Advertising Gets Real

CBS’ Survivor: The Australian Outback has helped give rise to more than just non-scripted programming. It is making product integration an advertising reality as well.

Following placement campaigns on Survivor by advertisers such as Reebok, Target and Pepsi, most non-scripted series in development are offering buyers similar deals. Among them are ABC’s The Runner, Fox’s Murder in Smalltown X, NBC’s Lost, and USA’s Combat Mission.

Although advertisers still are determining how to measure product integration, most agree that the kind of placement Survivor features is valuable. “When the content of a show is impacted by a product, that’s great advertising,” said Jeff Grant, president of programming for MediaVest.

In a Survivor episode last month, host Jeff Probst offered contestants a crate of sundries, courtesy of Target, whose logo appeared on its exterior. In the following episode, Probst offered famished contestants Mountain Dew and Doritos.

Advertisers to be featured on subsequent episodes of Survivor include Anheuser-Busch, General Motors and Visa. As to the type of placement those products receive, that decision remains the client’s. Reebok has chosen to have its sportswear worn by Survivor contestants rather than offer it as a prize. “We’re not into the hard sell,” said Brett Itskowitch, vice president and group director for MediaCom, which oversaw Reebok’s involvement with Survivor.

No matter what form product integration takes, Joe Abruzzese, president of network sales for CBS, stresses that the network does not charge advertisers for it. “This is a reward for the huge commitment they’ve made to the program,” he said, noting that the show’s nine sponsors paid approximately $12 million each.

If product integration succeeds in upcoming non-scripted series, then most advertisers say CBS’ perk-type may end. “It’s conceivable there could be discussions regarding compensation for in-program integration,” said Guy McCarter, director of entertainment for OMD/USA, who oversaw both Visa’s and Pepsi’s sponsorship on Survivor.

But exactly who receives compensation may be problematic. “We get approached on a daily basis with [placement] opportunities from talent agencies, producers and studios,” said Laura Caraccioli, vice president and director for Starcom Entertainment. “If they come to me first, I don’t have to have a media commitment to get this done. So at some point, there will be a backlash from the networks.”