Reality (TV) Cheque

I was watching the popular new show Dewarists the other day. Apart from the freshness with a tinge of pseudoness it made me marvel at Bacardi’s focus on music. It found the right fit for its premium whisky brand Dewar’s in this documentary/travelogue series that brings together independent musicians.

Brands associating themselves with TV shows however is nothing new. Like most branding opportunities though, there is only a fraction that make sense and create the desired impact.We observe this paradigm today wearing the Reality TV lens as most prime time is either Reality or Faking Reality.

Here’s a little cross section of shows(and associated brands) both western and home grown –

How do these associations come about? Who approaches whom? Which associations work and which ones drag either stakeholder down(brand/channel)?

Before we scrape the surface of these questions here’s the road Reality shows have already traveled:

The Reality behind Reality TV
The whole idea of a reality show is the unpractised, unrehearsed dramatic situations shown through the eyes of real people. If these real people are everyday joes, the audience finds the likeness or differences intriguing. On the other hand, if they are celebrities, the audience is constantly bewildered at their humanness.

On Indian Teles these shows have been around since the 90’s.
However, it’s the new age of reality shows, mostly borrowed/adapted formats from the west that have suddenly guerrillaed prime time to the extent that it is now difficult to tune into a well scripted indigenous sitcom.
Shows such as Sa Re Ga Ma , Bournvita Quiz Contest , Boogie Woogie(renamed Videocon Boogie Woogie in 2008) have been around and have evolved in terms of associating with brands.Remember Boogie Woogie’s 1 min monologue of all the products the contestants won. Now you can only find it on YouTube, if you try really hard.
Cut to switching your remote tonight, advertisers aren’t fighting no more for media space as they falling over themselves to buy placement on reality shows.
How does this work then?
To Start with, we checked with one of the perpetrators ;),the brilliant Gaurav Lulla who’s handling Brand Solutions for MTV in India.

How do these associations happen & what value do various stakeholders offer each other?

Often the execution of Format Owner shows is superior as the best a brand can do in this type is support the idea. Whereas on the other extreme when clients send in the brief the program usually turns out to be and sounds like a 30 minute ad. There are some exceptions though wherein the channel produces a great show keeping the brand central to the concept. Such as the Pulsar Stunt Mania. Eventhough most people buying a bike do not end up doing stunts, it has an aspiraional fun value attached to it. Bajaj post the success of the show even re positioned Pulsar as being India’s first stunt bike. This became apparent in their subsequent advertising.

Are brand associations with Reality TV here to stay or is it just a passing trend in youth marketing?

Lately a number of Liquor brands have joined the reality brandwagon.
With surrogate being the only option and Blender’s pride Music CDs looking and sounding extremely phony as nobody even plays CDs or watches ads anymore, shows such as The Dewarist and MTV’s Captain Morgan’s Shack are a shot in the arm for this category. Traditionally these brands have sponsored events/gala parties etc. But the bang for buck doing this isn’t sustainable enough.
Large spending categories are also attracted to branded content deals so they can reach a very wide audience via popular shows such as “Vodafone presents Big Boss”.

What does a telecom company have to do with a reality show where contestants stay in a enclosure for a month? Especially Vodafone whose brand language far from that of the show. So the only reason one can imagine is the same as why they would sponsor a cricket tournament, “if they don’t Airtel will”.
Indiscriminately buying into shows is not a good idea though as at the end of the day audience tunes in only if the production quality is upto scratch and the show entertains them.
There have been many shows that have failed to sustain themselves as the core concept was only 1 season strong. “Dadagiri” anyone?

So What are the different ways in which brands can associate?

Usually it isn’t one single approach but a combination of the following:
1. Sponsorship
2. Product Placement
3. In-show Promotion/Marketing
4. Gamification

Have a look at some of these examples and the plausible reason:

You see how Mahesh Bhat has already sold Jism 2. Irrespective of whether Sunny Leone acts (moans) in the film or not, there is enough juice in this promotion to last the end of production of the film.

Having said that, 3 critical takeaways from the list above are
1. Smart associations are the ones that will adopt 2 or more means
2. Fit is critical for long term Brand gains
3. Gamification & Promotion are secondary tactics that allow multiple associations

Globally, a number of solid associations have catapulted brands right to the Top of the Mind whereas certain others have dented their reputations.

The Good and the Downright Ugly

The Good, or rather – The Amazing Race

Obviously the teams needed to travel from one place to other. Ford’s sponsorship drove them in four of its top models – Explorer, Fiesta, Focus and Mustang. These cars made their way across the globe throughout the season.

A&F on The Jersey Shore, booo!

American retailer Abercrombie &Fitch ,offered compensation to a hard-partying star on the show to cease wearing A&F.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Abercrombie & Fitch commented: “We are deeply concerned that Mr Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.”


So what does it all boil down to?
Looks like, soon everything you see on reality show would be a brandified .
But we wouldnt go so far to say that true value of entertainment in the reality segment will be lost as customers sure know how to trash whatever deserves the dump.



2 thoughts on “Reality (TV) Cheque

  1. Well researched article and highlights what could happen with a force fit. The bit about A&F was quite interesting.
    Another thing to note is that “fit” is really imprtant, especially when a lot of people watch TV while browsing the internet. “As seen on TV” is now “seeing on TV” where only a few seconds can trigger either delight or disgust.

    Good job with the post ThinkRasta.

    Posted by Udai | December 11, 2011, 7:40 pm

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