OMD gains exclusive rights to Sci-Fi show

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Omnicom Group's OMD Worldwide secured all the commercial time and product-placement rights for its clients in a new Sci-Fi Channel mini-series, "5 Days to Midnight." Eight of its clients will monopolize ad time and exposure in the series.

While product integration is increasingly popular, it is still confined largely to non-scripted programming such as reality shows, although many believe it will expand quickly to scripted programming.

Nissan Motor Corp., McDonald's Corp., Visa USA, Federal Express, Sony PlayStation, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Cingular Wireless and Clorox Co. will have their brands integrated into the five-part series and will also advertise during the show. The total package, according to executives with knowledge of the deal, is valued at around $3 million.

OMD and its clients are not funding production of the program. But Debbie Richman, U.S. director of national broadcast at OMD, said that could be an option in upcoming projects.

`the mother'

"This is the mother of all integrated deals," said Kevin McAuliffe, senior VP-cross platform initiatives at Sci-Fi owner Universal Television Networks. "We could get 12 advertisers [through OMD]. We are sharing the script with the brands and working them into the story lines."

"It's an exclusive deal," said Jeff Lucas, president-advertising sales, Universal. "In order to make the show happen, we had to allow OMD own the whole thing."

"5 Days" (originally titled "Six Days `Til Sunday") is about a single parent whose wife died on their daughter's birthday. While visiting her grave, he finds a briefcase with the details of a murder plot. It turns out that he is the intended victim and has five days to prevent his own murder. The show, created by Lion's Gate films, will be directed by Michael Caton-Jones and begins shooting in December. It is scheduled to air in prime time next June over five consecutive nights.

"The beauty of it is that our largeness allowed us to take it over," said Ms. Richman. "It allows our clients, no matter the size of their own individual spend, to take advantage of it and get an exclusive position. "

Ms. Richman and Guy McCarter, senior VP-director of entertainment marketing at OMD, engineered the project. "The other beauty of this is that the deal wasn't done at the upfront," said Ms. Richman. "Not everything has to happen then. Good ideas are all year round."

"It obviously gave OMD more leverage on my behalf," said Peter Sterling VP-U.S. marketing for McDonald's Corp. "We're looking to integrate ourselves into scripted programming and we're looking for ways to bring our product to life in a very organic way."

Becky Saeger, Visa USA's exec VP-brand marketing, said the credit card will be an advertiser, but the product placement component is still being worked on. Visa executives have seen some scripts and want to find a way to work Visa into the program in a way that is seamless, she said.

"What we're looking for is an opportunity in this project that is sensible," said Ms. Saeger. "We don't want to force anything."

Universal Television is also developing three other integration deals, including two more Sci-Fi dramas and a proposed Sci-Fi reality series.

The "5 Days" deal follows on the heels of several integrated program packages orchestrated by Mr. McAuliffe and his team, such as "House Wars," a USA Networks home-improvement competition show from Reveille Productions that is sponsored by Home Depot, General Motors and McDonald's.

contributing: mercedes m. cardona, kate macarthur

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