TVNZ's prime-time money programme will be 100 per cent funded by Kiwibank

Advertisers will have a bigger role in making prime-time TV, in a funding model developed by Television New Zealand.

A new Nigel Latta show about the psychology of money starts at 8pm on February 13. Called Mind Over Money, the half-hour show is 100 per cent funded by Kiwibank and is co-ordinated with its marketing campaign.

It marks a turning point for TV programming, and for TVNZ in my opinion.

Heavy sponsorship of prime-time TV shows is nothing new. For example, The Block on TV3 has been largely funded by sponsorships and product placement.

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But TVNZ spokeswoman Georgie Hills says it is the first time 100 per cent funding from one backer has been used in prime time.

TVNZ will be looking at results and how such advertiser funding can be used for other shows, Hills says.

Independent production company Ruckus says it controls the show's content, while Kiwibank says its involvement will be obvious to viewers.

The show has segments from banking people - exclusively from Kiwibank - and the "colour palette" running through the show is green, like the Kiwibank brand.

New money

Programme makers will see 100 per cent advertiser funding as a clever way to maintain local content.

After all, taxpayer funding through NZ on Air is getting tighter, and advertisers are moving away from 30-second commercials.

But in my opinion, it is odd that two publicly owned bodies are leading such a significant move to commercialising media.

Latta says he and his two partners at Ruckus were initially cautious that Kiwibank's Mind Over Money proposal would make their company look like an advertising agency.

"The world is awash with video content," he says. But most is poor quality "and nobody wants to watch it".

No figures are available on how much Kiwibank is paying. But based on traditional NZ on Air funding for an earlier Nigel Latta series, one competing producer suggested Kiwibank might be spending $600,000 for the production of Mind Over Money. The wider Kiwibank marketing campaign would be more than that.

Latta says the days of brands spending huge amounts on 30-second ads are gone.

"The documentary business is a much more lean game than what the ad agencies are used to."

He says 100 per cent advertiser funding will only work where the funder accepts that they cannot be heavy-handed with branded content.

Looking for a sign

Content marketing is mainstream in media nowadays, but a key issue is the transparency and labelling of marketing content.

As with radio, the signposting that points out the distinction from pure editorial content is likely to be less explicit in TV than it is for print media.

In this case, the "partnership" between Ruckus and Kiwibank will be mentioned at the end of the show.

Regan Savage, Kiwibank's general manager of marketing communications, says it will be clear that Kiwibank was the driving force.

People want you to be authentic. The challenge is to make customers feel better about your brand.

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Another bank, the BNZ, has looked at a similar scheme for 100 per cent funding a TV show. However, BNZ head of marketing David Kidd says it dropped the idea because the proposed media would not have reached the desired audience.

Advertisers are aware of the need for subtlety and avoiding overexposure of brand material, he says. But "don't forget TV production is expensive and the advertiser still needs value ... if your name is not going to appear on content, you are not going to get cut-through.

"People want you to be authentic. The challenge is to make customers feel better about your brand."

At ANZ, head of corporate affairs Peter Parussini - a former head of communications at TVNZ - says he has relaxed his reservations about a high level of branded content in native advertising.

"There is so much choice on media and content now. Ultimately the public decides if it is a load of crock and switches to another channel or media." Younger audiences care mostly whether the content is interesting or worthwhile, he says.

Fun facts

While TVNZ merges documentaries with content marketing, MediaWorks' The Project mixes comedy and news.

The 7 pm show, the local version of an Australian Channel 10 series, is set to begin next month, but has not been given a set starting date.

It replaces Story from last year, which itself replaced Campbell Live.

There is a lot at stake as TV3 gets the show settled in, and tries to take viewers from TV One's Seven Sharp.

It is an ambitious project and insiders say it is being well resourced by MediaWorks. But based on the main presenters - Jesse Mulligan, Josh Thomson and Kanoa Lloyd - there seems to be more focus on entertainment than news.

A MediaWorks spokeswoman says: "This is a show we believe the audience want - a format where political interviews can sit comfortably alongside entertainment stories."