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Integration by Design

Sep 21, 2012
by Carrie Pack Chowske, '00

Alumna Risa Matthews takes on the latest trend in corporate sponsorship with HGTV & DIY

When advertisers want their products featured on shows like “House Hunters” on HGTV, alumna Risa Matthews, ‘02, figures out ways to integrate them seamlessly into segments without it looking like traditional product placement or advertisements.

What she does is called “product integration,” and it’s used to feature all kinds of products from baked beans to paint and everything in between.

Any time you catch a glimpse of a name brand in a show like “House Hunters,” chances are someone like Matthews had a hand in getting that product in the shot.

Matthews works for Scripps Networks, a company that owns HGTV, DIY, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel and GAC. And it’s her job, as a director of ad sales marketing, to make sure that advertisers’ needs are communicated to the production company and that the featured product makes sense for the segment.

“How can we add value to an advertiser who invests millions of dollars in commercials and who are looking to create content that’s ‘DVR-proof’ — entertaining content with an advertiser’s message that viewers won’t fast forward through?” Matthews said.

The reasoning behind it is simple, she said. It’s about representing the brand and making entertainment at the same time.

Recently HGTV partnered with Sherwin-Williams for its own brand of paint, which is featured in several shows on the network, including a new show called “Elbow Room.” For the segments, the paint’s features will be discussed as the room is made over by the designers.

Matthews said the products are treated like a prop to make the “advertisement” feel more true-to-life. This is critical to a segment’s success because the idea behind all of Scripps’ programming is to educate viewers and give them useful information. This type of product integration helps the company keep the shows informative while still being able to support their programming financially.

In addition to segments within TV shows, Matthews also works with advertisers to create mini segments that run between shows and feature sponsors’ products. Big name advertisers like SC Johnson, Sherwin-Williams and Bush’s Baked Beans often pay for the production of the segment, but the network creates the content. This means that a helpful tip is flanked by a product endorsement.

Matthews said it keeps the job interesting, and it keeps her on the road a lot — both to locations where shows are filming and to meet with clients. But she says she loves it.

“I love the people and the creativity,” she said, adding that it wasn’t a career she considered while at Flagler. Originally she thought she might like to be on-air, but later reconsidered.

“There’s so much more to TV production than on-air talent or production,” she said.

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