Gillette drives trend to engage TV viewers with shows, not ads

With the advent of digital video recorders like TiVo and paid (and commercial-free) downloads, consumers are able to avoid TV ads with the push of a button.

With the advent of digital video recorders like TiVo and paid (and commercial-free) downloads, consumers are able to avoid TV ads with the push of a button.

Now, marketers are taking an extra step to go above and beyond technological capabilities to organically deliver their messages sans commercials.

USA Today recently reported marketers creating shows in lieu of commercials to please TV watchers who don't want their shows interrupted by ads. Procter & Gamble's Gillette brand, with advertising agency BBDO, produced and co-created the ABC prime-time reality series Fast Cars and Superstars: Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race, airing this summer. Gillette paid ABC for the airtime in which the seven-episode series will run.

The series pairs celebrities like Jewel and William Shatner with six young NASCAR drivers, dubbed the Gillette Young Guns, one of whom is last year's NASCAR Nextel champion Jimmie Johnson. The Young Guns will coach the celebrities, who will compete in time trials.

Why does it matter?

Viewers will not see any shaving or grooming shots typical of Gillette ads. Instead, they'll see Gillette-branded cars and the Gillette Fusion logo on the celebrities' fire suits, notes Kelly Vanasse, Gillette global external relations director. Gillette also brought in such sponsors as, Kroger, and Sam's Club.

"Marketers essentially have to figure out a way to get their message across to target consumers such that they are engaged and entertained - and will repay you by brand purchase and loyalty," says Vanasse.

 "With programming like this, consumers appreciate the entertainment and will associate that appreciation to the brand that brings the entertainment to them," she adds.

"We're seeing a blurring between advertising and entertainment," Steve Fund, Gillette marketing director, told USA Today. "It's a new business model."

Five facts:

1. USA Today also reports that Coca-Cola is weaving its brand name into programming through an exclusive sponsorship deal and product placement with American Idol.

2. Bombardier Recreational Products produced a 10-part ESPN2 adventure series for about $150,000 per episode, compared with $381,000 for a 30-second national ad.

3. NBC's The Apprentice showcases such marketers as Levi's, Mattel, QVC, and Crest in the competitions to become the next disciple of Donald Trump.

4. ABC in March greenlighted a pilot based on Geico's Caveman ads. The Wall Street Journal reported that Geico would get a royalty fee, but have no creative input.

5. The Washington Post reported that a study by Nielsen Media Research showed Apple's products were mentioned or viewed 250 times in a four-month span on TV shows.

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