Where consumers go, advertisers will follow. And with reality TV viewers flocking to some of the most active communities on the Internet, sponsors have found a rich new playground on their sites.
Whether advertisers are repurposing old TV spots or coming up with new, interactive features to lure "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" fanatics, companies like Sprint and Acura have made reality sites a favored landing spot for commercial content, and a place to try out innovations in online sponsorship.
On the official “Survivor” site – a site that is prominently sponsored by Sears – full episodes of the series are preceded by a brief Sprint logo, and interrupted periodically for a Chevron commercial.
At the “Dancing With the Stars” website, meanwhile, viewers are told the show is presented “with limited commercials by Cesar Canine Cuisine.”
At Online Strategies Magazine, Caleb Hill called the branded canvas ads “a revelation for marketers, a huge financial success for the publishers, and consumers seem to accept them as well. These products enable the networks’ premium full-episode player environments with custom, immersive advertising experiences.”
“Advertisers have full control over how far they want to push levels of interactivity around their message or product,” says Hjelm. “We’ve seen great response to ads that introduce quizzes, games and options for viewing different pieces of content within the ad itself.”
The affiliated Honda brand took a similar stance with branded canvas ads that dated back to 2008, when the company launched a multifaceted campaign that began with a video shot on a notched road that played music as a Honda Civic was driven over it. "Honda is an advanced engineering company, and we thought it would be interesting to connect that to the Civic advertising campaign," said Gary Paticoff, senior vice president at Honda’s ad agency, RPA of Santa Monica.
Overseas, the possibilities have been taken even further: In the Philippines, for example, ABS-CBN television has used the 360-degree video platform Kyte as the online video platform for “Pinoy Big Brother,” its Filipino version of the long-running reality show “Big Brother.” In the process, the channel has created an interactive platform linking its site with interactive video experiences on Facebook – in order, says Kyte, to connect with fans via social media, and also to “monetize content through pre-roll, overlay and companion advertising on branded canvas pages.”
And while it might be possible to turn off viewers with too much advertising — particularly when it comes to shows like “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” which at times prominently feature product placement — Hjelm insists that his studies show an expectation, and an acceptance, of commercial content.
“I call it the three-screen approach,” he says. “You’ll get a show on your TV whenever you want it, not just when your cable provider has it on the schedule. You’ll have that same show on demand on your PC, and on demand on your mobile device or tablet. And you’ll see ad formats specific to each of those screens.”