|The new Oxygen Network show 'Making It Big' debuts April 25.
Each episode in the six-part series features three aspiring professionals competing to win a big break in a particular industry, and in each show Ms. Kaplan Thaler and a specific industry expert judge each contestant's performance.
"We are used to thinking that the person who is toughest or the most cutthroat will win," said Ms. Kaplan Thaler, a former actress and comedienne who prior to her advertising career toured in Stop the World I Want to Get Off during the '70s. Making it Big appealed to her, she said, because it "is a way to show there are all different ways of getting ahead."
The first show follows a trio of chefs vying for an apprenticeship with celebrated French chef Daniel Boulud. Ms. Kaplan Thaler and Boston restaurateur Christopher Myers, owner of upscale eateries Radius, Via Matta and Great Bay, assess the performances. In addition to Mr. Boulud, other industry hotshots include music video choreographer Jamie King; fashion designer Cynthia Steffe; wedding planner Sharon Sacks; hair stylist Patrick Melville; and entertainment reporter Dayna Devon.
No Publicis clients
None of the marketers whose accounts are with Ms. Kaplan Thaler's agency, which is owned by Public Groupe, are involved with the show. Two of the agency's top clients are Procter & Gamble Co. and Revlon.
Oxygen's version of reality TV differs from The Apprentice in the way it handles marketer tie-ins. Where The Apprentice features product placements from P&G, Levi Strauss & Co. and Burger King, Making it Big has none -- at least for the first season. Marketers will buy time against a standard schedule.
The cable channel, however, is offering marketers a unique advertising twist: the possibility of buying time on an roughly a dozen interstitials -- ads that run before vignettes of Ms. Kaplan Thaler spouting career advice (pithy bits such as "It is not enough to know your capabilities; you must also know your liabilities").
"She is probably one of the most gifted executives that I know in terms of emotional intelligence. She lives what she says," said Geraldine Laybourne, founder and CEO of Oxygen Media. The two women met not long ago at a charity luncheon; after that introduction, Ms. Laybourne said, she bought a copy of Ms. Kaplan Thaler's book Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World, and found it "great -- one of the more fun weekend reads." She also encouraged the show's producers to consider Ms. Kaplan Thaler as the show's host.
"We picked [Ms. Kaplan Thaler] not because she is the head of an agency. We picked her because she has an idea about how to run a business," Ms. Laybourne said. "This is very much about how women see business. It is very win-win, very supportive, very direct, not jaded."