The Worst

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1. The deal: Domino's Pizza sponsors a task in `The Apprentice' in which teams develop and sell a new type of pizza.

The cost: More than $1 million.

Why it didn't work: Mixed messages. The show's two competing teams both developed and sold meatball pizzas, but Domino's used the episode to unveil its American Classic Cheeseburger pizza in an ad that starred Mr. Trump as the company's new pitchman, saying, "It takes my two favorite foods-pizza and cheeseburgers-and blends them together. I've tried this product and it's fabulous." Unfortunately, that's not the product viewers remembered. Papa John's trumped its rival by airing a 30-second spot during the episode promoting its new meatball pizza. In the ad, Papa John's founder John Schnatter quips, "Why eat a pizza made by apprentices when you can call the pros at Papa John's?"

Who to blame: NBC's ad-sales department. The network knew that Domino's would be sponsoring the episode, but still allowed the company's rival to purchase an ad in 64 major markets. But Domino's is also at fault. It should have taken more control over the task, never allowing contestants to develop a pizza that didn't match the product it was spending millions to promote.

Lesson learned: Producers realized the mistake, and the following week, as a make-good, had Mr. Trump introduce the episode by referring to the Domino’s task and tell contestants, "If you’d done your market research like Domino’s did, you would have discovered that customers don’t want meatball pizza. What they want is cheeseburger pizza. The lesson: Always pay attention to your customer." That’s especially true when they’re paying upward of $1 million to appear in your show. Oh, and talk to the ad-sales department.

2. The deal: Toyota Motor Sales USA and Home Depot signed on as the non-sports marketers for NBC's `The Contender,' a boxing reality show from uber producer Mark Burnett.

The cost: Toyota paid a reported $16 million on media and product-integration fees, the highest ever shelled out for such a deal. And the marketer made the agreement directly with Mark Burnett Productions and DreamWorks Television, the series' producers, who sold its airtime and integration rights. When the show underperformed-it regularly attracted between 5 million and 7.8 million viewers-Toyota had no ratings guarantees and could not go to the network for make-goods.

Why it didn't work: The involvement of Toyota and Home Depot just didn't make sense. The presence of Toyota's trucks did little to advance the storyline of up and coming boxers competing against each other for $1 million. The same was true for Home Depot, which cut an overall deal with Mr. Burnett for product integration into his shows. The marketer's logo had little meaning ringside.

Lesson learned: Just because Mark Burnett’s the producer doesn’t mean the show’s right for your brand or a guaranteed ratings-grabber.

3. The deal: Marketers flock to appear in DreamWorks' sc-fi-action film `The Island,' directed by Michael Bay and starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson.

Who was in: Microsoft's Xbox and MSN Search, Cisco Systems, Aquafina, Calvin Klein, Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser and Michelob, Puma, Cadillac, Nokia, General Motors, Chrysler's Dodge, Amtrak, Ben & Jerry's, Speedo, Apple and Jack Daniels and among others.

The cost: Marketers contributed $800,000 to the production's $122 million budget in integration fees, as well as products.

Why it didn't work: There's nothing subtle about the product placement within "The Island." Lingering shots show the film's clones wearing Puma shoes, drinking Aquafina water and trying to escape villains in a $7 million concept car from Cadillac. The perfect placement of company logos proves too distracting.

The result: "The Island" was expected to be a big summer hit, but it earned a mere $36 million in the U.S. and went on to collect $122 million overseas. If Hollywood prognosticators can't predict what will work with audiences, how should a brand rep based in Detroit? None of the film's integrated brands lost much financially, considering none of them backed the film with additional marketing support.

Lesson learned: Showing off what your products may be able to do in 2019 is clever, but showing off what they can do now might be more beneficial.

4. The deal: Nascar, a plethora of the racing league's official sponsors and other marketers load their brands into Walt Disney Pictures' `Herbie: Fully Loaded,' a summer family film starring Lindsay Lohan and Michael Keaton.

The cost: In a turn-the-tables scenario, Nascar did not pay for its massive movie exposure. Disney paid the racing league an undisclosed fee for support and production assistance in filming Nascar races and scenes.

Who was in: Nextel, UPS, Goodyear Tire Co., Valvoline, Radio Shack, Net Zero, DuPont, Home Depot, Lowe's, PepsiCo's Tropicana, General Motors' Pontiac GTO and Chevrolet Corvette. Disney even applied a little corporate synergy, with Ms. Lohan's character winning a coveted job at the conglomerate's cable powerhouse ESPN.

Conspicuously absent: Though the title character is a Volkswagen, there's scant other evidence of VW in the movie, save for a couple of recent models supplied for a few scenes. The marketer is never mentioned by name, maybe because VW signed an overall product integration deal with Disney rival NBC Universal.

Why it didn't work: Fully loaded is right. When nearly every movie review specifically calls out the product placement in a film-and maligns it-that's a sign of overkill. Nascar was woven into the storyline, which centers on Ms. Lohan's character driving Herbie, the classic '63 VW Beetle, in a professional race. The Nascar setting, however, turns into a sea of marketers, mirroring the heavily sponsored sport and its logo-laden drivers.

The result: The G-rated family flick failed to catch fire, earning a disappointing $65.7 million. Not enough to launch a new franchise.

Lesson learned: Less is more.

5. The deal: American Eagle Outfitters sponsored a design challenge in `The Apprentice' in which teams design a new clothing line for the teen clothier dubbed `wearable technology,' which could incorporate high-tech gadgets like an iPod, cellphone or laptop computers.

The cost: More than $1 million.

Why it worked: The company apparently forgot who buys its clothes. The show's contestants didn't fit the teen demo that the retailer normally targets with its clothing-late 20- and 30-something team members struggled to understand the brand and its customer, as well as what's cool when it comes to what gadgets those customers use on a daily basis. At the same time, the show doesn't attract the young audience that makes up American Eagle's typical shopper. Making matters worse, producers managed to fumble American Eagle's integration in their own way. When Mr. Trump awarded the winning team a pricey shopping spree, contestants didn't shop at an American Eagle's flagship store. Instead, they went to Bergdorf Goodman.

Lesson learned: Stick with your audience.

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