NBC's 'Three Wishes' Counterprograms Against Non-Family Fare

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LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Sales USA, mortgage lender Ameriquest and retail chain Home Depot are sponsoring the newest feel-good reality show, NBC's Three Wishes, following in the footsteps of a growing number of marketers that are embedded in warm-and-fuzzy unscripted fare.

Ameriquest and Home Depot will sponsor the show's full 10-episode run, with the brands integrated throughout the series, which is hosted by Christian pop singer Amy Grant. It launches Sept. 23.
Reality series 'Three Wishes' wants to help people in need, and marketers like Home Depot and Ameriquest are sponsoring the 10-episode show.

Ford bows out

Toyota sponsors seven of the episodes, starting with the third outing. It will give away three vehicles as part of the integration, while the show’s hosts will also travel around in Toyota SUVs or trucks, as well. Ford sponsored the pilot, but ended up opting not to serve as the show’s official automotive partner.

In addition to Ameriquest, Home Depot and Toyota, each hour-long show will also feature a handful of other yet-to-be-disclosed marketers that donate product and services to fulfill the show's mission of helping people in need.

The concept for Three Wishes and its aim to help people improve their lives proved attractive for Toyota, whose company slogan is “Moving forward.” The automaker has also been looking for ways to use entertainment to promote its line of trucks and SUVs -- vehicles that prominently appear in the show.

Home Depot is among a number of retailers now heavily vested in branded entertainment. Sears accelerated the trend with its involvement in ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition -- now considered the gold standard in integration and promotion -- with ad campaigns and product lines built around the show's stars, and the brand an integral part of the series.

Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney

Wal-Mart joined the fray with a sponsorship of ABC's The Scholar, and J.C. Penney signed on to Meet Mr. Mom, though neither show has brought in the loyal following and high ratings of Extreme Makeover.

Home Depot, which has an ongoing relationship with reality guru Mark Burnett, was embedded into the NBC run of his recent show, The Contender. The boxing-themed reality series failed to catch on with viewers, even though it had an uplifting believe-in-yourself message. The retailer thinks Three Wishes will attract an all-family audience looking for inspirational TV on Friday nights.

Ameriquest, a former Super Bowl halftime show sponsor that's new to branded entertainment, recently inked a high-profile deal to sponsor The Rolling Stones' U.S. concert tour. That alliance aims squarely at baby boomers, while Three Wishes is broader in its potential appeal.

Three Wishes, which originated in NBC's alternative programming department, is based on the mythical idea of granting wishes. "The idea was to create a new format that's not just Ed McMahon showing up on someone's doorstep with a check," said Andrew Glassman, the show's executive producer. "It's not an artificial game where people compete for money."

Show team fulfills a dream

The stakes are real for those involved, with each episode featuring three segments in which the show's team fulfills a dream, helps out a deserving family and makes a difference in peoples' lives. There's a mix of stories, some serious and some light-hearted, and there's always a happy ending, which is especially appealing to marketers.

"More and more advertisers want positive product placement where it will enhance their public image," said Shari Ann Brill, vice president and director of programming at Aegis Group's Carat. "This is a show about humanity and about being charitable to your fellow man. It's very family-friendly."


It's also solid counterprogramming, Ms. Brill said, because the network competition on this fall’s Friday-night schedule includes a grisly crime show on Fox, an alien drama on CBS, professional wrestling on UPN and some sitcoms on ABC and the WB.

The marketers involved with Three Wishes provided tens of thousands of dollars of product and helped fund the show through undisclosed integration fees. One marketer, who declined to be identified because the deal isn't finished and the episode isn't shot, plans to embed itself into all three segments in a single show. It will air around Thanksgiving.

Carrying through on the theme of the show, NBC marketing executives have been promoting it by doing good deeds in select cities around the country. Street teams have been performing "acts of kindness" in 15 markets, doling out dollar bills with stickers on them that hype the show and its Web site. The program also is handing out $2,500 checks to charities in those cities, and roving around picking up dinner tabs and grocery bills for random consumers.
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