Working in PR has this funny way of making us all “hyper-brand aware.”
We notice brands as we walk down the street, digest our daily news, and yes, even when we “mindlessly” scroll through our Instagram feeds. But perhaps there is one place where we tend to notice brands the most: on TV.
On an almost daily basis, I find myself holding television programs underneath a microscope, scrutinizing their content's authenticity. For example, last week, while watching Jimmy Kimmel Live! as guest host Jennifer Lawrence delivered her opening monologue, I noticed something oddly specific. She mentions (at 3:00) how she has "always dreamed of working three doors down from a Wetzels Pretzels." A mention so small it might not have caused me to think twice had I not already seen the soft pretzel brand on the show before, making a more overt appearance with surprise guest Will Ferrell.
Is this all just a coincidence? Industry trends indicate that it is not.
People aren't watching traditional TV ad buys anymore. In fact, earlier this year digital ad revenue surpassed TV ad spend for the first time. Research from Arris shows that 60% of consumers download or record TV shows just so they can fast-forward through commercials.
We aren't even consuming the shows themselves via the same old TV platforms. A new study indicates that almost half (47%) of adults 22 to 45 years old are watching absolutely no content on traditional TV platforms, turning instead to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube as their primary (or only) source of TV entertainment.
As viewers continually seek greener – less ad ridden – pastures on streaming platforms, producers at regular network programs are under increased pressure to help their shows maintain profitability. Programming that we publicists are tasked with infiltrating, such as the big morning news, daytime talk and late-night comedy, are all shifting the way they monetize themselves – and it's affecting our ability to collaborate with them without significant marketing spend.
As more big brands, with big budgets, wise up to the power of paid TV integrations, it will continue to become increasingly difficult for public relations pros to secure "earned" TV placements.
Just as TV producers have adapted their business in response to consumers' change in viewing habits, publicists, too, need to evolve if we want to stay in the game. We need to educate our clients about this complex and evolving landscape, and work with them to be more strategic about our broadcast pitching approach.
While it is still not impossible to break through with select producers with some of our old "tried and true" tactics, if PR teams want to continue to be successful in the future, we need to be thinking beyond just the sales of our clients. If we want to keep working with the shows our clients desire, we need change our thinking. We must spend more time considering how our clients can provide the added value producers need to drive more views, sign more sponsors, and ultimately generate revenue for the show as well.