TNT Enlists Devlin for Acura Microseries

'Blank Slate' to Eventually Expand Into Feature-Length Movie

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- NBC isn't the only network benefiting from an early-bird approach to this year's upfront.
Dean Devlin
Dean Devlin Credit: Newscom

Turner Entertainment's TNT has emerged as a leading player in branded entertainment by co-creating customized microseries with its ad partners over the last 18 months. Now the network has recruited Hollywood vet Dean Devlin ("Independence Day," "Godzilla") for its latest effort in ad engagement, "Blank Slate," a microseries sponsored by Acura. Starring Eric Stoltz, Lisa Brenner and Clancy Brown, "Blank Slate" will premiere during the commercial breaks of "Law & Order" repeats this September and eventually expand into its own two-hour made-for-TNT movie.

Acura's media agency, Santa Monica, Calif.-based RPA, helped broker the deal.

Devlin having a heyday
Recruiting Mr. Devlin as executive producer for his first branded-entertainment project for the network was relatively easy. His Electric Entertainment production company has been producing projects for TNT at a rapid clip as of late, including the recently completed third installment of the "Librarian" TV-movie franchise, "The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice," and this fall's drama series "Leverage," starring Timothy Hutton.

Linda Yaccarino, Turner Entertainment's exec VP-ad sales and marketing, described Mr. Devlin as being "in a real kind of league by himself" within the Turner family. "We have a great relationship with him, in addition to him being such a talented guy. We've had such success with the 'Librarian' series, and now have fast-forwarded into our new 'Leverage' series. So when we had positive experiences with microseries in general starting 18 months ago, we knew we were onto something. The next question was, 'How do we expand our custom plate of microseries to advertisers?' Let's go to the people we have the strongest relationships with, put the idea in front of them and see what comes form there."

"Blank Slate" is the second auto-themed branded microseries to come out of Ms. Yaccarino's group in the past month. In May, Turner announced it would premiere "Lucky Chance," a commercial miniseries featuring Dodge and AT&T, in July. Other clients that have teamed up with Turner for their own microseries include Chase ("Change of Plans"), Unilever's Sunsilk ("Lovebites") and Revlon (this month's "Commuter Confidential" on TBS, co-sponsored by Match.com). Ms. Yaccarino said Turner is now prepared to do three or four of these special projects a year, and each project takes a minimum of five to six months to develop. "It starts with sharing the client's brand needs, the positioning of the network and what's in development. Then a creative concept is born from there."
Linda Yaccarino
Linda Yaccarino

Exploring new metrics
And although commercial ratings and performance on Nielsen's C3 (the commercial-ratings metric that measures shows watched live plus three days time-shifted) are easy ways to measure the engagement, Ms. Yaccarino is still exploring more granular ways to quantify the overall effectiveness of these branded microseries.

"We really are challenged by metrics available to measure cross-platform deals like this," she said. "We've seen really good signs of success in demonstrating the impact of these microseries, not only in C3 performance, but also in brand awareness, in terms of who the viewer is and how they're attached to this vehicle. We can't tell you there's one tried-and-true metric. Everyone's committed to more and more accountability, and we're exploring new ways to do that."
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