By Caressa Douglas, SVP Content and Branded Integration
Upfronts week may be fading into the distance for another year, but we’ve all been left feeling the nostalgic buzz that can only come from a jaunt along memory lane. With “Roseanne” revived, “Will & Grace” set to dazzle our screens once more, the 2017–2018 Upfronts have shown that the reboots, spin-offs and revivals trend continues to gather momentum across the primetime broadcasting spectrum. This marks a significant rise in the number of reboots seen just 12 months ago, BI recently reported there are 34 in production for 2017 alone. This trend is indicative of a change of tack not just from traditional network producers but OTT content creators as well. “Gilmore Girls”, “Arrested Development” and “Fuller House” have all enjoyed major success on the streaming platform.
What the Upfronts showed us is that in 2017 there is an emphasis on proven properties. Networks are airing on the side of caution when it comes to pickups and are taking less of a gamble on unproven properties. Television behemoths with huge built-in or dormant fan-bases from previously successful shows give networks a new opportunity to quickly reactivate and engage with “new” shows. This also means completely different consideration sets for advertisers. Media buying decision makers are taking these tried and true properties into account and putting trust into these revived shows. There is no short supply of shows to choose from.
Reboot carryover “Lethal Weapon” will be joined by a triple-bill of ‘70’s & ‘80’s hits “Dynasty”, “The Exorcist” & “S.W.A.T.” Spin-off master Dick Wolf will continue his dominance of the NBC grid with the addition of “Law & Order: Menendez”, as well as his Chicago block of “Chicago PD” and “Chicago FD”. FOX may have a sleeper win with the return of “Love Connection”, hosted by Andy Cohen. But it is the revivals that have truly made the headlines, most notably the likes of “Roseanne”, “American Idol”, “Battle of the Network All-Starts” and “Will & Grace”.
This is never an exact science — once popular but now slightly underperforming shows such as “The X-Files” and “Twin Peaks” are evidence of that. Deadline reported the single biggest day and weekend signups ever for Showtime’s streaming service during the premiere weekend of the “Twin Peaks” revival. There are great opportunities for brands looking to work their way authentically into these “new” shows’ storylines. Viewers already know and love these characters. For brands, that make it easier to determine best character alignments or potential storylines they might wish to incorporate into.
One of the most important things brand need to consider is how they can gain better access to production teams — for example, through partnering with agencies that already have these connections — particularly as they need to be having these conversations with the production teams today, as compared to six months’ time.
With OTT platforms now prioritizing original content development and primetime networks converting old into new at a fast rate, there are growing options for branded integrations. To do this successfully, there are three core tips all brands looking to take advantage of the reboot trend need to follow:
1) Get in early. Production speed is increasing, driven by insatiable consumer demand for new (old) content, and as a brand, you want to be involved in and intertwined with the script at the earliest possible stage. This ensures your integration is both key to story development as well as uber-authentic within the show’s universe. Giving your brand ample time to be brought to creators will increase your opportunity to be authentically woven into a script.
2) Think about your heritage. Many reboots are transporting their shows and characters into an authentic 2017 world, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be taking a trip down memory lane during the show. If they have the appropriate heritage and nostalgic resonance with the show audience, brands, therefore, have the chance to integrate in the past and the present tense — or both. What would “Twin Peaks” or even “Gilmore Girls” be without a mention of coffee and donuts? Excited viewers will be expecting to see old references within the “new” universe of their beloved shows.
3) Add genuine value. Effective brand integration into shows needs to be seamless and additive to the viewing experience, rather than pulling the viewer out of the show’s universe. This is more important with known properties, as fans already have strong attachments to their characters and storylines and are likely to react far more angrily to obvious or clunky product placements.
Follow these guidelines and both new and established brands can set themselves up for integration success in 2017–18. Reboots, revivals and spin-offs are certainly not going away for the time being, so it is up to brands to figure out how best they fit into these “new” storylines.
Caressa Douglas serves as the senior vice president of content and branded integration and at BEN (Branded Entertainment Network), a Bill Gates Company. She is a founding member and contributor of BEN where she has a passion to seamlessly integrate brands into the fabric of Hollywood storytelling. With over two decades of relationships in the entertainment space, Caressa and team execute successful placement programs for global clients such as General Motors, Heineken, Dunkin Brands, Microsoft/Xbox, Honda, Hyundai, and Dyson.
Previously, Caressa served as Vice President of Branded Integration at Norm Marshall &Associates, a pioneer in the space of product placement and responsible for some of the most memorable brand campaigns of all time, including General Motors in Transformers, Xbox in Big Bang Theory, Chanel in Sex in the City, and Persol in James Bond.
Caressa has been a leader in the entertainment marketing space and has a sterling reputation both with brands across categories, and throughout the production community.