New frontiers

Brands and nets explore social TV and integration 2.0.

Audiences love to be entertained. They surround themselves with screens – TV, online and mobile forming the holy trinity – to maximize their entertainment intake. Since the old-school 30-second spot doesn’t always do it anymore, advertisers are looking for new ways to break through, and partnering with content more often, in novel ways. Social TV – combining people interacting online in real time with a live broadcast – is one new frontier being explored by brands and their broadcast partners.
CBC has entertained the notion with initiatives like the Chevrolet iDesk. The branded environment allows hockey fans to chat with each other and CBC sports personalities while watching a live game, as well as take part in polls, with results published online as the game goes on. The iDesk also features a 360˚ camera that viewers can use to watch the game, a concept that the CBC extended to Chevy’s vehicles, allowing hockey fans to also check them out in 360˚ tours.
The CBC is building out its social TV capability further, starting last month with the FIFA World Cup and continuing with the Commonwealth Games and next hockey season.
“Social TV enables brands to be more relevant and meaningful to their target group,” says Michka Mancini, director of digital, CBC. “This is accomplished through meeting the social needs of the customers’ lives, which in turn creates a sustainable relationship and that’s a great competitive advantage.”       
There’s also a new bar being set in terms of advertiser ties to on-air content. Recently executed partnerships blazing trails to a brave new integrated world include CTV’s program with TD Canada Trust that saw creative minds behind some of the net’s hit shows get “Up Close and Comfortable” with Canadians in the bank’s trademark green chair. Led by Starcom, the multi-platform campaign revolved around a series of backstage and on-location video interviews where viewers were given the skinny on what happens behind the scenes of staples including Grey’s Anatomy, CSI and Desperate Housewives. The segments, which were created in-house by CTV Brand Partnerships, launched on TV and CTV.ca.
It’s not the first time TD has engaged in partnerships of that ilk. In September it worked with Mediacom to execute a similar program with the CBC where stars from the net’s shows were featured in 30-second interview vignettes, again sitting in the bank’s green chair. They were posted on a branded website hosting CBC’s fall lineup.
TD’s program integrations were also scripted into actual storylines of Ceeb shows. In Being Erica, for example, one character manages a TD Canada Trust branch and speaks at a TD corporate function.
“What was groundbreaking about it was that it was a campaign that really spread across the network and not just in promotional time,” says Jamie Michaels, director of marketing for brand integration, CBC. “It really went into the storylines of three of our prime-time shows with three unique messages.”
The bar has definitely been raised beyond branded content alone. The Ceeb recently integrated a standalone branded content property into another show by incorporating Kraft Hockeyville into Little Mosque on the Prairie. The goal was to extend the evergreen Hockey Night in Canada property to a larger audience in what Michaels calls crossover integration. He says that it made sense because both shows revolve around small-town Canada. Hockeyville was the focus of an episode of Little Mosque in which the show’s fictional town of Mercy entered a submission to become the next Kraft Hockeyville. The integration was extended online to the Hockeyville website, where the Mercy townsfolk had posted a fictional video submission.
“It was about how you create experiences around the brand rather than just taking what’s on television and putting it online,” says Mancini.
Of course, no need to completely reinvent the wheel (invented by Donald Trump) if creative tweaking will suffice. In a twist on the branded episode model, in June, CBC worked with OMD to put together a special green-themed episode of Dragon’s Den for SunChips, corresponding with the launch of the brand’s new compostable bag. The episode provided $100,000 to be divvied up between enterprising inventors with the best green inventions.
Broadcasters are also increasingly extending integration opportunities within hot TV properties to the web. Though it’s not necessarily a new phenomenon, it’s an area that they’re building out more and more. Canwest, for example, is creating web content exclusively for its brand partners around two new TV shows set to premiere in the spring of 2011: Wipeout Canada and Top Chef Canada. Building on a program developed for Project Runway Canada, both shows will have a dedicated “preditor” (producer/editor) on-site filming customized web-exclusive content.Online was the platform for the reinvention
of MuchMusic’s traditional VJ Search, a new step for the net resulting in a long-term execution that seamlessly flowed from TV to digital and vice versa. Its VJ 2.0 competition in partnership with Doritos took place between August and December to celebrate a new Collisions flavour, Habanero and Guacamole. Young Canadian hopefuls, eager to become the newest VJ, submitted about 4,000 entries. They had profiles set up on a branded Doritos VJ 2.0 website, featuring their video auditions, and had to leverage their social networks in order to build up a fan base and acquire feedback and ratings.
It was the first time that Much had ever embedded Facebook and Twitter feeds and YouTube channels onto its site, and contestants even took it upon themselves to brand their own Twitter feeds and Facebook pages with the Doritos VJ 2.0 logo and feature the product in YouTube videos. The competition was later incorporated into MuchOnDemand when it reached the final phase. The program resulted in 600,000 unique visitors to the site and 27 million page views.   
“Instead of the traditional VJ Search television show, we evolved it into a digital-led program with branded content airing on television throughout the entire run,” says Dave Caporicci, director, brand partnerships and program marketing, Much MTV Group. “No waiting for weekly episodes, this program was living and breathing as a part of our demo’s life, 24/7. Our TV VJ 2.0 branded content aired in all our top shows maximizing reach against our demo.”
Much’s sister net, MTV, has been experimenting with extending TV experiences even further afield via mobile platforms.
A program done with BlackBerry for the MTV Movie Awards in June spanned TV, online and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). Awards-watchers could add MTV personality Johnny Hockin to their BBM contacts and then interact with him via SMS during live vignettes that aired during the show. The initiative was promoted via a web video ad that featured Hockin pointing to a pre-roll big box ad beside it, which prompted viewers to add him to their BBM contacts by snapping a pic of a bar code. It’s social TV, brought to you, of course, by BlackBerry.