Olds' Intrigue stars in Web game based on NBC TV show

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NBC wants to integrate advertising into online program content, beginning with a campaign for Oldsmobile on its Web site that broke July 27.

In a first for the network, the product from an advertiser--General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile--is integrated into a storyline for an NBC show. In an online game on the site, users are asked to click on various parts of an Oldsmobile Intrigue automobile, looking for clues to solve a mystery. Banner ads for the car also are part of the deal.


NBC's on-air series "The Pretender," produced in association with NBC Studios, returns for its sophomore season this fall, and the game is a way to give fans fresh storylines to keep them interested over the summer.

"We're working on some deals where we would integrate an advertiser both in online and on-air programming," said NBC's Patricia Karpas, VP-interactive advertising, client marketing and content development.


It is rare, but not unheard of, for a marketer to get a product integrated into an on-air storyline on a network prime-time program. For example, a few years ago, AT&T's 1-800 CALL ATT campaign was integrated into the storyline of Fox's "New York Undercover" program and a major radio promotion was built around the episode.

While Ms. Karpas declined to disclose how much Oldsmobile paid for the Web promotion, she said, "What I can say is that we're moving away from a cost-per-thousand model."

Ms. Karpas is looking to structure custom packages for marketers. In addition to merging products into online scripts, she's also exploring licensing content as well, as NBC did with "The Garage," an area on Toyota Motor Sales USA's site that features material from NBC talk show host Jay Leno.

Mr. Leno is a well-known car buff, so having a tie-in with Toyota "was a natural," Ms. Karpas noted. "The Garage" carries anecdotes about cars in Leno's collection, as well as illustrations of many of the vintage autos.

For Oldsmobile, "The Pretender" tie-in "is a perfect fit for the new Intrigue," said Debbie Craig, Oldsmobile's interactive marketing manager. "Our launch theme for the car is basically Alfred Hitchcock meets James Bond, so being involved in the storyline of `The Pretender,' which is sort of mysterious, fits with our marketing scheme," she said.

"What we're trying to do with Intrigue, because it's such a breakthrough vehicle, is let people know it's there in a ground-breaking way," said Rishad Tobaccowala, president of Chicago-based Giant Step Productions, Oldsmobile's interactive agency of record that collaborated on the campaign.

In other Intrigue online campaigns, created in conjunction with Giant Step, the automaker tries to use the element of suspense to create brand awareness for the Intrigue.


For example, as a sole sponsor of the "Synapse" column on the HotWired site, Oldsmobile tries to get users to click on a banner that features esoteric images and text, while on the USA Today site, the USA Today logo actually turns into the Intrigue.

Ms. Craig said Oldsmobile deliberately looks for online sponsorship opportunities that haven't been done before. "Three years ago we were the first advertiser on America Online to sponsor a celebrity chat area," she noted. The "Pretender"/Oldsmobile Web campaign will run for two weeks. In the next episode, users will get a simulated driving experience.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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