Macy's Demure New Look on 'Project Runway'

Retailer Considered Pulling Sponsorship Entirely for Sixth Season of Fashion Reality Show

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Product placement in scripted and unscripted TV fare has its critics who feel that integrations are forced, tone-deaf and deserve a quick death. Even "Project Runway," which has been applauded for its use of brands in its storylines, has shown the pitfalls of brand integration.

Project Runway Season 6

Just as sponsors are being announced for the show's sixth season, premiering Aug. 20 on Lifetime after five seasons on Bravo, at least one advertiser is scaling back its involvement due to the months the program spent on the shelf in legal limbo between The Weinstein Co. and Bravo's parent, NBC Universal. Macy's, the "Project Runway" season three retail sponsor, will return to the series as its integrated "accessories wall" sponsor but to a lesser extent than what the nation's second-biggest retailer had initially planned.

Two executives familiar with the deal confirmed that Macy's tried to retroactively pull its sponsorship entirely, due to its involvement in at least one episode tied to an in-store promotion that was no longer relevant. The sixth season has been wrapped since February, when the unidentified final four designers anonymously sent their final collections down the runway at Fashion Week in New York's Bryant Park.

"Because the show came on later on the air than initially expected, a few things changed," said an executive close to the show. "An aspect of a challenge with Macy's, timing-wise, wasn't going to work out. But they will still be prominent in the show on the accessories wall."

Spokespeople for Macy's and its media agency, WPP's Mediaedge:cia, did not return repeated requests for comment.

Bigger conundrum
That Macy's balked at its sponsorship's timeliness is a part of the integration process currently plaguing the ongoing upfront negotiations between TV networks and marketers. With deals just starting to wrap up after nearly two months of stalled talks, only a handful of integrated deals have been written in time for sponsors' marketing tie-ins to still be relevant.

Meanwhile, at Lifetime, several other key changes have been made to the sponsorship lineup on "Project Runway" since its last season on Bravo in 2008. As previously reported by Ad Age, Tresemme left the franchise to join the show's departing magazine partner, Elle, on the CW's "Stylista." L'Oreal Paris, the show's longtime cosmetics sponsor, will resume its makeup duties as well as assume Tresemme's hair-care sponsorship, along with sibling hair-color brand Garnier. Both brands will also promote the upcoming season with tagged tune-in radio spots and national newspaper and magazine ads, as well as custom microsites on MyLifetime.com featuring "The L'Oreal Paris Makeup Room" and "The Garnier Hair Studio."

Marie Claire is also taking over for Elle as the show's editorial partner, coinciding with "Project Runway" judge Nina Garcia's move to the Hearst title last spring. And with the show's move from New York to Los Angeles, "Project Runway" has a new fashion-school partner, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, filling the role Parsons played for the first five seasons.

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