Montel Williams Dives into Content Marketing

Posted By Joe Pulizzi on December 26, 2008

Just a few short months after Montel Williams talk show was canceled this year, he’s back with a program called “Living Well with Montel”, according to the New York Times.

The significance of this event and the NY Times article is that no-one is quite clear on what to call what he’s doing. Is it product placement? Is it an infomercial? Is it just a one-hour commercial?

Although you may argue with me, Montel’s one-hour program, where he discusses a consumer problem at length, and then reveals a product solution to sell, is probably closest to resembling content marketing via television.

It goes like this. Montel associates with a product or sponsor. They create a show based on the consumer problem/need for the product, surrounded by a live studio audience and expert panelists or guests. The majority of the show is focused on educational content around the need…weight loss, parenting issues, money…which is discussed at length by Montel or experts. The end game is that a product they are selling can assist you with these challenges. Tristar, which owns the production and merchandise, buys media placement on network and cable television to promote the show, and that’s it.

The fact that this is on television makes people think that this is purely an infomercial, but this is much closer to content marketing. The challenge is that Montel’s model doesn’t fit neatly into a “content producer” bucket, since sometimes Montel is selling his own products, and other times he is pitching products he believes in through his “Living Well with Montel” brand.

Think of Montel like a traditional media magazine.  That magazine creates ongoing content in order to sell advertising or sponsorship (the traditional model), but also sells sponsored virtual webinars, in-person roundtables and even co-branded custom magazines. In the industry, we call that content marketing or custom publishing. It’s been going on for hundreds of years, and is exactly what Montel is doing now, just on television.

Content Marketing Promotes Content Marketing

Montel isn’t solely relying on media placement to sell his products. He is actively creating video content to get the word out about the “Living Well” brand via these YouTube videos about Weight Loss Tips, Self-Esteem and others. These are almost exclusively educational, with just a mention of products Montel has that can help. And speaking of content marketing, don't forget about his book. All these content efforts are helping to support the brand.

It’s easy to see that Montel is working to develop content that will position his “Living Well with Montel” brand as a trusted resource, that can then be leveraged for his own and partner revenues.

Deception at Work?

In the NY Times article, Robert Weissman, managing director for Commercial Alert, stated that “One issue is the deception issue, and whether viewers sufficiently understand that they’re watching an advertisement, even if it’s an entertaining advertisement.”

I'm not sure I buy this with the types of products that Montel is selling.  Companies are spending millions of dollars on search engine optimization so that their educational content turns up first in search queries (so they can sell more stuff). As long as the company is transparent, I don’t see a problem. 

Frankly, this kind of selling is the present and future of marketing. Consumers, for the most part, don’t mind being sold to, as long as they are receiving something of value in return (Roper Public Affairs/Custom Publishing Council study 2005). That is the power of this method, and the delivery of valuable, relevant content to consumers, will continue to grow in the months and years to come.

What say you?

Comments (1)


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