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As marketers, we are constantly brainstorming ways to create the ultimate brand experience; an experience that is highly engaging, often times interactive, and extremely memorable in the minds of consumers. From experiential, live event activations to social media gaming to branded entertainment, at AMP we focus on creating this memorable brand experience for consumers. While I was reading my daily dose of AdAge, I was surprised to learn about a new, non-traditional method of reaching the millennial segment: interactive product-placement (see Ford, Sprint, Snickers Get With the Crowd for 'ControlTV'). Relinquishing control of their marketing message to consumers, brands such as Ford, Sprint, and Snickers are embracing our obsession with crowdsourcing and reality TV to allow us to have an authentic experience with the brand, before we even buy it. 'ControlTV'? is a reality TV series produced by actor Seth Green, Matthew Senrich and Richard Saperstein which chronicles six weeks in the life of aspiring stock trader, Tristan Couvares. With the help of the social media tool ' crowdsourcing ' consumers can actively participate in determining Mr. Couvares' every move. A camera follows Mr. Couvares attentively, live broadcasting his every move. In its first two weeks after release, ControlTV received more than 3 million completed views on the DBG Video Network, with interaction rates as high as 7% on some players. For comparison, previous DBG web series have acquired as many as 50-60 million views for advertisers such as Hewlett-Packard and Diet Coke. Sounding a little bit (or a lot) like The Truman Show? Yes, except for the trio of sponsors who've recognized this as an opportunity for a new type of product placement: Ford provided a 2011 Ford Fiesta for Mr. Couvares to drive, Sprint Nextel gave him an HTC EVO 4G phone, and Mars' Snickers just happens to be his occasional snack of choice. Unlike The Truman Show in which the consumer is a passive viewer, Control TV is all about an interactive collaboration between the consumer, Mr. Couvares, and his brand friends. As the AdAge article suggests, this show takes product-placement to the next level: not only is it interactive but it's seemingly transparent as if it were reality. Consumers may feel that Mr. Couvares is using the product in a very real way when in actuality, he is acting out consumers' desires and demands. This article left me thinking about what classifies a brand experience for today's consumer? Is it a lived experience or a virtual hyper-reality ' and which of the two has greater impact on your brand's performance and bottom-line?
Have you noticed the retro commercials that have been airing during new episodes of Mad Men? In fitting with the 1960's era of the show, they take us back to how products were marketed years ago at an old fashioned ad agency. An indirect result of these ads is that they consistently trip me up while trying to fast forward through the commercials. Like many people, my television watching habits have completely changed since the advent of the DVR. I rarely watch anything 'live'? anymore (with the exception of sports) and I take full advantage of being able to complete an episode faster by skipping through the commercials. But these spots during Mad Men pose an interesting challenge because they look and feel just like the show itself. You stop fast forwarding because you think you're back to the show, until realizing moments later that you're actually watching a commercial. You got me. A tricky, but effective strategy that as a marketer left me wondering, is this the next evolution of product placement? When TiVo first hit the market years ago, marketers feared that combining the ability to skip commercials with consumers' already shortened attention spans might result in the death of the traditional television spot. Years later, product placements are now so commonplace and expected that they've reached the point of annoyance. Consumers are starting to wonder, 'Does my favorite character really love Snapple, as the show creator intended? Or are character preferences now determined by whichever brands are paying to sponsor the show that year?'? As television producers get more protective over their show's integrity, advertisers may be left to come up with another solution for promoting their clients' brands. If the Mad Men example proves successful, how soon before we see other commercials leveraging the look and feel of the shows that they advertise during?