The “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” network, Bravo, also has an eye for the advertisers.
The cable net has made deals to include product placement and integrated advertising elements in several of its original reality projects.
Shows including “Queer Eye,” “Celebrity Poker Showdown,” “Manhunt,” “Blow Out” and the upcoming “Queer Eye for the Straight Girl” and “Project Runway” all have marketing hook-ups. Sponsors involved in the shows include such giants as General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Target and Banana Republic.
Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick, who has a keen eye for popular culture, said this type of advertising integration is big business for the television industry.
“It’s a sea change that we’re undergoing in terms of the ultimate direction of the 30-second spot versus embedded advertising,” she said.
Bravo shows are attractive for tie-ins, first of all because the network has a young, upscale audience, Ms. Zalaznick said. And in the case of Bravo’s flagship show “Queer Eye,” “To have people who have been established as arbiters of taste go to Target for shopping kind of plays to the mass appeal of `Queer Eye’ but also to the sort of tastemakers that find-as we affectionately call the store, Tar-zhay-to be a Mecca of hip, efficient, economical shopping.”
Thus we have the Fab Five tool around in a General Motors Denali SUV, “Manhunt” models wear Levi’s and the designers of “Project Runway” create a dress for Banana Republic.
These advertising and marketing tie-ins come in many shapes and sizes, said Ms. Zalaznick, who declined to calculate how much revenue product placement and integrated deals generate for Bravo. Some she said involve payments, while others are value-added for sponsors who buy commercials. Others are plugs for companies whose makeup and other products are used by the shows’ experts.
While some television executives and consumer watchdogs still have issues with product placements, Ms. Zalaznick has no objection, if they’re done right.
“Steven Spielberg was willing to have Elliot have Reese’s Pieces in `E.T.’ If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me,” she said. “I think that it will be a benefit to the way television gets produced because there’s an earnest need for the programmers and the advertisers to work together to achieve mutual goals.”
She hasn’t had to turn down a product placement idea. “My programmers are on the conservative side of what they feel comfortable doing in terms of an organic story for each show. And they have not had to bring to me anything they really felt uncomfortable with,” she said.
Advertisers don’t want anything that sticks out like a sore thumb either, she added, especially considering Bravo’s viewership, which she called “sophisticated” and “media-aware.”
Some highlights of the integrated advertising on Bravo shows follow:
“Straight Girl” also features a lighting mirror and a mascara brush from L’Oreal, products that aren’t backed by big ad campaigns. For that kind of item, product placement makes sense, Ms. Zalaznick said. “Over 13 episodes, four of them contain the mascara brush. It’s going to reach millions of people. It’s the right people and everyone’s going to run out and buy that without a $20 million [media] buy.”
“In the third episode these outrageous designers are given a challenge to design something that could be sold as a holiday dress in any Banana Republic from New York to Podunk,” Ms. Zalaznick said.” That’s a big deal because it says everything that Banana Republic wants to say about their brand: high-end, incredibly creative, but accessible, wearable and affordable.”
But while product placements are important, they’re not as important to Ms. Zalasnick as the quality of the show. “At the end of the day no programmer’s going to put a show on that they don’t think is going to work just because the tie-in is good,” she said.