The decision to incorporate State Farm Insurance into a storyline in an episode of ABC’s Black-ish came organically from the writers’ room, and is a good fit for the show, insurance and television marketing officials told Adweek.
In the sitcom, advertising executive Dre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) convinces his client, State Farm Insurance, to sponsor his son’s basketball team, the “State Farm Good Neighbors.”
Faced with declining ratings and changing television viewing habits, ABC and Statefarm are just two of many companies and networks experimenting with product placement.
Fox, for instance, partnered with Ford during the original airing of The X-Files, and teamed up with the car company again for the recent reboot by featuring the Explorer Platinum in all six episodes of the first season.
Last fall, Fox also worked to incorporate Pepsi into three episodes of Empire.
Last year in a Modern Family episode “Connection Lost,” ABC scored points for integrating Apple products seamlessly into the plot in move that was more focused on screen time, and didn’t include any paid advertising for the tech company.
State Farm received something in return in this case, but both sides agree it was a natural fit.
“It didn’t feel forced,” said Jen Cowan, VP of TV, film and digital series at The Marketing Arm, which worked with ABC and State Farm on the integration.
The idea was born in the Black-ish writer’ room.
“The show had a little nugget of an idea,” Meg Smith, senior manager of integrated marketing at Disney-ABC Television Group, told Adweek. “We started meeting with The Marketing Arm and talking about how State Farm can be integrated.”
State Farm is already deeply involved with basketball. The agency is a brand partner of the NCAA, NBA and WNA, and sponsors little league, travel baseball and local basketball teams.
“This just was an extremely natural integration for us,” said State Farm Advertising Director Ed Gold.
State Farm’s didn’t seek assurances from ABC because it was pitched the specific episode, Gold said.
Smith said the network carefully considers which episodes lend themselves to product placement opportunities.
“There are certain shows we would look into integrating into and some we wouldn’t,” she said.
Brief Take: With ad-skipping becoming prevalent, advertisers that can work themselves into a show’s main storyline are one step ahead of the game.
Read more: Adweek