A top Ford Motor Co. executive has issued another call to the marketing industry to accept that branded entertainment is key to its future.
But Mark Kaline, global media manager coordinating media across Ford brands totaling more than $1 billion in the United States alone, also offered a caveat: Programs must be accountable for results.
In branded entertainment, a company's products are displayed and promoted within the TV program, not in separate commercial breaks.
Branded entertainment is "a signal to media companies that the old model must change," Kaline said in an April 22 address to the Advertising Women of New York.
Kaline quoted his former boss at Interpublic Group of Cos., Lou Schultz: "The most effective way to cope with change is to help create it."
To that end, Kaline's 3-year-old Brand Entertainment Group, which works closely with Ford's brand strategy teams and Ford Motor's media group, has crafted numerous deals, such as its relationship with "American Idol" on News Corp.'s Fox network. Others programs include Ford-branded vehicles appearing in Fox's "24" starring Kiefer Sutherland, and Ford's sponsorship of a Discovery channel special, "Countdown to Kitty Hawk."
Kaline and the group are soliciting and developing ideas for Ford's F-150 launch this summer.
But he cautioned there is a need to "measure, track and value the things we invest in," from brand-inspired merchandise to product tie-ins with movies to corporate sponsorships of landmark public events or TV shows.
He urged potential partners to pitch ideas not only for partnerships and projects, but also methods to assess their success. The "tools for measuring this stuff are not all there," he said.
Trial and error have taught Kaline and his crew to be patient.
"We are all learning. This is not a perfect science," he said.
Even so, the automaker's media budgets are not getting any bigger, and media audiences continue to fragment.
"We cannot be afraid to take risks," he said. "We're willing to invest in the right ideas."
Lisa Sanders writes for Advertising Age, a sister publication of Automotive News.