Brands Find Late-Night Relief in 'Sasseville'

22-Year-Old Wooed Top Brands to His Public-Access Show

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CHICAGO -- To the casual late-night viewer, Jake Sasseville may look like a kooky kid with a public-access show. Except his show is on ABC affiliates, following "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in about 40 markets, and he counts Ford Motor Co., Overstock.com and Dunkin' Donuts among his sponsors.
Jake Sasseville
Jake Sasseville

According to a Ford spokeswoman, the deal with Mr. Sasseville for his "The Edge with Jake Sasseville" made sense for the automaker, allowing it to "connect with younger buyers in a way that goes beyond traditional advertising," as well as giving it the "opportunity to partner with this dynamic individual and be a part of the show from the ground up."

Wooed the automaker
Mr. Sasseville said Ford gave him a Focus and agreed to multiple ad buys for the duration of his 13-episode "season." He admitted the car company was reticent to cut him a check. But he wooed the company by adding affiliate markets and integrating the Focus into the opening credits and the end of each show.

"Especially at 22, to have done this, I sort of pinch myself every day," Mr. Sasseville said. "I'm a kid from Maine." He said he has been working on the concept for seven years.

On camera, Mr. Sasseville has a twitchy persona, makes frequent drug references and sports a ratty pompadour. In a recent interview with musician Wyclef Jean, he said, "I'm thinking this is a little surreal. There are a lot of people who'd like to be in my shoes. I'm thinking it's probably the same with you."

His advertisers sound convinced that Mr. Sasseville is on to something.

"He's right there speaking to the 19- to 30-year-old and doing something that's never been done," Stormy Simon, senior VP-customer care and branding at Overstock.com, said of Mr. Sasseville's off-the-cuff, show-within-a-show hodgepodge. "We thought if someone was going to pull it off, it would be Jake. Not a lot of people would have the energy and tenacity to pull off like Jake does."

Mr. Sasseville said that Overstock is paying him $125,000 as part of its deal.

Did his homework
"I receive a ton of e-mails from folks all of the time, but Jake's jumped out at me," Ms. Simon said. "This guy had done his homework." He understood the company's mission, brand-name products at steep discounts and seemed genuinely excited about the site's $2.95 shipping fee.

Emboldened by his initial success at courting Overstock to help get his show off the ground -- promising the online retailer exposure to nearly every dorm room in America -- Mr. Sasseville tackled Ford.

"Their major objection was we weren't in enough markets," said Mr. Sasseville, whose show was in 27 markets at the time. "So I went out and cleared more markets, simple."

He brought TV cameras to close the deal with Ford as part of his 22nd birthday celebration. (That footage will air during one of his shows.) JWT negotiated for Ford.

Mr. Sasseville has worked out deals with Red Bull, which gives him free product and gets logo placement on his website, and Dunkin' Donuts, which allows him to use company restaurants for filming. Several episodes, including the premiere to air next month, were shot at a Dunkin.' The company hasn't paid anything for this placement.

To add affiliates, Mr. Sasseville buys a 30-minute spot in each market for a number of weeks, getting a bulk-discounted rate. He sends the affiliates a 28-minute, 30-second show via satellite.

Selling commercial time
By keeping creative control, Mr. Sasseville can cut the usual commercial time marketers purchase from eight minutes to between two-and-a-half and four minutes. He's worked his Ford Focus into the opening animation and ends each show with a "Jake in Focus" moment, inspired by the "moment of Zen" that closes "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

From a product-integration standpoint, Mr. Sasseville seems to have drawn inspiration from his lead-in, Mr. Kimmel. The more-established show has done integrations with Pontiac, KFC and Samsung's Blackjack phone. It's been a winning strategy. Mr. Kimmel's show has gained considerably, in terms of ad dollars. According to TNS Media Intelligence, the show brought in about $11 million in measured media during 2006, and about $13 million in 2007.

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Contributing: Jean Halliday
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