While the plot lines on TNT and TBS shows will take twists and turns this year, one thing is for sure: The characters on "Dallas," "Rizzoli & Isles," "Franklin & Bash" and other original series on the sibling networks will only drink beers from MillerCoors.
That is because the brewer and Turner Broadcasting have struck an exclusive deal that makes the marketer's brands the only beers featured in product placements, ranging from cans and barware to tap-handles and even trucks. While other marketers have reached similar accords with individual TV shows, this deal is unique for its breadth. It also shows the length marketers must go to in order to reach consumers in an era of ad-skipping technology and smart-phone wielding distracted viewers.
"This is a marketing first," said Stevie Benjamin, the brewer's media director. "We will be the only company in our category to have the product integration into all the original Turner programming across their networks. In the past it's been one or two shows or no exclusivity at all. This is a much deeper relationship." The brewer's focus is "how do we entertain consumers," she added, "because just advertising is not enough to break through."
The deal, which runs through the end of the year, was brokered by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative, which is MillerCoors' media agency of record.
On the surface the strategy might appear a bit risky, both for the network and the marketer. After all, the last thing viewers want is to be overtly marketed to while watching their favorite shows.
But both parties say they have taken steps to make sure the integrations don't come across as ham-handed. "The last thing we want to do is make it too obvious," said Donna Speciale, president of Turner Entertainment and Young Adults Ad Sales and Marketing. "We're not changing storylines," she added. Rather, she said the network will find "the natural environment for all the different brands of MillerCoors to place into the shows when appropriate for those episodes."
While MillerCoors does not have day-to-day oversight of scripts, the brewer has given substantial input on how its brands should be used. The process included a workshop held in Los Angeles in January in which MillerCoors marketers briefed Turner production teams on the strategy and positioning for the brands that will be used, including Miller Lite, Blue Moon and Coors Light.
Writers then matched the brands with the right characters and shows. For instance, Blue Moon, which has appeal to women, will be featured in "Rizzoli & Isles," the popular female-focused cop show on TNT. Miller Lite will get placements in "Dallas," in part because the city itself is "a huge Miller Lite market," Ms. Benjamin said. But also the show also features a family and "there's a lot of getting together, so that's kind of a loose tie to Miller Time," she added, referring to the beer's tagline.
Other integrations include Coors Light and Blue Moon on "Franklin & Bash," while the low-calorie Miller 64 brand will appear on an upcoming TNT competition series called "The Hero," starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Meanwhile, the bar on TBS's "Sullivan & Son" will only stock MillerCoors brands. If a character wants a Bud Light, he or she is out of luck.
The deal also includes traditional ad buys, although other beer marketers are free to buy time during the programs' commercial breaks.
The two parties have reached a separate agreement that includes varying sponsorships and branded promotions across Turner-owned properties, including TruTV, Bleacher Report and NBA Playoffs programming on TNT and Funny or Die, which is planning a "grassroots tour" backed by the brewer.
Elsewhere at Turner's TV channels, MillerCoors will get a "launch sponsorship" for the spring debut of CNN's "Parts Unknown" series starring celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. That deal is characterized as a "straight sponsorship" without product integration. And no wonder: Mr. Bourdain is rather sensitive about such deals. Witness the rant he unleashed on his blog last year in which he claimed his image was inserted into a Cadillac ad during his former Travel Channel show "No Reservations" without his authorization.