Top Marketers Pull Out of 'Survivor'

GM, Campbell's Soup, Home Depot Deny Race Played Role in Decision to Drop Reality Series

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- It's not about race. It's just business.

General Motors Corp. and a number of other advertisers have dropped "Survivor" from their schedules for the coming season. The most significant pullout is GM, which is the reality show's top advertiser, spending $12.8 million this past season, according to TNS Media Intelligence figures for January to July.
'Survivor' is pitting teams based on race this season, but marketers deny that has played any role in their decisions to leave the island.
'Survivor' is pitting teams based on race this season, but marketers deny that has played any role in their decisions to leave the island.

12 seasons for GM
GM has been with the show for 12 seasons, but will not integrate its vehicles into the upcoming "Survivor: Cook Islands," which premieres Sept. 14. Home Depot, Campbell's Soup and Coca-Cola North America have also confirmed their brands will not be appearing this coming season. Procter & Gamble Co., whose Pringles chip brand has been a major presence on the reality series, declined to comment.

"Survivor" and its producer, Mark Burnett, have been generating a lot of flack recently for its decision to split up four teams of contestants according to race in the new season. The move has raised the ire of politicians and community leaders in New York, who held a rally outside CBS headquarters. They plan to write letters to "Survivor" sponsors.

But a spokeswoman for GM said the automaker's pullout wasn't based on the new scenario, but decided three months ago not to renew its relationship with the show. Sponsoring the show no longer fit the company's business objectives, the spokeswoman said. It was simply too difficult to integrate an automobile in a show that's set on an island. Other seasons have taken place in Australia, Kenya, Brazil and Guatemala, which made the integrations easier.

'Approach has changed'
"We made the decision after successfully being part of the show for 12 seasons," said GM spokeswoman Ryndee S. Carney. "Our approach to branded entertainment has changed. We're more interested in integrating our vehicles into the storylines of TV shows or film. We just ran out of ways to do that given the format of the show being set on an island. We felt this year, there were other ways to do that." One example is the prominent integration of GMC's Yukon in CBS's "C.S.I."

Over the series' 12 installments, the Detroit automaker has used the show to promote and give away cars and trucks from its Chevrolet, GMC, Saturn and Pontiac brands. Ironically, despite the still high ratings for the show, the appearance didn't necessarily guarantee strong sales. And the GMC Envoy XUV and Pontiac Aztec, which were given to contestants, have been retired.

GM isn't the only no-show next season. Campbell's Soup spokesman John Faulkner said: "We made the decision not to advertise on "Survivor" back during the upfront based on the fact that the demographics of the show don't align as well for us as other CBS shows, so it is not as efficient a buy." When Campbell put together its list, "Survivor" didn't make the cut compared to other shows that have a greater appeal to women, he said. He said the marketer didn't know what the content of the show was when it made its decision and ad buys during the spring's upfront TV buying and selling period.

Coca-Cola, which has advertised intermittently on "Survivor," said it has used the show for new pushes on brands such as Vault and Fresca. A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola North America said, "We are not a regular advertiser. We've used 'Survivor' selectively to draw attention to new brand initiatives. We had no plans to be in there this fall."

CBS remains mum on sponsors
CBS has not disclosed which sponsors will be seen in the new season of "Survivor." The network said it would not disclose advertisers ahead of the broadcast. Mr. Burnett's office referred calls to CBS.

Don't rule out a car partner on "Survivor" just yet. Mr. Burnett's production company has brokered sponsorships with American Honda Motor, Toyota Motor Sales USA and DaimlerChrysler around his others shows "RockStar," "The Contender" and "The Apprentice."
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