Zigging past the Zap

Ads on TV are taking greater pains to avoid avoidance by deploying more targeted skip-aversion camouflage techniques. These stealth measures include vignettes, interstitial promotions and custom content that entertains and adds value.

Ads on TV are taking greater pains to avoid avoidance by deploying more targeted skip-aversion camouflage techniques. These stealth measures include vignettes, interstitial promotions and custom content that entertains and adds value.

Meanwhile, brand integration – for example, Kia’s recent involvement with The Tournament on CBC – is getting better at achieving its ‘seamless’ goal (see sidebar). However, not all successful program connections need to be made at the pre-production stage. Rolaids linked with CTV’s Corner Gas for a promotion post-production through interstitial-like spots created by CTV using clips from the show.

Vignettes, such as Nestlé Canada’s episodic ‘Life is’ campaign on Corus’ W Network, are mini-programs unto themselves.

The Nestlé campaign was designed to tell a story that W viewers could identify with and would want to follow through each of its segments. The theory behind all of these formats is that not only will there be less tune out, zipping and zapping, but there will also be a closer connection with the marketer’s target – viewers of the programming, says Sunni Boot, president and CEO of Toronto-based ZenithOptimedia.

Boot says there is also a halo effect for marketers with this type of advertising, particularly when it involves seamless integration of a brand.

‘Viewers don’t really want good programming interrupted, so by using integrated brands – not advertising – and products that are relevant to the content of the show, you’re not interrupting them, you’re adding to the enjoyment. And that adds to how people then perceive your product.

‘We’re not after consumer exposures today, we’re after consumer attention.’

The ‘Life is’ campaign is part of Nestlé’s ‘Good Food, Good Life’ female-targeted corporate initiative that provides information on its brands and food in general through an e-mail newsletter and its Web site nestle.ca.

Terri Tinella, SVP communications and marketing effectiveness for Nestlé Canada, says the idea was a collaborative effort of the company’s marketing team, ZenithOptimedia, and W Network, based on their collective key insights about the female target audience.

The goal was to speak to women in an entertaining way through a short programming series. Tinella says the resulting ‘Life is’ campaign does this by recognizing the hectic nature of women’s lives and builds on the importance they place on their friendships.

The campaign launched last spring with a 90-second episode followed by seven weekly 60-second segments subtly built around how Nestlé brands fit into the lives of three busy thirtysomething women – one stay-at-home mom and two career women. Interwoven seamlessly through the storyline are brands that include Lean Cuisine, Häagen-Dazs, Aero, Pria Powerbar, Perrier, Nescafé, and Purina Dog Chow.

‘We believe the characters Debra, Madeline and Lily embody Nestlé’s core target demographic. Developing a storyline about their everyday experiences enabled us to speak to that group in a way they can relate to that is at the same time entertaining,’ says Tinella.

‘Life is’ ran again in fall 2004 augmented by an online contest created to connect further with consumers and get their feedback. Tags were added to the spots to direct viewers to mygirlfriends.ca where they could enter to win a salon day for three. Tinella says she is very pleased with the results of both the campaign and the feedback.

Julie Myers, VP client services at ZenithOptimedia, says mini-programs or vignettes get noticed but they are about entertainment and not blatant brand sell. Even though Nestlé products are seen throughout, commercialism was avoided to make the ‘Life is’ campaign purely content and entertainment.

Myers says smart marketers like Nestlé are looking at ways to deal with challenges like the PVR today rather than when it reaches a crisis point. ‘The PVR doesn’t have high penetration right now but in three years it will be significant and we have to understand how we can ensure we get the best ROI.’

Meanwhile, Lise Watier Cosmétiques is targeting the dress-for-success crowd with a series of beauty trends and makeup application tips on CBC Newsworld’s Fashion File. The Montreal-based company worked with its media management agency Carat Canada and Fashion File to create the series of 13 60-second how-to vignettes. One tip is scheduled to run each week from Jan. 17

to April 15.

Designed to blend seamlessly with the programming, the vignettes mirror the regular Fashion File segments and will direct viewers to fashionfile.com, where they can view the tips in real time or link to lisewatier.com.

In addition to a banner ad on the Fashion File site, Lise Watier products will be featured in a double-page spread in the March edition of Fashion Magazine and promoted in an e-mail to 20,000 magazine subscribers. Lise Watier is also taking the CBC Newsworld link in-store through brochures featuring the same content as

the vignettes.

All of these efforts require media agency execs to play a much more actively creative role. Like hooking Rolaids up with Corner Gas and a free gas contest. (Gas, Rolaids – get it?) New Multi-Symptom Rolaids Antacid & Antigas launched in November with a promotion that tied in with CTV’s popular comedy series.

CTV created a 30-second promotional spot from clips of the show to link the antigas component of the new Rolaids product with the titular gas station, the show’s characters and The Ruby diner, and play up some of the food triggers of heartburn, gas and bloating.

The ‘Race for Relief’ promotion ran for four weeks and drove viewers to Rolaids.ca where they could play a racing game and enter the contest to win free gas or one of 13 Hyundai Tiburon cars.

The Corner Gas Web site also featured ads and an animated volken of a Hyundai Tiburon moving across the screen that when clicked on linked to the Rolaids site.

Anna Caravaggio, category manager, Skin Care & Digestive Health for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, says the company’s in-store AOR Accumark Communications of Toronto brought in the idea about the gas and car promotion.

Caravaggio then turned to ZenithOptimedia for help in taking this in-store event and making it bigger through media exposure. Jennifer Wilson, account supervisor at ZenithOptimedia made the connection with Corner Gas. Because Rolaids didn’t have any broadcast creative to go with the launch, Wilson built the deal around CTV developing the creative.

Caravaggio says: ‘It seemed a neat play on words that really highlighted the key benefit of the product – and then we became familiar with what a great Canadian success it’s been as a show itself.

‘The objective of any marketer is to increase top-of-mind awareness. When you tie yourself to a property like Corner Gas where it is relevant to the people watching, I think you have a higher chance of that.’

The results, she says, are meeting expectations but it’s too early to be more specific. Caravaggio adds that it takes gut instinct to do something unproven, but when it comes to doing it again, that’s where the hardcore measurement comes in.

‘That’s what we will be looking at over the next months. Did we achieve our objectives, what was top-of-mind awareness, trial of the product, and impact on consumers? That definitely won’t be based on gut instinct.’

The campaigns featured here were chosen by the writer as good examples of connecting brands and programming. This came before the selection of experts to interview. The fact that most deals were directed by various account groups of one media management company is not itself one of Sunni Boot’s brand integration deals, but is simply coincidence.