Advertisers have been scrambling for the last few years to find new channels to reach target audiences. People are cutting the cord, watching TV on streaming services and recording shows on their DVRs so they can fast forward through the commercials.
Therefore, advertisers have looked for other avenues, primarily social media and ads on YouTube and the like. TV still represents the best way to reach a broad audience, but the playing field has become more complex.
So what are advertisers to do? Well, they can go back to the future, which is just what American Express has done. It will now sponsor entire segments of the Today Show that will reduce the number of commercials, increase the amount of show content and give American Express a channel to raise its profile.
Sponsoring The Today Show is old hat, but also the new wave.
This tactic, of course, is nothing new. In fact, it’s as old as television itself. The early 50s saw the Texaco Star Theater, a vaudeville show hosted by Milton Berle. It was common for shows throughout that decade and the 60s to have a title sponsor that simply owned that time on the air.
American Express is spending $28.1 million of its $141.7 million advertising budget on NBC alone, with a good chunk of it going to the Today Show. Is this the wave of the future (the past)?
Absolutely. And it won’t just be broadcast TV. Networks and streaming services are playing in a field advertising dollars spread thin. It’s not a big stretch to imagine advertisers owning a show, either on broadcast, cable or even (gulp) streaming.
Does this approach have the potential to turn off viewers? Yes and no. It would actually be welcomed, if the programming already includes advertising. As a viewer, I’ve always appreciated the European model in which the programs are sponsored and ads are shown at the beginning of the program, thus not interrupting during the show itself.
I don’t expect an immediate push to adopt the American Express Today Show model. But don’t be surprised if, in the desperation to open up new channels, that advertisers and TV networks don’t consider it more often.