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Bravo Maps Ad Plan for ‘Battle’

Jul 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

NBC Universal-owned Bravo, which has been active in product placement in its original reality-based pop-culture programming, will feature product integration for advertisers Verizon and 7Up in the upcoming “Battle of the Network Reality Stars.”

The show, which launches Aug. 17, pits 32 stars from 16 shows, including “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race” and “The Apprentice,” against each other.

While “Battle” was a natural for product integration, it wasn’t created as a vehicle for the practice, Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick said. “We’re not creating the show for the advertisers,” she said, adding that doing so successfully would be virtually impossible.

Still, she said, the network is trying to think about integrating earlier in the program development process. “The smoothest integrations happen that way,” she said.

Before a show is announced as going onto the schedule, “We vet it out at the early stages to determine, Is this something we would want to take out as an integration opportunity, or does it play better as ‘pure television’?” said Kevin McAuliffe, VP of branded entertainment for the NBCU Cable Entertainment Group.

“Given the programming that Bravo has out there, so much of it lends itself to these kinds of discussions and opportunities with our client base,” he said.

Mr. McAuliffe declined to say how much advertisers pay to have their products on the show. Each deal is structured differently with the client and the producer, making it difficult to tally how much money product placement generates for the network, he said.

In all of Bravo’s deals, the placements come in addition to buying a schedule of traditional media.

“The lion’s share of the business is still media,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “Integration is a big driver for the brands who see that as opportunistic for additional exposure, or a new way to use a launch platform or a way to create an event around their brand.” On “Battle of the Network Reality Stars,” Verizon will be the title sponsor of the second-to-last competition event-the tug of war-which will be branded The Verizon Tug of War. During the event, a Verizon flag will mark the point where the winning team must drag the losing team.

Verizon is planning an initiative emphasizing its broadband services, and Bravo is discussing content it will provide for a new Verizon Web site. Mr. McAuliffe said Bravo plans to post instant replays from the series on both the Verizon site and Bravotv.com, providing Verizon with content.

During the show, announcers will tell viewers that the replays can be seen on the Verizon site. “It should drive people to the broadband site to see the Verizon offering and what the site’s about,” he said.

The reality stars will drink 7Up Plus, a new beverage containing fruit juice, during the competition.

“[7Up was] looking for opportunities where people were looking for a nice cold drink,” Mr. McAuliffe said. The client “liked the way the show updated the whole pop-culture aspect.”

7Up Plus was made available to the cast and crew of the show, which was shot in California.

One incident that occurred while shooting turned into an opportunity to integrate the client’s product, Mr. McAuliffe said. The show includes a mechanical bull riding competition, and at one point one of the female stars took a fall and hurt an eye. A 7Up Plus chilling in a nearby tub was used as an ice pack on the castmember’s injury.

Advertisers are often sensitive about the way their clients’ products are used, so Bravo checked with 7Up to make sure the client was comfortable with the scene. It was.

“Battle of the Network Reality Stars” is a project of particular interest to Ms. Zalaznick. The original “Battle of the Network Stars” that began in 1976 marked “the high point of three-network television,” she said, adding that she wanted to update it as an homage to “try to prove that 25, 30 years later in the land of 100 networks-yes, there are real stars-and bring them together.”

Some of the participants are from Bravo shows, including Duncan Nutter from “Showbiz Moms & Dads” and Wendy Pepper from “Project Runway,” who end up competing against one another.

The show will also have celebrities who appeared in the original “Battle of the Network Stars,” including Jimmy (“J.J.”) Walker and Loretta Swit providing commentary.

Bravo also had integration elements in the second season of its reality series “Blow Out.”

Sprint was the official phone of the series, which was extended from six episodes to seven, plus a reunion show. When the series was extended, Sprint scrambled to return its phones to Jonathan Antin and the other stylists, Mr. McAuliffe said.

The network had meetings with Sprint and the shows producers to help with the integration process. Sprint executives listed the features of the phones they wanted highlighted, and the producers did what they could to showcase them within the natural arc of the show’s plot line.

In the show, one of the stylists was a gamer and was shown explaining how to play classic games such as Pac-Man, on the Sprint phone. Another stylist’s sister had a baby, and the phone was used to transmit video of the child.

Not every product placement on Bravo is bought and paid for. On “Being Bobby Brown,” Whitney Houston’s husband uses Preparation H to reduce swelling under his eyes after a long night.

“I never would have thought of that,” Mr. McAuliffe said.