"Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" Clip Shows How Brand Integration Gets Done

Last Updated Nov 4, 2009 11:46 AM EST

In marketing and advertising circles, there's a lot of talk about "brand integration," particularly as people increasingly ignore commercials. What is it? It's the practice of incorporating a brand into programming; its practitioners hope this happens so deftly that it doesn't even matter to consumers that they are being advertised to. A great example of this is worth sharing with BNET Media readers -- it's a clip from last Thursday's "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" in which he compares the new 2010 Ford Taurus SHO to the 1992 Taurus he sometimes makes reference to on the show.

Here from Ford's perspective, are some of the benefits:
  • Rather than buying, say, one or two 30-second commercials, Ford got about 11 minutes worth of promotion (including the lead-in to the above sketch), with comedy thrown in for free.
  • The clip above isn't a commercial exactly, but it still makes the kind of copy points that an ad would, in more entertaining ways. For instance, it makes the point of how roomy the trunk is by putting the 6'4" O'Brien inside it (and shutting it for awhile when he was still inside).
  • As these product tie-ins go, it was relatively natural, since O'Brien has referenced his Taurus on the show.
  • It puts the car in front of an audience it might not normally reach, the 18-34 demographic that is the core audience of "The Tonight Show."
What "The Tonight Show" gets, of course, is money, without having to take too much of a knock to its credibility, if any. O'Brien takes special care to spoof Ford, by doing things such as putting Amy Marentic, the Ford marketing manager who appeared in the sketch, in the trunk of his car at the end of the show and telling her, at an earlier point, that he wasn't "sold" on the 2010 Taurus as compared with the 1992 model.

There's no word on what Ford paid to be integrated into the show, but in case there was any doubt as to how this came about, this deal was worked out using official brand integration machinery, rather than being something that the show itself cooked up on its own. Marentic told Mediapost it was put together by Al Uzielli, an L.A.-based Ford executive who is in charge of the Ford Global Brand Entertainment Group.