Target: Style the Nation was produced by branded content agency Ensemble, part of IPG Mediabrands. It aired at 10:15pm following Dancing with the Stars, attracting 335,000 viewers in Overnight figures. It was originally due to air in early September, but was rescheduled.
The synopsis according to Seven reads: “Follow Target’s fashion guru Gok Wan as he transforms five lucky ladies from around the country in a two-day style camp.”
Meanwhile viewers of US drama Suits had to wait until an hour later for their next episode, around half an hour later than the preceding week.
It isn’t clear if Target paid for the hour of promotion (which was interrupted by further advertising), but a previous Seven special fronted by Steve Liebmann, McDonalds Gets Grilled, was funded by the fast food giant in 2012 and screened in primetime.
Branded content is not new on television, seen regularly on weekend afternoons in lifestyle shows. Product placement is also heavy in primetime, especially in the Reality genre. But the line in the sand is usually deemed to be one of editorial independence. Is product placement incidental and part of wider storytelling by independent producers or is the show just a one-hour advertisement?
Target: Style the Nation also comes at a time when factual series come under the microscope with government entities partnering on shows like Gold Coast Cops, The Force and Border Security. TEN is also about to launch Firies, a partnership production by Duracell and Fire & Rescue NSW.
While networks are looking at ways to save costs, there is more on the way.
Foxtel’s upcoming The Dinner Project is also produced by Ensemble Australia in conjunction with Meat & Livestock Australia. It launches next month hosted by Hayden Quinn.
While one might argue that such shows should be declaring their interest to viewers, it’s impossible not to know who Style The Nation was promoting. The store logos were everywhere and it was even in the title.
But should we be copping it in primetime? With ads?