We welcome our newest contributor to MediaBizBloggers, Mark Owens, Executive Vice President of Corbis Entertainment.

If there’s one takeaway for a marketer from this year’s Upfronts, it’s that brand integration has taken center stage.

Five years ago, brand integration wasn’t even on the agenda. This year it was a focal point of every network’s dog and pony show -- a hot button for producers seeking ways to fund their creative visions, an all the more important avenue as consumers get more of their content from advertising-free streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Brand integration has been around for ages. Under its old school moniker, product placement, it was largely structured as barter or as an add-on to a media buy. It was also largely opportunistic, a vanity play for brands. A new Bond film was on the holiday slate and Brand X just felt it was right for them to be a part of it. Even if it was a huge commitment it would be a one-off, not complemented by similar deals to blanket their desired demo during a vital window of time. And even with a huge impact, there was no quantifiable third-party reporting to tell what this commitment bought in the metrics that matter most to brand stewards and their CEOs.

For brand integration, the secret sauce is that entertainment, just like advertising, is all about connecting with people’s passions. If you can place your brand in the context of the storylines, characters and content that move consumers, in a complementary and non-disruptive way, you score big. Brand recall, affinity and purchase intent go up more than 20%, which is a huge number to a CMO.

In a landscape where ads can be zapped, muted and skipped with a click, advertisers are getting more excited about brand integration because of the long life span you get for a one-time buy. An integrated message lives in all the evolutions of content down the line -- in repeat airings, streams and downloads, DVDs, clips shared in the blogosphere and social media and much more. It’s also the only ad buy that has a decreasing cost over time.

With each year, the scope and possibilities for brand integration get even larger. There’s television, film, digital, music and sports to choose from, and not only the content itself but the personalities that drive it, that are its emotional heart and soul. From the biggest Hollywood producer and star to the fledgling digi-comic or indie musician, there’s a great willingness to play ball with smart brands that can bring their creative visions to life.

The challenge to my industry has been to make this wealth of opportunity accessible to marketing decision-makers in a convenient and data-rich way. To this end, we have worked to build an ad network for brand integration where they can choose from all these options. Just like building a media plan with television, radio and print, brands can now search content from all these avenues above to build integration plans that match their brand DNA and demographics. They can buy insertions on a CPM basis like all other media. Finally, they can measure their results via the industry standard third parties, Nielsen, comScore and more.

For the brand integration business to grow up, it needed to add science and turnkey solutions to the business of sizzle, and it has responded. Now the industry has to approach this opportunity in the same way, with the forethought to shop early and shop through all the opportunities, with the assurance that it will deliver on objectives and report in the language that planners and brand managers can up-sell to their CEOs.

Mark Owens runs Corbis Entertainment, developing the global strategic vision and operating plan for the music, talent, content, and rights arenas. Mark arrived at Corbis through the Norm Marshall acquisition, where he was President of NMA Group. He’s worked on entertainment platforms for key clients such as Heineken, PUMA, American Cancer Society, and Xbox. Mark was formerly a partner at Ketchum Entertainment, Davie Brown, and an award-winning film executive producer.

Check us out on Facebook at MediaBizBloggers.com
Follow our Twitter updates at @MediaBizBlogger

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaBizBloggers.com management or associated bloggers. MediaBizBloggers is an open thought leadership platform and readers may share their comments and opinions in response to all commentaries.