After having been disparaged by critics early on as an exploitative practitioner of the unscripted genre, ABC's "Extreme Makeover" is trying to reinvent itself as an inspirational hour, palatable for brand tie-ins. While the jury is still out on much of Brand America, Kay Jewelers, for one, has stepped up as the show's first partner in product integration.
Sterling Jewelers' Kay, in a deal brokered by Omnicom Group's OMD, will appear in two second-season episodes, the first airing tomorrow. In both, the brand will be showcased in pivotal plot points. On this week's episode, a woman who's been away from home for her eight-week makeover will come back to a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, who will have a 2-karat Leo diamond from Kay in tow. The ring is worth upward of $10,000.
"Like a lot of TV shows, this isn't for everybody, but it's very popular among our target audience," said David Bouffard, marketing director, Sterling Jewelers. "This show is respectful to the participants, and the integration is respectful of our product." Kay employees work with the makeover subjects and the show's in-house stylist to pick the diamond gifts.
As part of the deal with ABC, Kay Jewelers touted this season of the show with counter cards in its 700-plus mall-based retail stores in September and October.
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% "Extreme Makeover," as opposed to failed ABC reality fare such as "Are You Hot?" is becoming an inspirational focal point for TV talk mavens like Oprah and Dr. Phil. That attention is helping sell the show to tie-in partners, said Meredith Momoda, ABC's VP-integrated marketing and promotions.
"People were taking a wait-and-see approach on integration," Momoda said. "It's so much more sensitive because you're more closely tied to the show." Retailers have shown particular interest, she said.
The deal for "Extreme Makeover" is among several inked recently by the ABC marketing team. A pact with T-Mobile will put Motorola camera phones in two hours of the upcoming "Trista & Ryan's Wedding", and will give the Samsung picture phone major face time on the "American Music Awards."