearly the last decade. According to Nielsen IAG, brand placements were up 3 percent in 2009 from the previous year on broadcast TV and 5 percent on cable. Last year alone, brand-placement activity jumped by 6 percent on broadcast and 9 percent on cable, comparing the first to fourth quarters. There's no question that product placement represents an opportunity for brands.
But how much of one? Perhaps at one time, it would have been enough to simply say that a breakfast cereal sitting atop the kitchen table of a sitcom set was getting 8 million pairs of eyeballs. But now, integrated products are becoming central to the stories they appear in; a Verizon Hub that Serena van der Woodsen uses to send status updates in Gossip Girl, for example. But it all begs the question: Just how good a deal is product placement, anyway? Facing budget crunches and the need to account for every penny spent on marketing, brands that pay for placements naturally are looking for ways to measure the effectiveness of these deals. In response, a number of services trying to do just that have come and gone in recent years, with Nielsen (now combined with former competitor IAG), iTVX, Front Row Analytics, Millward Brown and a few others still standing -- and each with its own