Guber, the former Sony Pictures honcho, who delivered such hits as "Rain Man" and "Flashdance" over decades in the film business, was enlisted by Alticor to create a 60-minute documentary, "The Quest For Nutrition" along with a series of 30-second interstitials called "Health Moments" that will run interspersed throughout the doc. The program has been running on the Discovery Networks as a time-buy in the U.S. since May 2. There are plans for distributing "Quest" globally as well.
For Guber, this deal comes at a time when many in the branded-entertainment world had been unsure of his commitment to the space. "I've been a very vocal proponent of this form of brand messaging early on and I remain so," Guber said. "I've just adapted my approach."
Guber has shifted from a centralized, dedicated strategy under the now scaled-back Mandalay Branded Entertainment to a more "organic" tack whereby branded programs can be solicited by or emanate from any of his operating units, which include Mandalay Pictures, Mandalay Television Pictures and Mandalay Sports Action Entertainment.
David Salzberg, president of Mandalay Sports Action Entertainment, spearheaded the efforts as executive producer of both "Quest" and the "Health Moments" vignettes. "Quest" was shot and edited in a traditional documentary style with no mention or sight of Nutrilite products in the film. The "Health Moments" impart history and information on the functionality of nutritional supplements with Nutrilite branding.
"Nutrilite has grasped an extremely important concept, that of storytelling," said Guber. "There are few issues in the world with as broad an impact or audience as health and wellness, yet the information is often presented in a clinical way. By creating an entertaining series…Nutrilite has made the subject compelling and…appealing."
The project was driven on the client side by consultant Tom Hall, a former senior WPP Group executive, who did stints at both Ogilvy & Mather and J.Walter Thompson. Hall said the Alticor network of independent business owners—the Nutrilite brand is not distributed at all at retail—has enthusiastically embraced the program as a validation story for their sales efforts. All multilevel marketing organizations like Alticor—which distributes the Amway line—have had to historically fight against charges of being nothing more than pyramid schemes that generate little revenue for the independent business owners.
Hall went on to say that this program has galvanized the entire Alticor organization to explore other branded-entertainment projects that will build upon this first one.
Four of the 12 spots now airing have been named finalists in the annual Telly Awards competition, which honors achievement in local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programming.
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Terms of the deal were undisclosed, but Guber confirmed to Madison + Vine that Mandalay has co-ownership of the property with Alticor and will share in any backend profits.
Guber has kept a relatively low-profile in the marketing-through-entertainment arena over the past year since the departure of Mandalay Branded Entertainment CEO Scott Mednick, which had raised questions about Guber's commitment.
At the time, execs close to the situation said that Mednick had grown disenchanted with his job due to what he perceived was Guber's lack of focus and commitment to the unit. Mednick had reportedly grown frustrated that Guber's focus was on his core businesses of film and TV and that even his minor-league baseball teams took precedence over MBE. Also, Guber, along with Variety Editor in Chief Peter Bart, is a co-host of the AMC showbiz insider talk show "Shootout."