The Biz: Marketers seize on this 'Opportunity'

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Phil Keoghan is a "Rough Guide" kind of guy, having trotted around the globe for shows like "The Amazing Race," which he hosts, and the CBS "Early Show" where he's a travel correspondent.

He had no idea his new Bible, while creating a show airing later this year on the Discovery Channel, would become a bone dry compilation of ad agencies, brands and media buying firms like "The Advertising Red Books."

But Keoghan wanted, first and foremost, to sell his adventure reality show "No Opportunity Wasted." And he wanted to attach marketers at the earliest point in production. So, he and his creative team at NOW TV began scanning magazines for ad taglines that matched the sensibility of the series, which gives its participants 72 hours and $3,000 to fulfill a lifelong dream.

They also researched the ad community to see where marketers were spending their money and who was active in the branded entertainment area. Before Keoghan pitched the series to networks, he had already put out feelers to the marketers he wanted to target and knew how he could embed them in the 13-episode series.

"We wrote this big master list of brands that would work for the show based on their philosophy and positioning," Keoghan says. "The structure allows for organic product integration, and we went looking for iconic elements with a `No Opportunity Wasted' kind of attitude."

wish list

Topping the wish list: MasterCard and Chrysler, the former for its well-known "Priceless" campaign, and the latter for its "Inspiration comes standard." The show promises its participants something that money can't buy, and tells them that they'll have to use their own mettle and imagination to get it. (After all, how far can a person get with $3,000 and 72 hours?)

Both brands expressed interest. Armed with that potential backing, Keoghan pitched the show to a number of networks. When Discovery gave the series a place on its fall schedule, Keoghan and the network's ad sales executives closed the sponsor deals. MasterCard and Chrysler are helping foot the bill for the show, getting prominent placement, and creating on- and off-air promotions to whip up interest in the series.

"We loved it because it's inspired stories where people are overcoming conventional challenges," says Jeff Bell, Chrysler Group's VP-marketing. "And since we're in from the start, it's the difference between having a truly organic experience or a purchased product placement."

Chrysler uses the "part intuition, part gut check" approach to deciding its entertainment ties, which are myriad, Bell says. It's "absolutely critical" to work one-on-one with producers because that's how a brand gets the most value from a sponsorship, he believes.

heavy involvement

"The producers were very proactive and really understood the business side, which is a little unusual in the creative community," said Adam Stewart, VP-national sales manager at Discovery's ad sales unit. "They were involved every step of the way."

To reach each contestant, Keoghan drives around the country in a 2005 Chrysler 300C sedan. The Hemi-powered car, with the show's brightly colored logo painted on it, will open each episode. The participants will get a MasterCard, with a $3,000 limit, to try to make their dreams a reality. As part of the setup, the production team lends a hand now and again.

Though there's a cottage industry of companies that have sprung up to barter such deals, Keoghan says he wanted to direct the brand integration process himself, keeping control over the show and its content.

Industry mavens say it's a sign of the times that the creative community has become so involved in sponsorships that some producers take a DIY approach to gathering marketers around a project.

"I would be very surprised if that doesn't continue and accelerate," Bell says. "You have to be close to the producers and directors so you can collaborate and brainstorm. You get the best result that way."

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