Kraft foods, harking back to its sponsorship roots from the early days of TV, has created two hour-long syndicated specials expected to run on 180 local TV stations beginning this month.
"Food & Family Live," billed as "presented by Kraft," is an extension of a media initiative that includes a Food & Family custom-published magazine and Kraft Interactive Kitchens Web site, which offer consumers recipes and tips. Kraft's move into the broadcast content arena in the U.S. (a follow-up to successful TV programming efforts in Canada) comes as other top marketers experiment with lifestyle-oriented programming they hope will build their brands in the consumer psyche, among them Chrysler Group and Unilever.
"Food & Family Live" features Kraft products in recipes prepared by experts from the Kraft Kitchens. But Carol Blindauer, Kraft director-consumer relationship marketing, insisted "it's not a product showcase, it's a TV show." Blindauer said the show was developed to "offer consumers solutions they need to feed their families." Kraft expects to develop more shows as well.
"They may use products of theirs but you wouldn't know it," said Art Moore, VP-programming for WABC, New York, who cited the subtlety as a factor in his decision to air a spring "Food & Family Live" May 2 and a summer show in June or July. As long as the marketer's products don't interfere with content, he said he'd consider other similar programs: "It's no different from the Buick Classic presented by General Motors. The point is that the show serves the viewer and offers something useful and fun."
Kraft will use commercial time during the show, which will be syndicated by Litton Entertainment, to run product commercials. Show segments include Rush Hour Rescue, where employees from Kraft Kitchens visit the homes of consumers nominated on-line and make recipes from what's already in their pantries.
"We're lucky that our products have high household penetration so the chances of finding something [from Kraft] are pretty good," Blindauer said.
Automakers have been especially active in product integration on TV. Chrysler's Jeep brand teamed with NBC Sports and sports marketing agency Aura360 to create "Jeep World of Adventure Sports" a series of eight one-hour shows that kicked off earlier this month featuring "Jeeps that are used to get to locations that only Jeeps can get to," said Jeff Bell, the brand's VP-marketing.
Household-product companies, too, are actively pursuing the new space. Dan Hilbert, director-integrated marketing for Unilever's Home and Personal Care division, said the company is "committed to alternative channels," specifically custom TV, and has set up a project team that includes employees and executives from its media agency, WPP Group's MindShare. Unilever has already done custom TV programs for its Dove and Axe brands and sponsored the televised "Degree Road To The Ironman". And of course, last week, amidst the executive shuffle at ABC, it was confirmed that the Unilever-backed summer family drama "The Days" on the Alphabet network would proceed.
Procter & Gamble filmed what appears to be a pilot for a TV show in the U.K. based on its HomeMadeSimple program that offers tips online. The show is said to have aired in limited markets in the U.S., according to an executive familiar with the situation. A P&G spokeswoman said only that "we are always exploring ways to expand HomeMadeSimple into new areas."
—Contributing: Jean Halliday and Jack Neff