When on-air patrons order nice cold beers with dinner in The Restaurant, NBC’s new high-profile summer reality series from Reveille and Magna Global Entertainment, they’ll get a Coors.
When they pay the bill, it will be with an American Express card. And when the restaurant’s celebrity chef drives off to the Fulton Fish Market to pick out the next day’s catch, he’ll be wheeling a new Mitsubishi through the streets of Manhattan, while a pretty-as-an-auto-ad helicopter tracking shot follows every picturesque turn.
Accidents? Hardly, they’re Magna-Reveille product-placement deals.
Reveille is a production company headed by Ben Silverman, the former William Morris agent who is one of the central behind-the-scenes actors in the current reality craze and who arguably began that craze by importing such British reality formats as The Weakest Link and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
MGE, headed by Robert Riesenberg, who reports to Magna Global’s Bill Cella, is Magna’s advertiser-supported program-development arm, which this coming season will have a staggering 24 hours of advertiser-involved programming on the air. For The Restaurant, Mr. Silverman joined forces not only with Magna but with Mark Burnett, producer of CBS’s Survivor reality series.
“I approached a number of advertisers and a number of agencies, and Magna really took a strong partnership-oriented position,” Mr. Silverman said. Magna “got” The Restaurant idea “very quickly,” he added. “We came to terms very quickly. And they delivered Mistsubishi, Amex and Coors.”
The Reveille-Magna deal gives Magna a “significant” ownership position in the show and in all its ancillary revenue, while giving Magna’s clients category exclusivity. “Magna cash flows the project,” Mr. Silverman said. “So in exchange for cash flowing it and for coordinating media, they have an ownership stake.”
To sell the advertisers on the show Magna and Reveille “went out together,” Mr. Silverman said. On Nashville Star, another Reveille show with significant product-placement elements, Jeff Lucas, ad sales head for Universal Television Networks, and his team sold the ad packages.
Magna’s Restaurant clients are “getting these wonderful minicommercials” in the show, Mr. Silverman said, citing the Mitsubishi helicopter shot that, he added, Reveille-and not the advertiser-had paid for. As for the Coors on the dinner table, there may be other beers and liquor served in the actual restaurant, but only Coors will make the editing-room final cut. And as for Amex, it’s participation is not limited to just the card. “They have a small-business program that [Chef Rocco DiSpirito] is utilizing to open the restaurant.”
Although The Restaurant, in prime time and on the demo-leading network, represents a “profound” escalation of advertiser involvement, as Mr. Silverman called it, it’s not the only Reveille show to have extensive advertising connections. USA Network’s Nashville Star, a country-music-flavored take-off on American Idol, has McDonald’s and Chevrolet involved in an “integrated program … “We’ve incorporated them very subtly,” Mr. Silverman said.
Reveille has programming in development for NBC, ABC, USA, Sci-Fi Channel, The WB, syndication and others, and is in internal development on a number of international formats and other projects as well. While The Restaurant and Nashville Star are clever examples of the uses of product placement and advertiser involvement, perhaps the killer app in the Reveille oeuvre thus far is The Celebrity Look-Alike Show, which will get a tryout on The WB during the May sweeps, with back-to-back half-hour episodes, featuring competitions among would-be J.Los, Ben Afflecks, Britney Spearses and Justin Timberlakes.