WB Offers Ad Plugs in Series

Mar 31, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The WB is pitching advertisers product integration opportunities in a sitcom from Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and Survivor guru Mark Burnett.
A pilot has already been shot and now the network has ordered four more scripts for Are We There Yet? The series would follow a father, his new wife and his teen-age kids around Europe on a summer family vacation. The premise is reminiscent of the feature film National Lampoon’s European Vacation starring Chevy Chase.
“One of the great things about Mark Burnett and the writers is they understand that when you’re traveling in Europe there’s going to be products that you are going to come across and you can have some fun with this and integrate them into the show in a meaningful way that is natural,” said Bill Morningstar, executive VP of media sales at The WB. “You’re not just going to see blatant product shots. You’re going to have story lines that could involve some of the different products, which is a great opportunity for an advertiser.”
Mr. Morningstar said the executive producers of the show have worked up some treatments that The WB’s sales force will take around to advertisers shortly.
For example, a story line could revolve around a family disagreement over eating the local cuisine with Dad wanting to eat at the best restaurant in Barcelona and the kids wanting hamburgers. At the end of the episode, the family could end up at an American fast food restaurant. Or there’s a natural tie-in for a credit card company with the teen-age daughter charging up a storm on her credit card all over Europe.
Opportunities could also exist for products such as cameras, wireless communications and laptop computers, Mr. Morningstar said. “There’s products you would have being a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old and a father traveling around Europe,” he said.
Bob Flood, executive VP and director of national electronic media at Optimedia, said depending on how products are integrated into the show, it could be beneficial to an advertiser. “If it’s organic to the story line, it helps heighten awareness and could absolutely boost interest in the product,” he said. “For example, T-Mobile is one of our clients. It’s a global phone so that might be a perfect environment to have it integrated into the story line.”
Having input into the show’s content at this early stage is also appealing, he said. “Having some measure of control of how it is depicted is going to make the advertisers’ comfort level be that much greater,” he said.
The pilot was shot in Spain. If it is picked up as a series, it will be shot entirely on location in various European countries.
The WB has been at the forefront of product placement and sponsorship opportunities with its advertisers. This summer, The WB worked out a deal for Pepsi to sign on as a major sponsor of a music/lifestyle show called Front Row and the special Play for a Billion, which will be executive produced by Michael Davies.
The network also had a commercial-free variety show, Live From Tomorrow, in development for summer that would have integrated advertisers’ products into the show, but it was pushed back after The WB was unable to find another title sponsor to go along with Pepsi. Several buyers said the show was priced too high.
Are We There Yet? is written and executive produced by Jason and Ross Venokur and Dave Goetsch. Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach and Mark Burnett also executive produce.