Sponsors an Integral Part of TBS’ ‘My Boys,’ ‘Engvall’

Jun 8, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Advertisers on TBS are getting involved in some funny business.
Mobile phone provider Alltel Wireless has signed on as promotional partner and sponsor of “My Boys” in a deal that creates an integrated promotional campaign featuring characters from the series talking about Alltel.
Drive-in restaurant chain Sonic and insurer State Farm will have their products and messages integrated into scenes of “The Bill Engvall Show.”
Both series return to TBS with original episodes this week.
Television networks have been getting advertisers to commit more ad dollars to their channels by offering deals that include brand integration, product placement and multiple platforms.
That’s attractive to advertisers who worry that digital video recorders are draining some of traditional TV’s marketing might and want their ad dollars to work harder.
The Turner Broadcasting networks were early adopters of this strategy, and they will be able to do more such deals as they expand the amount of original programming they air.
“We certainly reserve these types of very custom special opportunities for our best partners,” said Katherine Johnson, senior VP of Turner Entertainment Promotions & Marketing..
Both of these integrated marketing efforts emerged from buys made during last year’s upfront, when TBS was producing spots for Chrysler’s new Town & Country model using talent from “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” according to Ms. Johnson.
During meetings with Alltel, Turner executives found Alltel would be continuing to push its My Circle features, “so we thought, ‘What a natural fit with ‘My Boys,’ a show about a big circle of friends,” Ms. Johnson said. “We said, ‘Let’s try to get the cast to participate in something and create a customized piece of content for you.”
The mobile phone company bought it.
“These vignettes on ‘My Boys’ on TBS are a perfect match for Alltel, as the show focuses on staying close with your circle of friends and family, which is the primary benefit of our My Circle calling feature,” said Laura Cook, senior VP of marketing communications at Alltel Wireless. “This creative brand integration will allow viewers to learn more about My Circle and the freedom and value it provides, allowing customers to call those most important to them for free.”
(Last week, Verizon Wireless agreed to acquire Alltel for $28.1 billion, plus the assumption of $22.2 billion in debt. If the deal closes, it will be long after the spots air.)
TBS’ production team created three 30-second spots Turner is calling “integrated promos,” because in addition to promoting Alltel, they also have a tune-in message for “My Boys.”
Each spot features one of the show’s actors, with Jordana Spiro, Kellee Stewart and Kyle Howard participating. In Ms. Spiro’s spot, she jokes about how she lets her friends think she’s got fewer spots in her circle than she actually has, to motivate them to work harder to earn a place on her phone.
The spots will run 50 times on TBS over the series’ 13 weeks, with many of them appearing during episodes of “My Boys.” Some spots air in normal commercial inventory; others appear in TBS’ promotional time.
The spots also will appear on the Facebook page Alltel has created for its spokesman “Chad.”
The show’s creator, Betsy Thomas, weighed in on the spots, written by the Turner promotion team.
“We wanted to keep it in the spirit of the show, make it kind of tongue-in-cheek and humorous and play off the way they give each other a hard time,” Ms. Johnson said.
Ms. Johnson declined to say how much Alltel paid for the program, but noted the client paid the production costs.
Getting the actors to appear in the spots, for which they get paid, wasn’t too difficult.
“Our talent enjoys working with TBS and TNT as networks. They really trust us because we treat talent very well, and we respect them and their time, and I think that they know that by participating in programs like this it only helps with the success of their show,” Ms. Johnson said.
In addition to spots, Alltel will be featured in other tune-in messages appearing in episodes of “My Boys” all season long.
On the “Engvall” show, both clients’ integrations revolve around the central family’s son Trent, played by Graham Patrick Martin.
In an episode airing next month, Trent will talk about taking his date to a Sonic; he will come home with some frosty beverages from the restaurant. Sonic cups will decorate the set in a few episodes.
“For any brand now, there is a recognition that you have to stick out,” said Sonic Chief Marketing Officer Todd Townsend.
The “Engvall” show is set in the South and features the type of family that patronizes Sonic, Mr. Townsend said.
“Having our brand integrated into that environment, and not just have it be a gratuitous logo, we think is important to round out our marketing mix, along with our traditional advertising,” he said.
While integrations may look expensive on a cost-per-thousand-viewers basis, Mr. Townsend said their real value is in how the brand is seen by the people watching the show.
“We think that integration is a very efficient and effective part of our ad spend,” Mr. Townsend said, adding that as a growing advertiser, networks are eager to provide Sonic with integrations and other value-added opportunities.
Sonic also goes back a ways with Mr. Engvall.
“Bill has been a big fan of Sonic for a number of years, because we’ve traditionally been located in the south central, southwest, southeast [U.S.],” Mr. Townsend said. “Bill has even performed at a couple of our conventions. He’s a fan of ours, we’re a fan of his.”
A later episode of “Engvall” will focus on Trent learning to drive and other challenges for a family dealing with a teenager, allowing the show to address teen driving, a key issue for insurer State Farm.
“State Farm didn’t want to be mentioned traditionally,” Ms. Johnson said. “What they wanted to do is be surrounded by messaging about safe driving.”
Throughout the episode, a promotional tune-in spot for the show sponsored by State Farm will air. The spot was created by Turner and features the show’s cast in clips from the series. The clips focus on humorous exchanges about parents’ issues with their teens, including driving.
“To do it with humor and in a less overt way is probably a really effective message to send to families and to teenagers,” Ms. Johnson said.
Both Sonic and State Farm will be a part of Turner’s tune-in efforts throughout the season as well.

(Updated 16th, 34th paragraphs)


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