TV, Commercials and Product Placement
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Television network executives and advertisers have convened in New York this week. They're engaged in the annual broadcast ritual known as Upfront. That's when the networks pitch their new lineup of TV shows to what they hope is an eager group of clients, clients willing to plunk down hundreds of thousands of dollars for 30 seconds of commercial time during these shows worth $9 1/2 billion altogether in ad sales, and advertisers hope to find next season's "Desperate Housewives" or "Lost," a hit that guarantees maximum exposure for their products. To get the lowdown on Upfront, we've called Brad Adgate. He's senior vice president of the media planning and buying agency Horizon Media.
Mr. BRAD ADGATE (Horizon Media): Good morning.
MONTAGNE: And do you get kidded about your name, Adgate?
Mr. ADGATE: Yeah. No, it's my real name, but, yeah, I do from time to time, `Is that your real name?' but it is.
MONTAGNE: Well, it's a perfect name for what you do. And, you know, you've been there clearly in New York attending these network pitches. What have you seen so far?
Mr. ADGATE: Well, based on the popularity of shows like "Lost" and then "Medium" which aired on NBC--it was a midseason hit--we're seeing a lot of shows about the occult, the supernatural, aliens. There's at least five shows that are going to be based on that. One is actually called "Supernatural," which is on The WB and it's about two young men looking for what happened in the mysterious death of their mom. They drive around the country. There's a show "Fathom" on NBC which is kind of like an underwater type of alien show. It's kind of like "The Abyss" meets "Close Encounters." There's a show "Invasion" which is on ABC which will be about aliens that hit a Florida town after a hurricane. CBS has two shows, a block, on Friday from 8 to 10:00 which deals with the occult. So that certainly stands out as a program genre we're going to see a lot of next fall on network TV.
MONTAGNE: And any "Desperate Housewives 2, 3, 4 and 5"?
Mr. ADGATE: No. No. I think right now there seems to be one; one's enough. I mean, there are a couple of shows in development, but so far there hasn't been too many clones that I've seen of "Desperate Housewives."
MONTAGNE: Give us an example of a company that you would be representing with its product and what fit you would be looking for with a particular show or a kind of show?
Mr. ADGATE: Sure. Well, for instance, a national hardware store--they might be looking at an "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" because it's a home-improvement show. It kind of lends itself to product placement, you know, using products in building a house or fixing a kitchen. And some of these shows actually allow for branded entertainment or product placement. That's another very popular trend that's occurring in advertising. You have networks and both media-buying companies that have developed these branded entertainment divisions that'll kind of help extend the brand. It's kind of like a TiVo buster with all this concern about consumers having control of their ad exposure on television. This is a way to circumvent that.
MONTAGNE: Give us an example of that.
Mr. ADGATE: For instance, you know, "The King of Queens" goes into his refrigerator, and instead of getting a generic soft drink, will get a Coke or a Pepsi. You know, some of these shows, what they're starting to do now is programs that have already been run, they can install product placement with--you know, virtually. Like, for instance, you can take "Frasier" which hasn't been in production for a year and it's running in syndication. They can actually go back to those shows, and when he does open up, say, a soft drink or, you know, a juice, it's a Tropicana or a Florida Citrus or Minute Maid and you could also...
MONTAGNE: That's amazing.
Mr. ADGATE: Well, you could also do that with the World Series. I mean, you know, behind home plate, they always have, like, an ad for maybe--you know, watch "Arrested Development" if it's on Fox and that's not really there. That's just on the TV screen.
MONTAGNE: The networks are facing increased competition, we all know now, for advertising dollars. I mean, there's cable television. There's the Internet. How much impact are these having on the networks?
Mr. ADGATE: Well, I think that cable would probably be about $6 billion in ad revenue or $6 1/2 billion. You know, the thing to be mindful about cable is the six networks deliver about 50 share of audience, and then you have scores and scores of cable networks delivering the same 50 share, but cable is...
MONTAGNE: Meaning 50 percent of the audience goes to networks and all of cable brings in 50 percent of the audience.
Mr. ADGATE: Fifty. Yeah, all of ad-supported cable, like the USAs and A&Es and TNTs, so on and so forth, and it's increasingly getting fractionalized. You know, satellite companies are competing with digital cable operators for market share and the winners are the consumers because they're getting more and more channels, more and more niche channels, and, you know, they take dollars away from either established top-tier cable networks and the broadcast networks.
MONTAGNE: Brad Adgate is senior vice president for Horizon Media, a media planning and buying agency.
Thanks again for talking with us.
Mr. ADGATE: Sure. It's a pleasure, Renee.
MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
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