'Grown Ups' getting more than a little play during the NBA Finals

Posted on Mon Jun 14 2010

If Grown Ups doesn't open huge at the box office, it won't be the NBA Finals' fault. Or maybe it will. The cast of the Big-Chill-meets-bathroom-humor flick has been relentlessly plugging the movie's June 25 debut during every game, via a deal between Sony/Columbia Pictures, the NBA and ABC. Cast members Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, Kevin James and Rob Schneider have appeared in a series of on-air vignettes, the type that marketers and TV networks love to do, especially during sports programming, to juice those media buys. The comedians have been shown sitting around waxing philosophical about basketball, pro players and camaraderie. (See, they're all really good friends and they hang out together. It has nothing to do with shilling!) And there are trailers galore, most containing a pee joke. Several of the stars have shown up courtside, too, and that's likely to intensify as the game moves back to the Staples Center in L.A. for game 6 on Tuesday. The NBA Finals do provide the right demo for the comedy, but let's not forget that this exposure alone isn't enough to put Grown Ups into The Hangover territory (as much as Hollywood needs that kind of a hit). After all, the movie that sucked up a lot of air time during last year's finals? The giant bomb, Year One. 'Nuf said.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Soap fans getting majorly melodramatic over demise of SoapNet

Posted on Fri May 28 2010


Erica Kane's airplane just took a nosedive on ABC's once-great, now-middling soap All My Children, but that's nothing compared to what's about to happen to the network's sister cable channel, SoapNet. It's going bye-bye. For good. And excuse the well-worn expression, but hell hath no fury like a soap fan scored. First, a bit of background: Parent company Disney just announced it will take over SoapNet's space on the TV dial with a 24-hour preschool channel. Instead of reruns of General Hospital and One Life to Live, viewers will be "treated" to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jungle Junction when the network transforms into Disney Junior in 2012. (Maybe it really is the apocalypse?) The bottom line for business, obviously, is that soaps are aging and dying (as are their fans—sorry!), and there's much more upside to a cable net dedicated to tots and their tchotchke-demanding ways. Inculcate them early, and they'll be Disnified for life, or so the thinking goes. Soaps, on the other hand, don't sell a lot of swag, even if you count the Erica Kane Barbie doll (yes, there is one). SoapNet, for its part, is trying to be upbeat about it all, with a chatty glass-half-full feature on its homepage. "You get 18 more months of SoapNet," it says, towing the company line. Fans, meanwhile, are having none of it. "I am totally disgusted and appalled by this decision," says one. "This bites," says another. Diehards are threatening to boycott Disney and/or start some viral campaign to keep the network. I hate to tell them they're probably swimming upstream, but go ahead and vent, fanatics. It might be more satisfying than counting the Lost rip-offs in All My Children.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

iPad's 'Modern Family' cameo worth close to $1 million for Apple

Posted on Thu Apr 8 2010


Who says you can't put a price on publicity? The Apple iPad product placement in last week's episode of the ABC hit sitcom Modern Family might've been free, but it sure was worth a chunk of change. Joyce Julius & Associates estimates the iPad hauled in some $650,000 worth of television exposure and another $250,000 from print and Internet stories about the extensive integration. The episode, dubbed "Game Changer," centered on goofy gadget-lover Phil Dunphy and his lust for getting an iPad for his birthday. He did end up with one—he even got to blow out the virtual candles—but not until his family went to extreme lengths to secure the coveted e-tablet. (Faking a terminal illness was involved.) The iPad had nine name checks in the show and appeared on screen for 37 seconds, the research firm said. (A few of those were in the final scene, when Phil stroked his new iPad and professed his love—out loud.) The Apple name itself, in addition to being the Dunphy household's computer brand of choice, had nine seconds of face time and one verbal reference, according to the research. About 9.5 million people watched the show, during which Apple bought no ads. If it had, it would've needed to cough up $130,388 for a 30-second spot. No need for that, though. As usual, Apple wins again.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Apple's iPad gets 30 minutes of love from ABC's 'Modern Family'

