We've noted in earlier posts how early radio and television shows came with a singular sponsor so associated with the program that it was hard to think of one without the other (see Milton Berle and Texaco Star Theater).
Over time, in order to make advertising more affordable for more companies and to maximize their ad revenue, networks invented the :60 and :30 spots. At that point, it became about selling impressions, not aligning a brand with a popular personality or show.
Now that the Western World is thoroughly saturated with far too many commercial messages, marketers are beginning to rethink the value of impressions disconnected from the benefit they could have received back in the old "brought to you by" days.
One example of course is the smash hit American Idol, where Coke, AT&T and Ford have made long-term commitments to associate with the show.
Another example has been MSN's successful special content offering which spawned the In the Motherhood web series (which carried a "conceived by", not just a "sponsored by", tag for Suave and Sprint brands), now an ABC sitcom (hey, Cavemen aren't the only ones who can start as a commercial and end up with a real show).
The latest iteration from MSN is "The Guy's Manual- Get the Tough Things in Life Done." This time, Grape Nuts is enjoying the exclusive credit for bringing a relatively humorous look at tough life scenarios men must deal with and advice on how to handle them by host Kenny Mayne from ESPN.
This approach is an interesting mix of old school/new school advertising. While many "new marketing" gurus sniff dismissively at anything that smacks of interruptive advertising, the truth is that there are still opportunities to influence. This model is an interesting mix of desired (if done well) content with a much stronger opportunity for the brand to "take credit" for delivering it free to the viewer. The brand association is much stronger.
While not as attractive from a pure reach standpoint vs. traditional television, it attracts significant eyeballs with promotion on one of the world's most-traveled web portals, yet without the "hey, here's our advertising message" baggage. The brand is more subtly, yet powerfully, woven into the content experience.
This is most likely one of the experiences that will enable true interactive television content. While it won't be Milton Berle and Texaco any longer, it may usher in a new era of strong brands associated with specific content that develops strong emotional brand connections.