Plugging in the TV

Advertisers say product placement is alternative to spots
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The wall between advertising and editorial is a-tumblin' down, and Madison Ave. suggests we'd better get used to it.

A panel of leading advertisers told NATPE attendees on Wednesday that product placement, along with movies and programs that are co-produced by the Coca-Colas of the world, is the wave of the future. The normal 30- and 60-second spots for products may be a thing of the past.

"What we now talk about in terms of commercial advertising, what we call interruptive messaging, is probably going to be, in the future, the least efficient way to build a relationship with consumers," said TBWA President Bob Kuperman on the NATPE panel, "When the Advertiser Turns Producer." "In the future, you probably won't know where the commercial stops and the programs begin."

Product placement in Survivor
by Reebok, Christmas movies sponsored by General Motors, Nestlé and Coca-Cola, and even scripts paid for by major advertisers are now becoming the norm in Hollywood and Manhattan.

Three years ago, a dozen top advertisers formed The Forum for Family-Friendly Programming, a funding initiative that puts advertiser money behind and into the development of shows deemed appropriate for family audiences. The forum was founded by an executive at Johnson & Johnson and last year developed eight scripts with The WB. The WB turned those scripts into four pilots, and, last fall, Gilmore Girls
launched on the network with promises of ads from many of the nation's top advertisers. This year, CBS and ABC have joined forces with advertisers as well and, come September (if there is no strike), each of the big networks will probably also have its own variation of Gilmore Girls.
"What is very important here is that we give a strong message to the writers and to Hollywood that we are demonstrating our commitment and they are assured support from America's most powerful brands," said Warner-Lambert's Kaki Hinton. "Without our advertiser dollars, those shows won't stay on the air."

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