Charity promotion: P&G snatches WB tie-in with 'American Girl'

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Procter & Gamble Co. is going for warm and fuzzy with a sponsorship of the first made-for-TV movie on Time Warner's WB Network based on Mattel's million-selling American Girl brand. P&G has bought out all the advertising time during the two-hour movie, "Samantha: An American Girl Holiday," and plans educational programs and clothing drives for a heart-tugging, mom-friendly fourth-quarter program.

The deal emphasizes an increasing interest from marketers in adding high-profile charitable components to consumer-targeted promotions, especially around the holidays.

Because the movie is set in 1904, there's no product placement for P&G, which is using the film to promote its Tide brand. The marketer plans to air Tide ads and animated interstitial programming, handled by Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, during four breaks in the movie. The animated spots were custom-created for the promotion, and they mirror a theme of giving to the needy that's prominent in the movie.

'obvious fit'

"We went to P&G directly because it was such an obvious fit," said Sonia Borris, VP-integrated marketing at The WB. "They liked that American Girl is such an established brand, and they were very interested in the pro-social aspect."

The network will retain some promotional time during the ad breaks, but other than a few previews for coming shows, the time will belong to Tide. Network and P&G executives would not specify the total cost of the ad buy and sponsorship, handled by Starcom's Mediavest Group for the marketer.

A P&G spokesman said it's part of Tide's trademark to be involved in cause-related efforts, and that The American Girl link also gives the marketer a way to "reach consumers when they're more receptive to our messages," as they're being entertained with a family-friendly program.

The WB plans to air a public service announcement during the movie telling viewers how to participate in a coat giveaway and clothing drive in their communities. Goodwill Industries is a partner. An educational program in 20,000 schools will further drive that message into local areas.

test run

Network executives are considering the first "American Girl" movie a test run for what they hope can become an annual holiday franchise. P&G will have first crack at sponsorship and promotion if those movies materialize in the future.

The film was a joint effort by Julia Roberts' Red Om Films, Revolution Studios, American Girl and Warner Bros. The American Girl brand, which has sold more than 100 million books and 10 million dolls, has never been made into an entertainment property before. The mom-safe stories center on eight different characters and emphasize ethics and traditional values. It built its strong following solely through its Web site and catalog, which spawned its first retail shops, American Girl Place, in New York and Chicago.

"Samantha: An American Girl Holiday" is based on one of the most popular characters. The story revolves around a girl living with her grandmother, who becomes friends with Nellie, her neighbor's servant girl. When Nellie's father dies and the children are shuttled off to an orphanage, Samantha devises an escape plan.

The WB will promote the movie heavily during its airtime, and American Girl and the network plan print and online tune-in ads. The movie will be part of in-store displays at the two retail shops and in mini-posters and ads in the 11.5-million circulation American Girl catalog this fall, with Tide tagged throughout the communications.

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