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    The talent show and your brand

    Pre American Idol, the idea that anything but professionals could deliver content to the most important slot in the broadcast schedule seemed preposterous. Talent shows were something that the local promoter or indie label used to sell beer or t-shirts, and if they were televised at all the aura was more public service than Fox. So, what happened?

    How come when you’re flicking through your channels today, at any given time, you’re likely to stumble upon America’s Next Top Model, America’s Best Dance Crew, Project Runway, American Idol (still), or any of the other talent-fueled formats that saturate the networks today.

    Leading up to the bursting of the IT bubble, interactivity made its first appearance as “the future”. Even though this future was mainly envisioned online, other media felt the need to keep up.

    One of the first interactive formats that delivered more than the butt of a joke was Big Brother that premiered 1999 in Holland. Viewers were suddenly able to affect the programming by sending a contestant home each week with their votes. Today, interactivity has become an integral part of the broadcast business, and included in programs ranging from music to cooking.

    In Sweden the two biggest TV formats today are Idol (the Swedish version of American Idol) and Eurovision Song Contest. In addition to boasting 2-3 million viewers on a good night (in a country with 9 million citizens) every episode generate millions in SMS fees and lord knows how much in advertising and sponsorships.

    One of the hardest things to do is to build an artificial character that evokes real emotions. And even if you’ve done that successfully, there’s still the script writing, casting, arguing with directors and whatnot. What  if you could get all of the ingredients for good TV drama by just filming a bunch of teenagers trying to prove themselves as the best dancers in the country? Or by just sheer volume of characters be able to almost expect a magical moment like Paul Potts to occur on your show sooner or later?

    Authentic people bring a set of beauties and flaws rare in broadcast before, and the relatability of the characters evoke emotions among the viewers in a way most drama can’t.

    Beyond the sponsor sign

    Apart from being truly great TV the American Idol auditions also serve as event activation. The auditions reach tens of thousands of people, giving American Idol and any brand associated with them the opportunity to interact with their audience for an entire day. America’s Best Dance Crew has a less extended audition process, but let the finalists perform in malls and event centers across the country in between the weekly finals instead. Both scenarios give any sponsor a pull effect to the events that few could count on otherwise.

    With further specializing and more channels than ever in broadcast along with skyrocketing license fees for high quality content, there’s a great opportunity for brands to get access to audiences in ways that traditional advertising just can’t.


    Brand integration is becoming a standard operating procedure both for networks to fund their programming, as well as for top tier advertisers in order to leverage the effect of their regular TV spots. Some brands take it further though. Airing right now on BET is a Smirnoff branded DJ talent hunt where the “Master of the mix” is to be nominated. Smirnoff’s graphical elements are worked in into the graphic profile of the show and Smirnoff’s presence is crystal clear throughout the show. In addition to that, it’s a really good show if you’re interested in music, which means you will effectively be spending hours with the Smirnoff brand this fall.