‘Passions’ Product Pitch

Jul 28, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Pushing product placement into its plotline, the NBC soap opera “Passions” will integrate Avon’s new cosmetic line “mark,” targeting young women, into at least three episodes as part of a multitier advertising partnership which includes product commercials on the same shows.
Sheraton Kalouria, senior VP, daytime programs, NBC Entertainment, admitted there is a risk of product integration turning viewers off because it seems like a blatant advertisement. “It’s something we’re cognizant of,” he said. “Given the good nature and sense of fun that `Passions’ exhibits in each of its 250-plus episodes a year, our audience is more forgiving of this than someone else might be.”
This is not the first time a soap has struck a deal with a beauty line. ABC incorporated Revlon into an “All My Children” storyline last year, but it was widely considered unsuccessful because it put in Revlon in a negative light, as a rival to Susan Lucci’s popular Erica Kane character’s business.
Deborah Fine, president of Avon Future, said Avon worked closely with “Passions” producers to make sure that mark was woven into the story in a way that was mutually beneficial to them. “[The product] can fit seamlessly into the characters’ lives,” Ms. Fine said. “If it did not feel seamless and realistic it would not have worked for either of us.”
With new technologies such as TiVo allowing viewers to skip commericals, more media companies are experimenting with product placements. “Passions” has featured JCPenney and the ept pregnancy test in placements before. Mr. Kalouria said the key is to space placements out over time so it doesn’t turn off viewers.
The first episode mentioning mark airs Aug. 11, with two more airing in the next three weeks. “These coincide with mark’s media buy on `Passions’ on those days,” Mr. Kalouria said.
The cosmetic line will be mentioned in situations such as the character Jessica Bennett (played by actress Danica Stewart) telling her mom that she found a great way to make money for college by selling mark cosmetics. One episode will show the women in the fictional town of Harmony receiving the “meet mark magalog,” which is a combination magazine and catalog from which customers can buy mark products. The episodes will also feature key mark products.
The purpose is not just to sell products, either. It is also to help recruit a youthful new sales force for Avon Cosmetics, which for many years sold its entire beauty line door to door.
With the current lagging economy, mark gives high school- and college-age women a chance to start their own businesses and make money, Ms. Fine said.
“The sell of the message isn’t just, `Hey, here’s a new line of cosmetics,”’ said Mr. Kalouria. “With mark, where we are really their No. 1 partner is in recruiting the first wave of mark representatives. That is not a message that is as easy to get across in a 30-second spot.”
The media buy by mark also includes ad time during “Passions” and “Days of Our Lives” and a “real estate exchange” with the magalog, Mr. Kalouria said. “Passions” will get a page of advertorial in the magalog, with distribution between 13 million and 16 million. “We designed an ad that introduces Jessica Bennett to the mark consumers in the same way that Jessica is introducing mark to `Passions’ viewers.”
On the days that mark is a part of the show, it will also be part of the “Passions” bonus online. Each day the show will put extra behind-the-scenes information about mark on its Web site (www.nbc.com/passions), including a link to the meetmark.com Web site.
Mr. Kalouria would not comment on the overall value of the deal.
Integrating Beauty
The idea for a partnership with mark came out of the programming and marketing divisions at NBC. “Beauty and glamour are two of the defining characteristics of daytime soaps,” Mr. Kalouria said. “I felt there was an opportunity to integrate into our story line a beauty brand.”
Ms. Fine said “Passions” appealed to the company because of the show’s strength in the college market. “Passions” is the No. 1 soap among teen girls and the No. 2 soap among women 18 to 34.
“It is important for us to align with partners that are as world class in their areas of expertise as we, Avon, are in ours,” she said. “It seemed like a very natural match in terms of the exposure we could bring them and the exposure they could bring to us.”
This is not the first time “Passions” story content has been used to sell merchandise. For example, the soap created a tie-in novel in 2001 called “Hidden Passions.” “We mentioned that book more times than there are pages, but it worked,” he said, noting that the book ended up on The New York Times Top 10 best seller list for seven weeks.
NBC left it up to producers and head writer Jim Reilly to decide how to integrate mark into the show and wouldn’t have done it if the producers weren’t comfortable with it, Mr. Kalouria said.
Having a character become a mark representative was a natural fit, executive producer Lisa de Cazotte said.
“When you look at the trends, young girls love makeup, they love accessories and this Avon mark line has everything to do with that,” she said. “It offers a great opportunity for kids to get out, make some money and have a job. It seemed like a real fun, hip thing to get involved in.”
The mark product line will be introduced to the general public in TV and print campaigns the week of Aug. 10 and internally at Avon at its convention in Orlando, Fla., July 31 to Aug. 1. Ms. Stewart, who plays Jessica, and two male actors from “Passions” will be at the convention to help launch the line.
The door is also open for mark story line to continue past the three episodes already planned.
“So long as they keep spending money with us we’ll keep hearing about it in stories,” Mr. Kalouria said.
If the relationship with mark doesn’t continue, that’s not a problem for the writers-Jessica could always quit her job. “She can move onto something else,” Ms. de Cazotte said. “Girls are very fickle.”