Mark Burnett Wants to Bring Brands to Your Backyard

Reality Show Impresario Teams With Vimby for Out-of-Home Branded Video Projects

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Mark Burnett has pioneered the reality show format for broadcast prime time ("Survivor," "The Apprentice"), cable (Discovery's "Eco-Challenge," History's "Expedition") and the web (AOL's "Gold Rush"), integrating major brands along the way. Now the veteran television producer has his sights set on other screens.

Mark Burnett
Mark Burnett Credit: WireImage
Mr. Burnett is teaming with Vimby (Video in My Backyard) for a new venture to develop original content for brands with new-media distribution, including digital out-of-home and place-based media such as malls, retail stores and taxis. Vimby is an independent production company that taps local filmmakers to create local, targeted content in areas such as music, action sports and fashion.

The new partnership has not announced its first project or distributor, but Vimby has a preliminary relationship with McDonald's and its new in-store TV network that will be a part of the producers' early discussions. Mr. Burnett described the model as creating national storytelling opportunities for brands using Vimby's network of filmmakers in 25 top markets and digital distribution for a local focus.

"My vision for growing this business is really serving the needs of brands who have campaigns and want to reach people in a digital way on multiple types of screens that are out of the home," Mr. Burnett told Ad Age. "That doesn't preclude or prevent some of these projects from going to more traditional distribution outlets, but predominantly our focus will be in the digital realm."

The added appeal for brands, Mr. Burnett added, is that Vimby's team of 125 filmmakers across the country can produce short-form branded programming at a fraction of the cost of a TV series or a 30-second TV commercial. "I've worked with brands long enough to know that there's always going to be a large bucket of money that just gets spent on certain media, and for a long time that was some of the work we were doing with brands on television. Now there are hundreds of thousands of possibilities for that bucket, and the money available from all the brands is still a finite gross number that's been divided up."

Vimby has a preliminary relationship with McDonald's and its new in-store TV network that will be a part of the producers' early discussions.
Vimby has a preliminary relationship with McDonald's and its new in-store TV network that will be a part of the producers' early discussions.
While big-name TV producers have been aggressive in creating new shows for the web, original programming in the alternative-media space has seen comparatively less progress. Examples include cinema companies such as Screenvision and National CineMedia, whose pre-show programs have brought sponsored content from movie studios, TV networks and brands in front of moviegoers for the last six years. Walmart has also been working with companies like Procter & Gamble and DreamWorks Animation to help program its in-store Smart Network, but it has been exploring other programming options in recent months.

Perhaps the closet parallel to Mr. Burnett's new venture, however, is a deal last year between "Deal or No Deal" producers Endemol and mall-based media company Access 360 to program original content for retail stores such as Journeyz, Quiksilver and FYE.

"Programming some of these new screens has been sort of a slow-moving process," said Dean Waters, CEO of Vimby. "By getting someone of Mark Burnett's stature, a lot of the gates are going to open."

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