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Marketers eye late night 'branded TV'

News, 07 September 2015

NEW YORK: "Branded TV" is becoming more commonplace on late-night television and marketers are hoping that opportunities will arise with tomorrow's debut of Stephen Colbert as host of the Late Show on CBS.

The Wall Street Journal noted that rival shows had featured brand tie-ins – including Western Union and Old Navy on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and GE on The Tonight Show.

And it reported that Colbert "has already shown a willingness to align his name with outside brands" as part of CBS promotions for the show. It also recalled a history of brand integrations on his previous show, The Colbert Report, where he adopted the persona of a conservative commentator.

"He's always been very brand-friendly," according to Eric Levin, svp at LiquidThread, a branded content unit of Starcom MediaVest Group.

At the same time, however, brands cannot expect a straightforward experience, as Levin explained that when he had worked with Colbert to create a promotion for Wheat Thins, the latter's team had creative control.

The "sponsortunity" ended up with Colbert mocking the brand by reading directly from a memo setting out the brand's guidelines.

Levin suggested that Colbert was able to "[infuse] his personality into these segments without completely disparaging or stripping away at what the brand wants to do".

Clearly that's not an approach that would suit every brand although an ability to roll with the punches can be a great help, as Arby's demonstrated last month when Jon Stewart, with whom Colbert has also worked, stepped down as host of The Daily Show.

The fast-food chain ran a self-deprecating 60-second spot during the penultimate show in which it thanked Stewart for all his mockery over the years – "the meal that's a dare for your colon" – and saw brand sentiment boosted as a result.

Ammiel Kamon, svp of products for Amobee Brand Intelligence, explained that Arby's approach had mimicked Stewart's, being "bold, funny, and irreverent, while speaking out as 'truth to power'".

What had made it especially effective, he told Advertising Week, was "the timing of the moment and their understanding the tone and tenor of what the audience is actually seeking at this time".

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, Advertising Week; additional content by Warc staff