The over-the-counter allergy medication isn't the first thing
you think about when you watch "American Idol," but the brand wants
to establish a loose connection, using the show to promote its
message of "dreaming daily" and show customers how they can help
them get the most out of the spring season, when allergy suffers
often struggle the most.
"Part of the reason we love 'American Idol' is the spirit of the
show is so high-energy.... The contestants never know when the time
on the show will end, so it is important to squeeze the most out of
it and seize every opportunity," says Marguerite Longo, allergy
commercial leader at Zyrtec parent company Johnson &
Longo links that idea back to Zyrtec's marketing message: "We
spend the whole winter bundled up waiting until spring. We want to
help people get outside and spent time with family and
Zyrtec will sponsor a seven-week digital series featuring past
"Idol" contestants that will run on ABC.com and on Twitter. The
series will highlight the "Idol" journey of some former contestants
and include interviews discussing how they made the most of their
time on the show and where they are now.
Zyrtec will promote the digital series through 15-second bumper
spots that will run during the live broadcast and with some
commercials showcasing stories from current contestants and members
of the "American Idol" team.
It will also use Twitter to let viewers unlock content on the
The sponsorship will extend to ABC's "Good Morning America" and
"Live with Kelly and Ryan," where Zyrtec will sponsor
"Idol"-related segments, as well as a contest where viewers can win
the chance to attend an "Idol" after-party.
Macy's will take viewers inside the physical transformation of
the contestants by working with the show's stylists to help
contestants create their own looks. The retailer, whose logo
features a red star, will document these makeovers on Facebook and
Instagram, with weekly posts showing how it's helping stars get
There will also be several in-show segments, starting premiere
week. Macy's senior VP of fashion and digital strategy will appear
in the first of such taped segments alongside Ryan Seacrest at the
Macy's Herald Square store in New York City discussing fashion.
ABC is in conversations with one additional sponsor.
High stakes for ABC
"American Idol" has been credited with reinventing product
placement on TV. When Coca-Cola signed on as the initial sponsor
back in 2002, with a deal valued at $10 million, it was considered
a huge coup. The 13-season partnership included branding the show's
green room a "red room."
The series also helped AT&T turn a fledgling form of
communication into mainstream behavior. In 2003, AT&T asked
fans to vote by text message for their favorite "Idol" contestants.
That year's season finale broke records at the time for the biggest
text-messaging event by a single carrier, with one-third of those
who texted their votes having never sent a text message prior.
ABC desperately needs "American Idol" to pop. Through week 19 of
the 2017-18 broadcast season, ABC is once again in last place among
the big four broadcasters among the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49
demographic. It's averaging a 1.4 in the demo, a 13% decline from
the same period last year.
And looking at commercial ratings in the three days after a show
airs, the industry standard known as C3 against which advertising
is bought, ABC is also in last place, averaging 1.4 million viewers
in the demo, down 15% from the same quarter last year.
On Sunday nights, "Idol" will replace "America's Funniest Home
Videos" and "Shark Tank," both of which are averaging a 1.0 rating
in the demo. Sunday nights have been a hodgepodge for ABC, with the
reality series "Toy Box," which did a 0.4 rating at 7 p.m. and "Ten
Days in the Valley," which also only managed a 0.4 rating at 10
p.m. before being relegated to Saturday night.
But on Monday nights, "Idol" will fill in for ABC's two
highest-rated unscripted shows, "The Bachelor" and "Dancing With
the Stars." "The Bachelor," which is averaging a 1.7 rating in the
demo, is tied with "Modern Family" as ABC's third highest-rated
show, behind "Grey's Anatomy" and "Good Doctor."
"Idol" will go head-to-head with "The Voice" on Monday nights,
which could be challenging for both reality singing
In its 13th cycle, which aired in the fall, "The Voice" averaged
10.8 million viewers and a 2.1 rating in adults 18 to 49, up 16
percent in total viewers and five percent in the demo from Season
12, which aired in May. But it was down in both measures compared
to last fall's finale, which drew 12.1 million viewers and a 2.5
At its peak, "Idol" was watched by over 30 million people. Its
most-watched finale, the Season 2 showdown between Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, brought in 38
But it lost more than half its audience by its final season on
Fox, with the series finale drawing 13 million viewers and a 3.0
rating in the 18-to-49 demographic.
For marketers, "Idol" became another show on the schedule. It
had lost both Coca-Cola and AT&T as sponsors. (Ford stuck
around until the end.) And advertisers were paying less than
$200,000 for a 30-second spot in the last season, down from
$500,000 or so at its height.
ABC's reboot cost advertisers around $200,000 for a 30-second
unit during upfront negotiations, according to Ad Age's
"Do we think it is going to do what it did in 2002? No, because
TV isn't watched the same way," says Robert Mills, head of ABC
alternative programming. But Mills expects "Idol" to be the biggest
reality competition show on TV, if not the most-watched
There are few TV programs outside of sports that generate large
live viewership these days. To do that, Mills says "we had to make
sure the contestants are fantastic and game changers like they were
in the heyday and have real stories."
Even so, the new "Idol" will mount live performance shows for
only five weeks, following the audition rounds, "Hollywood Week"
cuts and a week of taped celebrity duets. That's down from the old
days on Fox. "The climate today, you won't see 19 or 20 weeks of
live shows," Kinane says. "That's too long."
Contributing: Anthony Crupi