Well, this was inevitable in the age of big brands acting like media companies: Whole Foods Market has teamed up with fledgling network Pivot to introduce a half-hour TV series called "Dark Rye." It premieres tomorrow at 9:30 pm EST and is set for a robust 20-episode run. If you were hoping for a zesty reality show chronicling the lives and loves of tattooed cashiers and organic-produce buyers who moonlight in indie-rock bands, well, sorry. The series is more high-minded than that. Watch the trailer then scroll down for some context.
A sort of spin-off or brand extension of Whole Foods' online magazine of the same title, "Dark Rye" will, according to a statement from Pivot released today, "highlight topics ranging from artists seeking social justice to entrepreneurs rebuilding Detroit to culinary masters maintaining sustainable food traditions." Buried deeper in Pivot's release is this line from Kent Rees, exec VP-marketing, scheduling and operations at Pivot: "Aligning with their [Whole Foods'] brand addresses our desire to create customized content that truly speaks to the spirit and attitude of the next generation." Yep, this is a custom-content deal that's supposed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, albeit indirectly, about Whole Foods.
So this is the future, folks. Or, rather, a reiteration of TV's past, when big brands like Procter & Gamble helped produce the likes of "Guiding Light" during the golden age of soap operas, and cigarette makers plastered their brands all over the game shows they backed.
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.