Branded content pushing primetime boundaries

gkwBranded content crept into primetime last night in the form of a special for Target on Seven, fronted by UK fashion presenter Gok Wan.

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?


  1. Michael Young

    I can’t stand the sight or sound of Gok Wan … hate his “Tarjey” adds (we change the channel) and would never watch any show he is in. We have far more interesting and talented Aussies that could do the job more effectively for Target!

  2. I thought the GOK show was better than Bringing Sexy Back. Branded content ? Every show on a commercial Networks is branded… They have staff called brand sponsorship producers who count how many shots needed of GLOBAL knives in Masterchef or power tools from Kennards, or the McCafe on set at Sunrise … I admit the fire show with sponsorship from Duracell seems a conflict but is it any different to Westpac sponsoring Surf life saving ?

  3. “TEN is also about to launch Firies, a partnership production by Duracell and Fire & Rescue NSW.”
    Hmmm. How many ‘fire alarm didn’t work because the batteries hadn’t been replace every year’ (or ‘had been replaced but not with a Duracell’) bits, repeated over and over like most of these shows.
    @Jock – Don’t watch TEN on weekends?
    @Mr Rampage – Definitely did, especially when the promos even carried the Target logo.

  4. HardcorePrawn

    Slightly off-topic, but has there been any mention here about pop-up ads appearing while a show is on?

    My kids enjoy the Scooby Doo films that Go screen on Fridays, and we’ve noticed that the sponsor (usually some dolls or similar) now advertises while the program is on via an onscreen pop-up.
    It seems that only kids shows are being targeted in this way, which I think makes it far worse.

  5. I don’t mind it, so long as the content is properly produced and has some purpose/story to share. How is a show like the Target/Gok one really any different to a run of the mill reality makeover show that is sponsored by a major retailer?

    Seven does seem to lead the way with branded/sponsored content. There was a properly primetime (ie 7:30pm Tuesday IIRC) Singapore Tourism show that aired during the Easter non-ratings period and on mutlichannels they have had shows like The Reserve Table (from Jacobs Creek) and Best Houses Australia (clearly industry produced/sponsored).

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