Sci-Fi Pioneers Placement Deal

Jun 9, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Universal Television Networks and mega-agency OMD Worldwide have agreed on a precedent-setting deal that will give OMD’s clients exclusive advertising and product placement positions on Sci-Fi Channel’s “Six Days ‘Til Sunday,” a miniseries set for spring 2004.
“The agency came in and bought the entire miniseries for their clients,” Jeff Lucas, president, advertising sales, Universal Television Networks (UTN), confirmed. “They liked it from the start. Soon as we had our first meeting with them, they asked to see a script. We sent them a script and they said, `We want to own it.’ It’s the first time that I know of where an entire miniseries has been taken by an agency on behalf of their clients.”
OMD did not reply to inquiries about the deal, which is likely to be the first of a series of agency deals for entire series or miniseries in early development that UTN will pursue.
The six-hour “Six Days” miniseries, from Lion’s Gate, is a futuristic thriller set in the present in which a man has six days to prevent his own murder. Although it has yet to be specifically scheduled, the current expectation is that it will air on six consecutive nights next spring, culminating on a Sunday.
The OMD deal is the first of what UTN hopes will be several “unique model” deals, according to Kevin McAuliffe, senior VP of cross-platform initiatives, UTN. “We’re actually taking out, very proactively, across all our networks, early-stage development projects, not necessarily committed for air, literally scripts,” he said.
Currently, those projects include two more Sci-Fi dramas and two proposed Sci-Fi reality series, as well as a USA Network telefilm.
In addition, UTN is currently entertaining at least two pitches from individual advertisers with programming projects and product-integration plans that they want to “get into the hands of programmers,” said Mr. McAuliffe, who declined to identify the various projects or the advertisers.
UTN is looking to develop “unique models,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “They could be really about brand integration and about a media relationship. They could be about cofunding.”
OMD, according to sources familiar with the agreement, made a “well into seven figures” deal for the entire series on the basis of the first hour’s script and treatments for the other five hours.
Last year, OMD shocked the broadcast and advertising industries by making the first one-year, $1 billion overall agency deal with a single media company. That deal, with The Walt Disney Co, was not renewed this year. While this deal is much smaller, it appears to be another signpost on the road to increased advertiser and agency participation in the program production process.
Critical to the “Six Days” plot will be a particular package that has to be delivered on time and a pervasive cell phone. The protagonist will be shown driving a particular brand of automobile and, at one point, picking up a particular brand of rental car. There will be placement opportunities, as well, for OMD’s retail, fast food, soft drink, entertainment and insurance clients.
OMD clients that could turn up in “Six Days” include Pepsi Cola and other PepsiCo products, McDonald’s, Visa and Nissan, among others.