North Face Treks Into TV Series

Blazing Paradigm’s Branded Expeditions Shows to Air on NBC
SAN FRANCISCO-Blazing Paradigm makes its TV programming debut with a series of hour-long shows on NBC tied to outdoor apparel maker The North Face.
The 27-person San Francisco agency has created The North Face Expeditions, five one-hour documentary specials hosted by rock star Sting and featuring North Face-sponsored outdoor athletes. The opening segment of each show is presented on a set designed by the agency to highlight the client’s name.
The weekly series began Sunday night. The shows are being promoted by NBC Sports.
“The TV series is a centerpiece of the company’s branding strategy for 2000,” said Sam Pond, agency creative director. Based on NBC’s projections of expected viewership, agency executives estimate the project’s reach is comparable to a traditional ad campaign with a
$20-30 million media budget.
“Also, we are getting consumers’ attention for an hour rather than 30 seconds,” said Pond.
The series was produced in partnership with John Wilcox of American Adventure Productions. All content was approved by the client.
The branded programming was sold to the network at a discount, and NBC is providing ad space to other advertisers during the shows, said agency and client executives.
“We sought to make the show honest and authentic,” rather than overly commercial, said creative director Ron Walter. Among the trips documented are back-country skiing in India, wall climbing in Pakistan and rock climbing in Madagascar.
The concept grew out of in-store videos by the agency that were based on the brand’s theme of exploration. Research showed consumers found the videos inspiring and perceived the company as an expedition outfitter, as well as an apparel maker. The TV series is meant to build on that brand cachet. “We call this strategic entertainment,” said Walter, “where the walls between advertising and popular entertainment blur.”
The project comprises about one-third of the estimated $10 million North Face ad budget.
The client has struggled of late, with sales slipping 3 percent for the year and 24 percent in the third quarter, compared to 1998.