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Advertising Age: March 26, 2009
by Brian Steinberg

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Often concocted between TV networks and brand handlers, product-placement deals seem to have a heftier-than-usual dose of Hollywood glitz. But some of the meat-and-potatoes parts of the media industry can also cook up these pacts. State Farm's integration with Meredith's 'Better' shows how branded-entertainment plays can run for local TV outlets, not just highfalutin' NBC comedies and ABC reality programs.

Program syndicators "are a little bit more open" to adopting branded-entertainment ideas vs. networks, "who have to deal with their own standards and practices," said Ed Gold, advertising director for State Farm Insurance.

Three-to-five minute videos centered on child-care topics such as baby-proofing the home, installing a car seat and vising the doctor will be integrated into Meredith's "Better" program, siad Mr. Gold, who stressed the importance of "being around content that the consumer finds interesting that is tangentially related to what we are interested in."

Value of branded entertainment
The videos are the creation of Meredith's Video Solutions unit, which has created custom videos for marketers incuding General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills and Kimberly-Clark, and also produces and syndicates the "Better" program. Kieran Clarke, exec VP-general manager, Meredith Video Solutions, suggested the tailored video can have more of an impact than a 30-second ad, as the videos can be individualized to play off the subject matter of a particula show. Some videos can even be crafted for specific local broadcasts, he said.

National and local product integration is one way Meredith generates revenue from its "Better" program. Up to eight minutes of the syndicated national show can be "localized," which could include the sale of local product integration, as well as sponsorship of news and entertainment features.

Other backers of syndicated programming are seeing the value of building up the ability to offer so-called branded entertainment. Last April, CBS Television Distribution, the syndicate-programming arm of CBS Corp., formed a special unit within its ranks that aimed to spark discussions of product integration earlier in the program development process. CBS Television Distribution, which syndicates shows such as "Jeopardy!" "Wheel of Fortune," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Judge Judy" and "Entertainment Tonight," hired branded-entertainment executive Greg Bennett for a newly created position, senior VP-branded integration and online. The idea, said Mr. Bennett at the time, was to develop "an in-house agency" that can talk "to the ad agencies and the promo agencies in thier lingo."

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