Madison+ Vine: Getting a piece of the 'Eye'

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Major marketers are ogling placement deals on the breakout hit "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" even as NBC plots an Aug. 14 special, followed by the Fab Five team giving Jay Leno a makeover on "The Tonight Show."

Audience numbers for the July 29 "Queer Eye," in its fourth airing on Bravo, shot up 62% from the prior week, according to Nielsen Media Research, earning the cable network its highest-ever rating. "This is the breakout show of the summer on any network, cable or broadcast," crowed Jeff Zucker, president-NBC Entertainment. "It's out of control right now."

The "Queer Eye" premise: One straight man agrees to have his lifestyle, hair, clothing and accessories made over by five gay men dubbed the Fab Five. All are experts in different areas-grooming, food and wine, fashion, culture and interior design.

On July 24 Bravo parent NBC aired a "Queer Eye" special that compressed the hour-long cable show into a 30-minute-long program. Mr. Zucker said NBC plans one more "Queer Eye" special. That special will air Aug. 14, and later that night, the "Queer Eye' team will appear on "The Tonight Show," Advertising Age has learned.

The makeover monster hit was originally launched with small product-placement deals-Diesel jeans, Redken hair products, Wilson Leather, along with small salons and restaurants that don't normally advertise on TV. Now, according to Vivi Zigler, senior VP-marketing and advertising services for Bravo and The NBC Agency, more mainstream consumer marketing companies are looking for tie-ins.

"Yes, I have clients that want to get in on the show," said Rich Yaffa, president of the Leverage Group, a division of Mediaedge:cia. "You have experts on the show who are recommending products. These experts are anointing brands." But, he added, "how this will drive sales is another question."

"When Bravo first brought it out I know that a lot of clients wanted in," said Laura Caraccioli-Davis, VP-director, Starcom Entertainment. "Lots of marketers with products in interior decorating, makeover and clothing showed interest." She added, "It's the perfect vehicle for retailers."

Indeed, Ms. Zigler said retailers "are interested in having a `Queer Eye' presence in their stores," although she wouldn't disclose names.

"The show lends itself to product placement," said David Collins, "Queer Eye" executive producer. "We are showing, for example, the process of how to shave, as opposed to what blade to use. And that is a way of creatively having balance in the show, so that you don't become one big infomercial."

Disaronno, whitestrips

Mr. Collins said he is nearing a marketing deal with an alcoholic beverage. Already "Queer Eye" has used product placement for Disaronno Originale Amaretto, and Disaronno runs TV spots on Bravo.

Procter & Gamble Co.'s Crest Whitestrips got an early start with placement in the show. Whitestrips has targeted gay men in magazine ads and considers them part of the brand's core consumer base, but it sees "Queer Eye" primarily as a way to reach women, a P&G spokesman said.

In fact, Bravo initially marketed the show to women 18 to 49, with a secondary target of gay men. In its third week, the show drew, according to Nielsen, 2.8 million total viewers and 2.1 million adults age 18 to 49. That made it the No. 1-rated program among adults 18 to 49 on ad-supported cable during its time slot.

all about content

NBC's version earned a 3.3 rating and 10 share among adults 18 to 49 and attracted 6.9 million viewers. It was second to CBS's "CSI."

Scout Productions, the "Queer Eye" production company, is eyeing marketing partners, but said it won't blink when it comes to content. "The hook of the show is the story," said Mr. Collins. "We never want that interfered with because of product placement."

Not everyone is sold on "Queer Eye." Mitch Kanner, partner, Integrated Entertainment Partners, Beverly Hills, said the show is "too obvious an environment [for product placement]. ... Not all programming lends itself to integration."

contributing: jack neff

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