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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Even the most ad-averse media properties are finding ways to make exceptions for brands to get in on the entertainment. But how can they accommodate marketers without sacrificing their own identities? Sometimes it might have to do with the medium.
As TV networks continue to blur the lines between content and commerce to help cash-strapped shows get made, a few sanctuaries from brand integrations and product placements still exist. Chief among them is the Disney Channel, the kids and family cable network that restricts sponsor messages to the occasional "brought to you by" billboard for tent-pole programs such as "High School Musical," or a pro-social message to promote a cause. The channel has restricted traditional commercial messaging since its inception because of its target audience of young children.
But slightly different rules apply on the web, where this week Disney Online will debut its first branded-entertainment program, "The Possibility Shop," a web video series at Disney.com/PossibilityShop produced with the Jim Henson Co. and exclusively sponsored by Clorox. The series was customized in part to promote Clorox brands, including Clorox disinfecting wipes, toilet-bowl cleaners and the new Clorox 2 laundry pre-treater, but the episodes will not feature any use of the products themselves. Instead, each episode will be accompanied by a Clorox-branded vignette showcasing how each brand can help clean up the home, a common task among the characters in "The Possibility Shop."
Brad Davis, Disney Online's VP-advertising sales, said Disney sites have gotten more flexible in partnering with advertisers in recent months. A partnership with Walmart called "Rock Out Your Zone" made its debut in June on Disney.com and promoted Walmart's teen-targeted furniture line, Your Zone.
"Everything we've created before that has been Disney-driven. Now we've flipped that model where in our case we're creating the product with the advertiser's needs in mind and with the [online] guest's benefit," Mr. Davis said.
Like most package-goods companies, Clorox is looking to connect with consumers in digital media, where they're spending more of their time.
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"The world is changing, and people are viewing all sorts of content in multiple places, whether it's still on-air or online or on their phones, etc.," said Ellen Liu, director of media for Clorox. "So I think there's a lot of growth to be had in terms of digital syndication."
For "The Possibility Shop," the intended audience is moms, but Ms. Liu said she expects they will view the webisodes with their kids. Parent-child co-viewing has most often been thought of as a traditional TV phenomenon, but Ms. Liu believes it could be a growing factor for online content as well.
"It's been my experience there is some co-viewing going on," Ms. Liu said. "That's been my personal experience as the mom of a 6-year-old and 4-year-old. ... From a consumer-targeting perspective, we're starting to see this a little more. And I think this is probably an interesting opportunity to see if that really does happen."
Products such as toilet-bowl cleaners may seem like a stretch for integration with Muppets, but Ms. Liu said that the "absolute goal is for it to be seamless and organic. I think personally there's a lot of bad integration out there."
Clorox will put some magazine advertising support behind "The Possibility Shop," but the webisodes will primarily be distributed through Disney's online properties. The Disney Online group reached an aggregate 31 million unique users in October, according to ComScore, making it the top group of family sites on the web.
Clorox's digital-media shop, OMD Digital, worked with Zeno, Los Angeles, a unit of Edelman, to help develop the partnership with Disney.