Armed with research on who buys its cars and where they are likely to reside, Suburu found a nice fit with IFC's quirky cable show Portlandia. And while running ads along side the program is nice, integrating into the show is better. So as Portlandia premieres its 5th season, Suburu cars will be featured inside the series. Along with other marketing tactics, this branded content approach assure that viewers will see Suburu product placement as they enjoy the show. And the benefit to Suburu seems well worth it.
For one, consumers won't be able to fast forward through it, the car is tied into the fabric of the content. Two, with the show based in the Northwest, it reaches a strong segment of the market that purchase Suburus. Third, the Suburu brand continues to be seen, post the initial run of the show, with repeats, on demand, and future syndication and streaming. And fourth, it receives great press coverage including a full article in today's New York Times.
Of course the biggest challenge to branded content or any content that is pre-taped and run months or years later, is when the unexpected occurs. A negative news story, a recall perhaps, or possible indiscretions that turn a once popular program into a problem. I speak most recently of two incidents, Stephen Collins and Bill Cosby, and the effect on their older shows, 7th Heaven and The Cosby Show. Their negative publicity extends to the shows they appear on. Unlike an ad that can be removed, when branded content is woven into the fabric of the show, it is there forever, through the good press and the bad.
But for now, the use of branded content by Suburu and others is a smart decision. While its core message may not get presented, its brand awareness and engagement by the viewer can drive future interest and hopefully sales for the auto company. And the resurgence of branded content is a great means to fight ad skipping and the rise of streaming.