In the past, advertisers have been raising questions about how the cost of an ad-space is calculated. Former Showtime CEO, Peter Einstein has repeatedly called for proper auditing from the broadcaster's perspective. It appears that better measurement services are something everybody wants and this month, a sophisticated tool for quantifying a certain form of advertising has been launched in the Middle East.
iTVX develops software that measures the value of product placement on film and television and was snapped up recently by the MENA division of international advertising consultancy, Fuse, who specialise in product placement.
There’s lots of movement afoot to try and get proper viewing measurement in place but there is also resistance.
The agency, which forms part of the Omnicom Media Group, signed a deal this month with iTVX founder Frank Zazza. As part of the agreement, Zazza will train Fuse's staff at its Dubai office, on how to use the tool to quantify the real value of its client's deals.
Zazza is regarded as the father of modern product placement. Having engineered the Reese's Pieces sequence in ET, he has gone on to work on the famous Junior Mints episode of Seinfeld as well as The Fantastic Four and Jurassic Park. One of his most successful placements was the BMW Z3 in the James Bond film, Goldeneye. The car's role in the film was used as the catalyst for the new model's launch, which proved hugely successful.
Although the system is already in use in other markets, its introduction into the Middle East marks a new landmark for the software.
"This is a very exciting time globally; Fuse and iTVX are not using Dubai and the Middle East as a test market but as somewhere to get it right for the region from the beginning," Zazza says. "What we're trying to do over here is to implement this across the whole market as the prototype for the rest of the world. To show them how iTVX can benefit a region's industry as a whole, not just a few clients."
The iTVX system measures the level, and so, value of exposure that a product is receiving on screen. This is dependent on the product's prominence in the shot, its involvement with the story, whether the product is also being talked about and the length of each type of coverage that it receives.
Zazza says the broadcast industry will particularly benefit from the pre-evaluator tool. This allows producers who are negotiating with a potential advertiser to see what type of exposure and how much of it, the client would require at any given price. "If a company agrees to pay US $100,000 for a certain amount of exposure and then some of that exposure ends up on the cutting room floor, the advertiser can now pay the proportional amount less, as measured by iTVX. So if they get none at all then the advertiser doesn't pay a penny. It's a third party valuation and everyone agrees to agree with it."
The system does more than ensure value for advertisers, instead offering a win-win situation for producers and advertisers alike when negotiating the terms of any proposed product placement, claims Zazza.
"It means the deals can be more flexible and the client's decision to commit can be made faster because there is less risk. It also allows more flexibility for the production as they are not being dictated to by the advertisers, ‘it must have 50 seconds in the background, it must have 50 seconds of verbal' etc. What happens is the producer has the flexibility to get the product in there, organically and seamlessly rather than pushed in a viewer's face. Too many of the agencies are forcing products into productions, trying to make commercials out of them."
According to Peter Einstein, the iTVX deal may just be the first stage in the improved transparency of Middle East advertising deals. "There's lots of movement afoot to try and get proper viewing measurement in place but there is also resistance. Some companies will not be able to make as much money when their true figures come out but, on the other hand, some will be able to make more money."
The agreement between Fuse's MENA branch and iTVX may not represent the full measurement service advocated by Einstein and others but it does signal an increased maturity and sophistication in the advertising market.
"It will bring a lot of value for our clients and will bring more product placement to the region. It will also help foster this culture of branded entertainment, not only among our clients but also among broadcasters and producers," says Fuses' regional director, Mai Jaouni.
Neither Fuse nor Zazza claim that product placement can replace traditional advertising. Rather, they tout it as a potentially new stream of income for local production houses. This is something a growing market needs according to Eric Mirabel, business development director with Fuse's parent company, Omnicom Media Group.
"With the explosion of TV channels here, the amount of production is growing and as a result, there is an increased need for funding. Most of these stations are not profitable. With movies, the GCC may not be a huge centre just now, but we have Studio City, the Middle East and Dubai International film festivals, Universal Studios and the New York Film School coming. All of this signals that there is a movement for movie making. It's even more crucial that we have something in place now to provide additional revenue to fertilise this growth."For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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