Sign Reality Show Brand Integration Deals

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NEW YORK -- Ford Motor Co., Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and Lowe's Home Improvement are about to become the latest brands stranded on a reality show's desert island.
Two of the stars of the new show are Rachel Hunter from New Zealand, left, an actress who has appeared in 'Playboy,' and Kate Koth of Missouri, right, who appears in the December issue of 'Maxim.'

The advertisers have signed deals with Time Warner-owned cable network TBS to showcase their products on The Real Gilligan's Island, a new reality miniseries that debuts Nov. 30.

Ford is providing the grand prize, in the form of a new 2005 Mustang, although the redesigned car will not appear on the show's island location. Meanwhile, Pfizer will feature products such as Listerine Pocket Packs. Lowe's involvement is less obvious, however; TBS suggests that the home improvement company will provide building materials for contestants to use as makeshift homes or boats.

'Bachelor' exec

The concept for The Real Gilligan's Island came from Mike Fleiss, the executive producer behind ABC's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. The Real Gilligan's Island will serve as TBS' tentpole holiday offering. Buzz around the show has been building for months as TBS conducted casting calls for the series and began to air teasers during the summer.

The three-part series mimics the campy original classic TV show, which can still be seen in reruns. Contestants dress up and play the show's characters -- Gilligan, the Skipper, the Professor, Ginger, Mary Ann and the Millionaire and his Wife. According to the TBS Web site, the new contestants/castaways have to work together to get off the island. Participants will even "relive some of the bizarre scenarios from the classic series." Rich Stoddart, marketing communications manager for Ford, described the show as "Gilligan's Island meets Survivor," because contestants are eliminated.

Linda Yaccarino, executive vice president of Turner
Two of the stars of the new show are Rachel Hunter from New Zealand, left, an actress who has appeared in 'Playboy,' and Kate Koth of Missouri, right, who appears in the December issue of 'Maxim.'

Entertainment advertising sales, said there is no lack of advertiser interest in the branded entertainment area, but the problem has been matching marketers' plans to those of a cable channel's programming plans.

In the case of The Real Gilligan's Island, Ms. Yaccarino felt the marketers' involvement works since contestants might be desperate for, say, Pfizer's skin cream Lubriderm, or a Listerine Pocket Pack if they haven't been able to brush their teeth. Two other unnamed Pfizer products will be featured on the show.

Saturn, Chevy, Frito-Lay

Similar placements by companies such as General Motor Corp.'s Saturn, Ford's Chevrolet, Target Stores, Frito-Lay, and Home Depot, among others, proved popular among advertisers who opted to integrate their products into CBS's reality blockbuster Survivor.

Pfizer has worked with TBS before as a sponsor of the network's Law and Order repeats. Ford and Lowe's are also current TBS advertisers.

Ms. Yaccarino said the Real Gilligan's Island deal involves not only an ad media-buying commitment but also partnerships that go beyond product placement to embrace joint-marketing support.

"The companies signed on from the outset," said Ms. Yaccarino. "We're not just schleping 30s [30-second commercials] around town. We are looking for marketers to partner with us."

Video on demand package

Separately, TBS is employing an increasingly common video-on-demand and online element to its promotion of the reality show. Ford is sponsoring a Real Gilligan's Island VOD package that will include the "Cornfield" 60-second ad that shows a digitally reincarnated Steve McQueen stepping into Ford's new Mustang. Comcast is the cable partner.

Broadband features include highlights from episodes and a music video featuring the show's well-known theme song and a gaming microsite. Viewers will be able to win a Ford Mustang if they play the online game.
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