Marketers link with 'Gilligan'

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A reality series based on a decades-old sitcom set on a desert island doesn't seem like the ideal place to integrate a 21st century brand, but Time Warner's TBS has signed deals with three major marketers for "The Real Gilligan's Island."

Ford Motor Co., Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and Lowe's will help develop the reality series. Ford will provide the prize, while Pfizer will feature products such as Listerine Pocket Packs. Lowe's involvement, TBS suggests, will be for the home-improvement retailer to provide materials for contestants to use as makeshift homes or boats.

building buzz

The series, which kicks off on Nov. 30, comes from Mike Fleiss, executive producer of ABC's "The Bachelor," and is the network's tent pole holiday offering. Buzz around the show has been building for months.

The winner of the program will receive a new 2005 Ford Mustang. "The Mustang is not on the island," said Rich Stoddart, marketing communications manager, Ford Division. He described the show as "`Gilligan's Island' meets `Survivor,' " because contestants are eliminated.

Linda Yaccarino, exec VP of Turner Entertainment advertising sales, said there is no lack of advertiser interest in the branded entertainment area, but the problem was matching marketer plans to those of cable channels programming plans.

In this case, Ms. Yaccarino feels the marketer involvement works since contestants might be desperate for, say, Pfizer's skin cream Lubriderm or a Listerine Pocket Pack if they haven't been able to brush their teeth. Two other unnamed Pfizer products will be featured on the show. Pfizer has worked with TBS before as a sponsor of the network's "Law and Order" repeats. Ford and Lowe's are also current TBS advertisers.

According to Ms. Yaccarino, the marketers are not only committed to buying media time, they are also partners on the new show and have pledged joint marketing support. "The companies signed on from the outset," said Ms. Yaccarino, adding that, "We're not just schlepping :30s around town. We are looking for marketers to partner with us."

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