Posted on Thu Apr 1 2010


All of geekdom is salivating over the launch of the iPad this Saturday, and nerdy Phil, one of the main characters on ABC's hit sitcom Modern Family, was no exception in this week's episode, dubbed "Game Changer." In fact, the self-described early adopter, whose birthday on the show coincides with the debut of the coveted tablet, says that "Steve Jobs and God" must've gotten together to make his special day even more special. One of the episode's main plots revolves around the wacky pursuit of an iPad after Phil's wife oversleeps and misses the initial batch, which sold like hot cakes in the wee hours. So, yes, there's a lot of very valuable product placement that the device doesn't even need. I'm convinced Apple paid nothing here, simply giving a nod to the writers to liberally sprinkle in iPad references and glam shots at will. Expect this to be the first in a long line of iPad cameos on TV series. In this case, it certainly fits with a character that fans have come to love as a techie who'd be crushed without the newest must-have gadget. And when he finds out that his son put out the word that he was dying in order to score an iPad, he'll be OK with it.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Disney/ABC executives cast as glorious new Marvel characters

Posted on Mon Mar 15 2010


Taking a wild stab here, but I'd say nary a day goes by in Hollywood that some executive doesn't think of himself as a superhero, saving the entertainment world by casting Taylor Lautner in every single movie and then releasing them all in 3-D. But thanks to Fast Company and artist Kirk Manley, some honchos will actually make the move into spandex. The magazine has done some clever illustrations that put Disney/ABC executives in classic Marvel comics. (The former company bought the latter in 2009, and there have already been suggestions about mashups of the two titans' characters. This is the first I've seen of the suits getting in on the game.) Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the masterminds behind the cult-favorite series Lost, appear as Thor and Hawkeye; Captain Iger, the cartoon version of president/CEO Bob Iger, shows us how he'll "unlock video content forever" (with a shield and multiple distribution platforms, of course); and new film-studio chief Rich Ross leads with his optimism (and adamantium claws) in X-Factor. Pixar's Brenda Chapman has to be pleased with her va-voom makeover as the Invisible Woman, and Disney/ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney makes a fetching Spidey. See all the pictures here.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Marketers totally geeking out about final season of ABC's 'Lost'

Posted on Mon Feb 1 2010


The final season of ABC's Lost is upon us, and it seems marketers are very interested. Anheuser-Busch is preparing no less than two nods to the show in its Super Bowl ads—a thematic parody in one spot; and in another, a cameo by François Chou, who plays Lost's mysterious Pierre Chang, aka "Marvin Candle." Now, Kayak, the online travel site, has apparently given a much more subtle nod to the show. Last week, CNet dug up a $4,839 flight from Sydney to Los Angeles … on Oceanic Airlines. That, of course, was the doomed flight that our Lost-ies took way back when. Asked about this easter egg, Kayak CMO Robert Birge professed ignorance. "It's a complete mystery to us," he wrote in an e-mail to BrandFreak. "We're investigating to see if there are any more 'ghosts in the machine.' " Hmm. Could this be the work of the Dharma Initiative? Or has Birge been listening to too many Police albums?

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

'Modern Family' cameo a great deal for warehouse chain Costco

Posted on Mon Oct 12 2009

Ikea might be starring in some cool guerrilla webisodes and the indie rom-com (500) Days of Summer, but it's not the only big retailer getting a wet kiss from entertainment producers. Warehouse chain Costco scored prime exposure in last week's episode of the new ABC sitcom Modern Family, when shopping snob Mitchell learns about the store through his sensible partner, Cameron. (Flip ahead to 2:30.) When you're one-half of a dink (double-income-no-kids), you don't need to know about places like Costco. But baby changes everything, and the gay couple have a newly adopted infant. When Cameron stops for diapers at the mega-store, designer-duds-wearing Mitchell predictably turns up his nose. Until he steps through the door, of course, and goes nuts at all the bargain prices for stuff he never knew he needed. His cart overfloweth! The husky Cameron sums it up: "I'm sort of like Costco. I'm big, I'm not fancy, and I dare you not to like me." The marketer couldn't have said it better. The must-watch show, by the way, has been averaging 10.5 million viewers an episode and has just been picked up for a full season.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Jamie Oliver's U.S. reality show should be tasty for advertisers

