“We are coordinating various aspects of the business, so each takes advantage of the opportunities provided by the other” – Sumner Redstone, CEO of Viacom.
The media industries have a suggestive and coercive power on society, embodied within the artifacts, images, and brands we consume. As these industries diversify, so do the products and the avenues in which they are offered. Synergy allows corporations the power to maximize advertising through a variety of cross-market promotional mechanisms, proliferating their products or logos exponentially. Initially, this essay requires an explanation of the use of synergy and cross-market advertising. Subsequently, I will illustrate how television shows such as Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and MTV’s The Osbournes and Total Live Request (TRL), use the vast internal synergistic network of their parent company Viacom. Such programming appears to exploit its viewer-ship through commodification – product placement, branding, and celebrity endorsements.
Synergy: The True Meaning of Cross-Market Advertising
“We are reaching a position where the challenge for the 1990s should be to seek a greater understanding of the best ways, creatively, to exploit the potential for media synergy”(Confer, 10)
The concept of synergy is not new, however evidence suggests it has only been fully realized and exploited over the last decade. Synergy is created through the integration or combination of different but complimentary business interests, each feeding off the other. Ultimately, large corporations or conglomerates are diversifying their market interests rather than specializing. This diversification benefits the company by offering a new strata of opportunities thereby complimenting its existing functionality. An example of this is a movie production company allying or buying out a major video game provider. The synergy created from such a merger allows for a film and a video game to use the same characters, story line or premise.
Synergy works for two reasons. Primarily, synergy is an engine that provides cross-marketing and cross-selling opportunities, which would allow for greater sales, exceeding what would be possible from each division separately. (Hesmondhalgh, 141). Secondly, corporations also “plan and design texts, in order to encourage subsidiary spin-off texts” (Hesmondhalgh, 239). Even if these texts or preplanned products are not of great quality or a commercial success, they will still sell thus generating profit. This is because there is a pre-existing, underlying product network that has already been established through the fan base. If synergy can be classified as the “the ability to keep cash flows inside a corporate family” (Klein, 148), through its internal use of cross-market production, promotion, and sales; Sumner Redstone’s Viacom is a perfect example of synergy at work. The Viacom Empire has tapped into many markets throughout the entertainment and media industry. Viacom’s major subsidiaries include: Nickelodeon – children’s cartoon network; MTV – music network; NBC – television network; and Paramount – movie production company, which also runs numerous theme parks all over North America. Klein, 2000, comments on this phenomenon as “synergy nirvana” (160). According to Klein, ‘synergy nirvana’ is attained when a conglomerate works internally to “successfully…churn out related versions of the same product, like molded Play-Doh, into different shapes: toys, books, theme parks, magazines, television specials, movies, candies, CDs, CD-ROMs, superstores, comics, and mega-musicals” (161). Basically, ‘synergy nirvana’ is the proliferation of standardized products in different packaging, through a preexisting framework of cross-market advertising; which is done on a vast scale through the exploitation of many different mediums and industries in the name of profit. ‘Synergy’ is Viacom’s number one marketing tool for it allows them to...
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