It’s been a long time since product placements were seen as an embarrassment, a practice that regretfully blurred the line between a program and its ads. Now companies brag about these deals — as Turner Broadcasting and Starcom do today with what they call “a first-of-its-kind, year-long marketing and research partnership developed for the 2013-14 Upfront.” Turner says that up through September 2014 it will boost “organic brand integrations” for Starcom clients in original shows for TBS, TNT, Adult Swim, and truTV. They’ll give writers and producers “access to Starcom’s portfolio of leading brands, spanning such categories as technology, quick-service restaurants, consumer packaged goods, retail and more” so they can “incorporate the brands within shows where the brand integration makes sense.” The partners say that they’ll conduct an “extensive, customized research study” that will look at the effectiveness of “active, passive and incidental integrations.” Turner hopes to “create stronger brand integrations, but also to increase our understanding of which type of integrations work best within an entertainment environment,” says Donna Speciale, president of Turner Entertainment and Young Adults Ad Sales. And Starcom’s Amanda Richman, president of investment and activation, says the deal “truly brings science to the art of brand integration, empowering our clients to grow their commitment to content that works.”

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