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‘Push’ buyers upset

Oct 14, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The demise of ABC’s “Push, Nevada” underscores the perils of product placement in scripted TV shows.
Media buyers who purchased time in low-rated “Push” are grumbling over delayed cash back or make-good commercial inventory because “Push” must continue until Oct. 24 to fulfill rules of a sweepstakes tied to the program. And advertisers who also bought expensive product placements are said to be dissatisfied with the exposure they received.
“[The product placement] was totally vague,” said an executive close to major sponsors Toyota Motor Sales USA and Sprint Corp.’s Sprint PCS, adding that the TV time was not sufficient and was not used to show off specific features of the cars or cellphones. “It really didn’t work out,” the executive said. Calls to the marketers for comment were not returned.
“We don’t think it was vague,” said a spokeswoman from production company LivePlanet. “There was a detailed contract.”
Toyota and Sprint also each bought three 30-second spots in the show from ABC. Over the course of the series, this translates into about a $4 million deal for each of these advertisers in addition to a product placement fee.
A Toyota marketing executive said the company got “very good” placement. However, a Sprint PCS spokesman gave a curt “no comment” about its placement.
The series was scheduled to run 13 episodes. But ratings tanked against strong CBS and NBC lineups. The Oct. 3 episode posted a weak 1.5 rating among adults 18 to 49. ABC canceled it after seven episodes.
That’s not soon enough for media buyers. “They should have canceled it now and taken it off,” said Steve Sternberg, senior VP and director of audience analysis of Magna Global USA.
But ABC and LivePlanet have to keep the show going because the plot line, which follows the travails of IRS agent Jim Prufrock, ties in with a sweepstakes that awards $1 million to a viewer who can solve the murder mystery in the show. Strict sweepstakes laws state the money must be given away.