Though CBS representatives denied to Advertising Age the existence of a promotional tie-in with the perfume, the story line with Ms. Taylor in February involves her searching for her "missing" necklace of black pearls. The plot includes her searching for the baubles while on location shooting the introductory ads for her Black Pearls perfume.
Elizabeth Arden Co. will debut the delayed Elizabeth Taylor's Black Pearls fragrance in March.
This is not the first such network tie-in between programming and products, but it's the most ambitious. Similar promotions include NBC's recent "Friends"/Diet Coke promotion.
Ms. Taylor's role will begin on "The Nanny," then run through "Can't Hurry Love," "Murphy Brown" and "High Society."
Yet, a CBS spokeswoman insisted: "The story line isn't hyping the perfume." In fact, CBS sources say the idea was theirs.
"From an advertiser's point of view [such insertions] are great," said Page Thompson, U.S. media director at DDB Needham Worldwide, New York. "They are not bad as long as they are relevan....But this is a bit much; you really are crossing the line. It's way too overt."
Executives at Arden are gleeful about the promotional coup. .
The CBS stunt, an Arden spokeswoman said, "is a perfect lead-in to our mid-March preview of the fragrance and April introduction."
The idea for the promotion was sparked last month when Jeff Blane, an executive assistant on Ms. Taylor's personal staff, lunched with a CBS executive who, in search of a high-power celebrity to appear on one of the network's shows during the February sweeps, asked if Ms. Taylor would be interested.
Ironically, at this point Arden hasn't even agreed to buy commercial time on the network. As of press time, company executives were only "considering" CBS, though they have committed close to $18 million for Black Pearls in sampling, print ads and other venues. Arden handles advertising in-house.