After Scoring on Web, Axe Deodorant Series Eyes TV

'Evan and Gareth' Gets Backing From Brand-Friendly Producer Ben Silverman

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The deal: Last year, Unilever's Axe line of deodorant and body wash launched "Evan and Gareth," a web series that has generated a massive audience of more than 10 million males, mostly 18 to 24 years old.

The result: The success of "Evan and Gareth" has encouraged its creators to adapt the show for TV with some help from brand-friendly TV producer Ben Silverman.

Reveille and Conductor have already teamed up to unite Sundance Channel's 'House of Boateng' with Miller Genuine Draft.

Evan and Gareth may not have found their Ms. Rights during their cross-country romantic misadventures, but they helped hook up two companies that are now having a full-blown love fest.

Ben Silverman, CEO of TV production house Reveille (behind shows such as "Biggest Loser," "Blow Out" and "The Office"), was one of the 10 million guys who glommed onto Evan Mann and Gareth Reynolds, the loveable louts who starred in a series of webisodes last year for Unilever's Axe deodorant and body wash.

The series, which followed the underemployed Hollywood writers on a 144-day, 10-city chick hunt, has pulled in more than 10 million viewers, mostly men aged 18 to 24. Branded-entertainment and marketing firm Conductor in Los Angeles created the webisodes, which combined elements of reality TV, blogs, events and viral films to draw in the media-savvy demo.

Thought they could be stars

As it happens, Mr. Silverman had been on the lookout for a relationship series aimed at young men. He watched Messrs. Mann and Reynolds do their thing -- which included trotting out stale pickup lines and getting publicly washed with Axe and then sprayed with a hose -- and thought they could be TV stars.

"They're great characters," Mr. Silverman said, "and they obviously developed a fan base."

Mr. Silverman and Conductor's executives started working on a TV series based on the concept and characters, whom Conductor had dubbed "seduction crash-test dummies." The TV show hasn't been cast yet, so there's no word if Messrs. Mann and Reynolds will reprise their web roles.

The producers are shopping the show to network and cable TV channels, aiming for a January 2007 launch. It will be a hybrid, with scripted and reality elements.

In addition to being a showcase for Axe, the series will make way for other marketers as integration partners. Likely categories include wireless, automotive, beverages and other guy-tries-to-get-girl aides. The "Evan and Gareth" show will retain the flavor of the online series, with Axe having an integral role in some parts and more of a background position in others.

'Brands as plot drivers'

"We look at the brands as plot drivers," said Tom Cotton, Conductor's president. "We'll work with the writers to create scenarios that could only happen with these brands."

As Conductor did with the web series, executives plan to use the new "Evan and Gareth" content across various platforms, such as cellphones, video on demand and advergames.

"It's all about creating an audience and a community around this idea," said Tim Tennant, Conductor's CEO and creative principal. "The content has licensing opportunities, and it can extend in a number of ways."

Those are the kinds of solutions that advertisers are looking for right now, Mr. Tennant said, and TV especially needs entertainment that appeals to coveted young men who are increasingly drawn to other media.

Though the show is still in development and doesn't yet have a distributor, executives have thought even bigger for the wacky duo. A feature film isn't out of the question, Mr. Tennant said.
Reveille and Conductor have already teamed up to unite Sundance Channel's 'House of Boateng' with Miller Genuine Draft.

'House of Boateng'

As the two companies were working on the "Evan and Gareth" project, they made another TV-show-and-brand marriage with Miller Genuine Draft and "House of Boateng," which launches tomorrow on Sundance Channel. Men's magazine GQ also partners, co-sponsoring the recent premiere party and running an extensive advertorial in this month's issue.

The beer brand has repositioned itself through its advertising as an upscale product that's more about grown-up sophistication than college keg parties. The commercial-free Sundance Channel approved the sponsorship, which includes integration into at least one episode and extensive promotion both on- and off-channel.

Ozwald Boateng, who's designed for Virgin Atlantic and Coutts bank, will design a new bottle for MGD, and an episode of the show will follow his meetings with Miller executives. The new bottle could be available to consumers sometime next year, though the marketer hasn't yet decided how widely it will be distributed or if it will advertise around it.

The marketer is also exploring ways to use Mr. Boateng for some international marketing activities.

Integration success on 'The Office'

Outside the two projects, Reveille and Conductor are also working on an episode of "The Office," the NBC comedy, with an unnamed Conductor client. "The Office" has successfully woven in brands such as Levi's, Chili's and Apple's iPod, becoming one of the few scripted shows to do so in ways that haven't drawn viewer backlash or industry watchers' criticism.

Conductor's clients include Ford Motor Co., the National Hockey League, Purina and Nestle.

Reveille has ramped up its production slate recently, with projects in development all over cable and network TV. Among its shows are "The Biggest Loser" and "The Office" on NBC, "Blow Out" on Bravo, USA Network's "Nashville Star" and MTV's "Date My Mom" and "Parental Control." The production house will launch "Ugly Betty" on ABC and a second season of "30 Days" on FX.
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