The business of branded entertainment and product integration is big and getting bigger. An analysis of the role Microsoft’s technology played in Wednesday’s episode of “CSI: NY” emphasizes just how sophisticated this form of advertising has become.
The CSI detectives investigate a murder during a high-school prom.
They use Photosynth, software that stitches together images and creates a three-dimensional map, to re-create the scene of a murder. In this case, the raw material is cellphone photos taken by students at the dance, which the software uses to build a “synth” of the high-school gym at the time of the crime.
The photographic reconstruction, which receives major airtime in the episode, leads the investigators to a suspect.
Detective Don Flack, played by Eddie Cahill, confronts the suspect with the evidence from Photosynth and then says, “It’s Microsoft’s world, kid. I’m just living in it.”
I reviewed the show with Stephene Kelley, chief strategic officer of iTVX, one of the leading providers of data and analysis in this field.
“Their integration through that show was actually worth almost four commercials,” Kelley said. “They got a tremendous amount of value for that integration. … Because it actually helped solve the crime, it adds more value.”
The show had an estimated 11.6 million viewers and the estimated commercial cost $289,275, according to an iTVX report Kelley shared with me. The total value to Microsoft was $1,088,795, said Kelley.
Microsoft said there was no financial exchange with CSI, but producers from the show have visited the company’s campus to gather insight into the latest technologies — which they feature on their shows — and Microsoft personnel have provided technical assistance for some episodes.
iTVX analyzes each show down to 1/100th of a second and presents a detailed report to its clients, including a proprietary video player that displays data on a brand’s or product’s presence, clarity and integration into every moment of the episode.
Photosynth, a new technology that’s more complex to present to a viewer than say a new model SUV, still managed to get high scores for clarity because the detectives spend so much time with it during the show. They also said its name, shooting the clarity score higher.
These appearances — categorized as “foreground” or “implied endorsements” of a brand by the characters — are all factors built into iTVX’s system for establishing the value.
Advertisers and producers use iTVX’s scores to negotiate rates, write contracts and evaluate how much marketing bang they get for their buck. One score, the Q-Index, compares the value of a product placement or integration with that of a paid commercial. A score of 100 for any given segment means the placement was worth the same as a commercial.
Microsoft’s Q-Index during the scene where Detective Flack busts the kid with the evidence hit 309. The 1.2 seconds it takes him to say “It’s Microsoft’s world, kid,” is worth $35,731, according to iTVX. “It has more quality and will impact the viewer more than a second of commercial time,” Kelley said.
But it’s not as though Microsoft was the only technology company represented in the episode. Many of the cellphones the police grabbed from the students had shiny Apple logos on the back. And the first “paid” commercial had people dancing, white ear buds flying.