When they pay the bill, it will be with an American Express card. And when the restaurant's celebrity chef drives off to the Fulton Fish Market to pick out the next day's catch, he'll be wheeling a new Mitsubishi through the streets of Manhattan.
Accidents? Hardly. They're Magna-Reveille product-placement deals.
Reveille is a production company headed by Ben Silverman, the former William Morris agent who is one of the central behind-the-scenes actors in the current reality craze, and who imported such British reality formats as "The Weakest Link" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." For "The Restaurant," Mr. Silverman joined forces with Magna Global Entertainment and Mark Burnett, producer of CBS's "Survivor" reality series.
"I approached a number of advertisers and a number of agencies, and Magna really took a strong partnership-oriented position," said Mr. Silverman. "We came to terms very quickly. And [Magna Global Entertainment] delivered Mitsubishi, AmEx and Coors."
The deal gives Magna a significant ownership position in the show and in all its ancillary revenue, while giving its clients category exclusivity. "Magna cash flows the project," Mr. Silverman said. "So in exchange for cash flowing it, and for coordinating media, they have an ownership stake."
To sell the advertisers on the show, Magna and Reveille "went out together," Mr. Silverman said.
Magna's clients are "getting these wonderful mini-commercials" in "The Restaurant" said Mr. Silverman, including a Mitsubishi helicopter shot that, he added, Reveille-and not the advertiser-paid for. As for the Coors on the dinner table, there may be other beers and liquor served in the actual restaurant, but only Coors will make the final cut. And as for AmEx, its participation is not limited to just the card. "They have a small-business program that [Chef] Rocco [DiSpirito] is utilizing to open the restaurant."
Beyond "The Restaurant" and USA Network's "Nashville Star," another Reveille show with significant product-placement elements, perhaps the killer app in the Reveille oeuvre thus far is "The Celebrity Look-Alike Show," which will get a tryout on AOL Time Warner's WB during the May sweeps. Its back-to-back half-hour episodes will feature competitions among would-be J. Los and Ben Afflecks.
The "Celebrity Look-Alike Show" was conceptualized as a Thursday night WB series targeted squarely at one important ad category: Hollywood movie studios looking to break their next big-budget theatrical extravaganza with kids and young-adult moviegoers.
Mr. Chunovic is a reporter at TelevisionWeek