AmEx, Grey Goose Expand Branded-Entertainment Pacts

M&V Friday Roundup: Plus What People Are Saying About 'Tron: Legacy' and 'Scott Pilgrim' (Again)

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AmEx Signs Up for More 'Pairings'
American Express is expanding its original web series, "Pairings: Food & Wine & Music," with three new episodes coming in January. The series was created earlier this year with music-marketing agency GreenLight Media & Marketing, a division of RedLight Management. In case you've missed it, "Pairings" is "Top Chef" meets "VH1 Storytellers." A just-released trailer for "Pairings" second season features Sting with chef Joseph Sponzo performing a wine-inspired set from Sting's home in Tuscany, Italy, with songs such as "Message in a Bottle" and the singer's own Sister Moon wine. Other upcoming episodes include Tim McGraw paired with chef Tim Love from Nashville's Union Station and Ben Harper with chef Chris Cosentino from Napa Valley.

American Express declined to share specific viewing metrics for the first season of "Pairings," but said the results exceeded the brand's expectations. The series was promoted internally to American Express' card members through newsletters and event listings, as well as syndicated through GreenLight's network of music and entertainment sites. Another music-themed campaign executed by GreenLight, Gillette's "Uncut" series featuring artists such as Black Eyed Peas' and Blink 182's Mark Hoppus, garnered more than 15 million views and prompted the P&G razor brand to explore an even deeper investment into music marketing in 2011.

In both instances, the key to successfully associating non-endemic brands such as American Express and Gillette to music is to find like-minded artists with large digital followings -- sometimes from the RedLight Management roster, which includes the likes of Mr. Harper and Mr. McGraw -- and a healthy dose of strategic timing.

Ikea's Reality-TV Debut Wraps Up This Weekend
Chefs seem to be all the rage these days: Swedish furniture retailer Ikea has already made a successful foray into scripted web content with "Easy to Assemble," but last month it made the leap to the living room with its first branded reality series, "Fix This Kitchen," on A&E. The six-week series was created by Ikea's media agency, WPP's MEC Entertainment, features chefs such as Lidia Bastianich, Marcus Samuelsson and Charlie Trotter helping homeowners spruce up their home kitchens using Ikea products. The series is part of A&E's "Big Fix" Saturday-morning programming block and airs its final episode tomorrow morning.

"Kitchen" represents one of the few series on TV pitched and produced by a media agency on behalf of a brand -- though MEC's WPP sibling Y&R recently produced a series for Fox Sports Net on behalf of client Cellular South.

Iconoclasts: Charlize Theron and Jane Goodall
Iconoclasts: Charlize Theron and Jane Goodall Credit: Sundance Channel
Grey Goose Expands Branded-Entertainment Strategy
In other branded-entertainment news, Bacardi USA's Grey Goose recently extended its relationship with Rainbow Media's Sundance Channel for a fifth season of "Iconoclasts" and a microseries, "Raising the Bar," that aired before and after episodes of the recently completed series. The series was inspired by Grey Goose vodka's own ability to pair well with unique flavors, and in previous years has teamed unlikely interview subjects such as Eddie Vedder with Laird Hamilton, Dave Chappelle with Maya Angelou and Richard Branson with Desmond Tutu. The fifth season will continue to air on Sundance through Dec. 5, and features matchups such as Hugh Jackman with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Charlize Theron with Jane Goodall and Lee Daniels with Lenny Kravitz.

Although the series has become a tentpole for Sundance, measuring its success has been tricky. Since Sundance isn't rated by Nielsen, the standard metrics of audience size don't apply. Instead, Emil Jattne, Grey Goose Entertainment's senior brand manager, said the company looks to custom research from companies such as Mediamark Research & Intelligence for qualitative data on fans' engagement with the show and any linkage to brand affinity or purchase intent. Nevertheless, Grey Goose sales and market share have been solid since the launch of Grey Goose Entertainment in 2005, including a boost during the recession-ravaged spring of 2009, according to data from Nielsen Food Drug Liquor.

The Sundance Channel and sibling IFC recently introduced a new measurement tool, the Media Innovation Metric, with the Nielsen Co. that will measure the effectiveness of branded content for clients on a custom basis. Data will be compiled from 3,000 online surveys of Sundance and IFC viewers, measuring their emotional and behavioral engagement with the content. It's that broader association that's most important to Mr. Jattne. "We wanted to actually create something for our consumer that people think is really neat anecdotally and that shows in some of our research. It really gives people something to talk about and gives us something to amplify in our marketing."

What others said this week:

There's lots to say about "Tron: Legacy" this week. We weighed in with our appreciation of the latest poster. But the real tempest is over another possible misfiring in Disney's marketing for the film, a sequel to the 1982 cult classic, "Tron." Conspiracy theorists are noting that the studio has held back releasing DVDs of the original. Why? Was it a genuine marketing blunder or something more? Indie Wire's Spout blog gives us all the theories.

Speaking of "Tron," Death & Taxes blogger Carmel Lobello wonders, "What the eff is going on these days with movie marketing?" Why does she ask? Seems like someone needs to call the fashion SWAT on Disney and retailer Opening Ceremony ASAP.

The other trending topic of the week involves "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," which is set to make its debut on DVD. Much has been made about the buzz leading up to the movie's release and how the movie was marketed after it opened to pretty dismal box-office numbers. Now Spout, with hindsight, wonders if the real problem lies with what mainstream audiences have been conditioned to expect from fantasy-leaning films. Worth debating and a good primer for marketers.

Over at his own blog, regular M&V contributor Chris Thilk, also using "Scott Pilgrim" as a hook, posted one of those seemingly obvious reminders about how movies are graded on a curve that's waaaaay different that any other product launch.

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