TV product placement deals are going to war.
For the November sweeps period, NBC has put together a marketing deal for Vietnam War-era drama series “American Dreams” surrounding Ford Motor Co.’s 2005 launch of its new Mustang, which next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the classic car.
A commercial-free special episode, sponsored by Ford and scheduled to air Nov. 21, will focus on the drama of Will Estes’ character JJ Pryor coming home from Vietnam to a family that is divided over the war. Before he went overseas his father Jack Pryor (played by Tom Verica) told him that when he returned from the war, he would buy JJ a new car. That turns out to be a 1966 Ford Mustang.
Other placement elements include a black-and-white Mustang commercial playing on a TV in the background. And there is a shot of a character flipping through a magazine and briefly showing a Ford Mustang print ad.
While the episode is commercial-free, Ford will do a two-minute intro to the episode that features a new 2005 Mustang morphing from an older model. Ford is also producing a four-minute movie to run at the end of the 53-minute show. The short spins off the “American Dreams” episode, similarly focusing on an Iraq war veteran coming home to his family.
“So here we are 40 years later, they are re-introducing the Mustang and we are re-introducing the concept of an unjust war abroad and people at home are divided over it,” said Jonathan Prince, executive producer of the show.
Mr. Prince said he wanted a commercial-free episode because he didn’t want to break from the story’s strong emotional content.
The Ford deal is not the first such marketing agreement for “American Dreams.” The show currently is doing a separate product placement deal with Campbell Soup and Scholastic magazine, where a contest, which is still ongoing, asks young students to write an essay comparing their American dream to that of their parents. A similar contest was written into the show’s story line, where high school student Patty Pryor (Sarah Ramos) participates.
Ford Motor Co. has done many commercial-free efforts in the past, including season premieres in fall 2002 and fall 2003 of Fox’s “24,” which also features product placement of Ford cars in the series. Previously, Ford sponsored the commercial-free network debut of “Schindler’s List” in 1997.