SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Simon Cowell's "Got Talent" franchise is heading to China with backing from Procter & Gamble Co. in the U.S. marketer's biggest branded content deal in the mainland so far.
The variety show, featuring dancers, singers, musicians, magicians, comedians and novelty acts, "is a great way to reach a broad number of consumers, ordinary Chinese across the whole society, not just affluent consumers. That's very much in line with what P&G is doing in China," said Guangzhou-based Chen Li, P&G's deputy general manager of external relations for beauty and grooming brands in Greater China.
The deal looks like P&G's response to Unilever's big-budget sponsorship of a Chinese version of the "Ugly Betty" comedy series, called "Chou Nu Wu Di" ("Ugly Wudi"). Ugly Wudi is a hit with viewers but has been widely criticized for heavy-handed product placement.
Although Ms. Chen says "We don't want to make it too commercial," the new show will be called "Head & Shoulders China's Got Talent."
IPCN, a local production company that works closely with Shanghai Media Group (SMG), launches the local version of the show June 26 on SMG's Dragon TV, a Shanghai-based channel with national distribution through local cable networks.
P&G's first sponsorship of 'Got China' franchise
The main brand associated with the show will be Head & Shoulders, which appeals to a younger and wider audience in China compared to the U.S., but Olay and Gillette will be leveraged around the content as well.
P&G's multi-year sponsorship, negotiated by execs in Guangzhou and at global headquarters in Cincinnati, marks the first time the company has backed "Got Talent," which airs in the U.S., U.K. and other countries. Besides the title sponsorship, the China deal includes about $750,000 worth of airtime for commercials and on-air promotional tags, according to local media execs.
Besides TV, there will be print and online media, including local-language web sites for all three brands, said Jennifer Stebner, a Guangzhou-based senior VP at Starcom, which handles media buying for P&G in China,
Taiwanese pop singer Jolin Tsai, a brand spokesperson for Head & Shoulders in China, will likely be one of the show's three judges, and Ms. Tsai will talk up the show on her popular blog, published on P&G's Head & Shoulders web site in China.
Brand integration into the show still under discussion
But few other decisions about how to incorporate the Head & Shoulders, Olay and Gillette brands into the show have been finalized. The production schedule is being rushed to take advantage of the spotlight now on Shanghai, site of the 2010 World Expo, so P&G's role in the show's format "is still in discussion," Ms. Chen said.
"We are still discussing with the producers about brand exposure [but] the format of the show lends itself to customized branded content integrations that speak to the key equities of the brand in a fun and entertaining way," she said.
The deal illustrates a change in P&G's media spending habits over the past year. The advertiser is spending more with Shanghai Media Group and less with the broadcaster's chief rival, China Central Television (CCTV). SMG and another major broadcaster, Hunan Satellite TV, are perceived as being more innovative and cooperative than stodgy, state-run CCTV.
SMG "is one of the biggest media groups in China, it has dominant coverage, especially in eastern China," one of the country's wealthiest regions, Ms. Chen said. "Now that Expo is happening, Shanghai is a high-profile location and the channel is already close to fashion and beauty content, so it's a good equity fit."
Contract estimated at $3.37 million
Sponsoring "Head & Shoulder China's Got Talent" will cost P&G an estimated RMB 23 million ($3.37 million), just under the the RMB 26-30 ($3.81-$4.39 million) Unilever is believed to have paid to sponsor "Ugly Wudi" in 2008.
The "Got Talent" franchise has been a hit in about two dozen countries, including the U.S., where it airs on NBC. If show succeeds in China -- which is extremely likely -- it could give P&G a bump in brand recognition and sales. P&G has been China's largest advertiser for years, but rivals like Unilever and L'Oreal are boosting their spending.
Talent shows have been popular in China for years, but are often copied from western shows. The Chinese version of "Got Talent," which IPCN and SMG licensed from Fremantle Media (although Mr. Cowell's Syco conceived and owns the franchise), marks the first time a legal version of an international talent show format has been adapted in China.
The winner of "China's Got Talent" gets a contract with Fremantle Media and Sony Music Entertainment and the opportunity to perform in Las Vegas for three months.
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