A-List Advertisers Reconsider Reality

The kids are watching reality shows, and why not? They don’t require close attention, and there is much flaunting of primal urges such as sex, power and material gain. And because the kids love ’em, notoriously nervous mainstream advertisers are starting to like them, too—or at least to avoid them a lot less.

“Reality shows bring in more 18-34 viewers, who are light TV viewers and may not usually be watching TV at all,” said one media buyer.

After the first episode of Fox’s Joe Millionaire set some time-period ratings records for adults 18-49 and 18-34, big-brand advertisers started buying into the show, said Jon Nesvig, president of sales for Fox Broadcasting. There was some apprehension from advertisers before the show debuted, he acknowledged. But now some marketers have declined their veto power, allowing their ads into the show as part of make-goods, while others have bought time in scatter.

Among the advertisers appearing during the first month’s episodes of Joe Millionaire: McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Chili’s, Visa, MasterCard, Chrysler, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the U.S. Army, Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Along with increased advertiser interest, the networks are also enjoying “a big opportunity to get these younger viewers to sample some of our other shows. They are tomorrow’s viewers,” said Mike Shaw, sales president for ABC, which has had back-to-back successes with The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

Shaw believes advertisers no longer view reality shows “as one ubiquitous mass” and are willing to look at each program more carefully. He noted that for the March debut of its reality/variety show All American Girl, ABC has signed three major sponsors in deals that include product integration.