The New Mini-Series


Stephanie is beautiful, wealthy, lives in a well-manicured suburb and is suspicious of her husband's late-night activities. She's a desperate housewife, only she hasn't been scheming with Gabby and the gang. Stephanie is in "Another Desperate Housewife," an eight-part, Sprint-sponsored commercial series for the Palm Pre now airing during the popular nighttime soap.

The ads -- which work in tandem with the messaging in the "Now" campaign from Sprint agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and media agency partner Mindshare -- have interesting collaborators: Desperate Housewives' creator Marc Cherry and his writing team, who penned the scripts. And the network is not alone in sharing show talent: Sprint is also working with NBC on a collaboration with Heroes' creator Tim Kring and his writers for a series within a series starring a new character, Lydia.

Marking one of the first times network show creators have worked hand-in-hand with their programs' advertising, the moves point to the increasing challenges of DVR penetration and keeping those watching in real time trained on flat screens during commercial breaks -- challenges obviously affecting the networks, advertisers and the shows themselves.

John Caruso, svp of TV network sales at ABC, notes the network has seen increased interest from both advertisers and show creators in taking brand sponsorships to deeper levels of show integration. "Advertisers are looking for new ways to engage with the consumer and get as close to our content as possible," he says.

Combining hybrid ads with traditional advertising amplifies the brand and helps it be more competitive, says Simon McPhillips, director of media at Sprint. "Season by season [we're] getting more and more sophisticated ... and certainly getting much closer in [our] relationship with the [show] writers," says McPhillips. "That's really the only way you can ensure seamless integration so that it's organic and natural to the viewer."

In a YouTube video discussing the initiative, Cherry explains that when the network's marketing group enlisted his help in coming up with "a whole new advertising strategy" for season six, he thought about the Taster's Choice serial ads from the '90s and wanted to take the concept "a step further" with Sprint.

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