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NBC inventing new ways to generate ads


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JACOB KONST/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Kevin Sandler, assistant professor of media arts, said today's television media prefers to err on the side of caution as it relates to programming and product advertisement in the wake of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at last year's Super Bowl.
By J. Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 3, 2005
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With viewers flipping channels to see television shows on cable and the growing popularity of TiVo, television networks are being forced to find new ways to generate advertising revenue.

Keven Sandler, an assistant professor for media arts, told the audience in the half-full Gallagher Theater yesterday how NBC cleverly slipped advertisements into their programming in his speech for the Faculty Fellows Speaker Series.

One method is known as synergy, an advertising technique used to promote one show inside of another show, Sandler said.

"Nothing is more shameless than 'Dateline NBC,'" Sandler said of the technique.

Sandler described how "Dateline" did an interview with Carolyn Kepcher from NBC's "The Apprentice," allowing Kepcher to promote her new book and NBC to promote the second season of "The Apprentice."

"But that's not necessarily news," Sandler said.

The problem, Sandler said, is when synergy enters into scripted television series.

"Imagine being a script writer for a series like 'Vegas,'" Sandler said. "They would say, 'Here is an idea. Do your best to work it in.'"

Sandler showed a clip from "Vegas" in which the Black Eyed Peas, who are under contract from the music subsidiary of NBC's parent company General Electric, were written into an episode. The clip showed James Caan and other characters dancing while the Black Eyed Peas performed.

"Nothing scarier than James Caan jumping up and down to the Black Eyed Peas," Sandler said. "Would he really love the Black Eyed Peas if they weren't owned by Universal?"

Sandler said that product placement and branded entertainment are becoming more prominent in primetime broadcast, due in part to the ability for TiVo viewers to skip the traditional commercial break.

"Advertisers are going to no longer pay for this diminishment avenue," Sandler said. "The value of 30-second commercials are suspect to advertisers."

Sandler gave the example of NBC's "The West Wing" prominently using Rolling Rock beer in their episodes.

For branded entertainment, Sandler gave an example where Junior Mints candy played a prominent role in an episode of NBC's "Seinfeld."

"The Junior Mints saved Kramer's friend's life," Sandler said.

A new form of advertising, called a "situmercial," is being used to keep viewers watching NBC. With this method, products are not advertised in television shows, but rather the opposite, Sandler said.

"The Apprentice" is one example of a show that has been using this new form of advertising.

Following the closing of a scene in the show's trademark boardroom, the commercial starts with three guys from the Burger King commercial series in room similar to Donald Trump's boardroom. The guys banter back and forth with Trump.

Sandler said this advertisement in particular is directly aimed at TiVo users.

"If you were fast forwarding through commercials, you might stop your TiVos if you saw this," Sandler said.



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