Posted on Mon May 11 2009

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Look out, Oklahoma City, Miami and El Paso. You might get your Hollywood close-up because you're among the fattest cities in the country. But what should be your shame could end up being a boon to marketers, especially ones hawking healthy products.
  There's a new reality show in the works for ABC that will make over some of the country's fast-food-addicted exercise-averse locales. (Miami, according to the widely referenced 10 Fattest Cities report in Men's Fitness, has 141 percent more ice-cream shops than the average place; only 17 percent of Oklahoma City residents eat their fruits and veggies; and public recreation areas are practically nonexistent in El Paso.) The show, from Ryan Seacrest Productions, is an outgrowth of chef Jamie Oliver's series in which he reformed some school lunchrooms in the U.K. Oliver will attempt a similar feat with entire U.S. cities known for their sedentary, overweight populaces.
  Since happy-ending reality shows are a hot spot for brand integration, look for a gaggle of marketers to try to squeeze into the as-yet-unnamed series. They'll have some serious catching up to do, seeing as NBC's The Biggest Loser usually tops the recall charts for embedded marketers like Kraft, Subway and Quaker. Any way you slice it, pounds shed + lives changed = buff brands.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

ABC wants to hear your borderline-criminal stories of parenting

Posted on Tue Mar 17 2009

Oh, girlfriend! Remember the time you sent your kid to school with a wine cooler in his lunchbox? Or when you drove away with his coat stuck in the door, left on vacation without him and fed him ice cream for dinner? Instead of calling social services on you, the producers of the upcoming ABC sitcom In the Motherhood plan to thank you on national TV for your negligence. They're asking you to submit your absent-minded screw-ups on the show's Web site. If yours gets picked to be part of an episode, you'll be called out on air, thus holding up your parenting "skills" for all to see. (There's one on the site now with the title, "I ironed my daughter's hands!" Which, we're just guessing, won't pass the funny test.)
  In addition to soccer moms' foibles, the comedy will also embed Unilever's Suave beauty products and AT&T gadgets in its stories. (Suave is running a related ad campaign with the tagline, "Motherhood isn't always pretty.") In the Motherhood, created by brand integration veterans Mindshare Entertainment, makes the leap to TV on March 26 after two seasons on the Web, also with Sprint and Suave's sponsorship. Despite having some deep pockets behind it, don't expect to get paid for those horrifying story ideas. Public humiliation is its own reward.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Soap-opera fans feel bloated after a month of Campbell's Soup

Posted on Tue Mar 3 2009

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Soap operas are full of evil twins and amnesia victims. But there's some real-life stuff in there sometimes. But what happens when there's too much real life—i.e., a month's worth of product placement for heart-healthy soup and fruit juice? The fans get pissed.
  ABC's All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital spent much of February not-so-subtly touting the American Heart Association's "Go Red" heart-disease awareness campaign with its brand partner, Campbell Soup Co. The effort included characters suffering heart attacks, a bunch of "Go Red" fashion shows and fancy balls, cameos from Campbell execs (which we mentioned earlier), and frequent in-show mentions of V8 Fusion juice drinks and Healthy Request low-salt soups. Fans quickly got tired of it all. Blogged one: "It made me long for the days when sitcoms used to have cans of soda marked 'soda' as to not give any undue plugs to real name brand products." Another was more blunt: "I love that Campbell's has made ABC soaps its biach for the month of February; it's just so ridiculous and hilarious."
  This is after the ABC/Campbell partnership made Soap Opera Digest's "worst of 2008" list (this isn't a first-time deal) and caused a fan to ask why last year's integration didn't "just put a picture of whatever crappy Campbell's product they want me to buy in the lower left-hand corner of the screen throughout the show." The ABC soaps, which, like all daytime dramas, have lost considerable amounts of viewers over time, saw a bit of an uptick in viewership for the just-ended February sweeps. So, the placements may have hiked the fans' blood pressure, but not enough to change the channel.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley



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