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'Apprentice' pioneers integrated ads

Variety - Los Angeles, CA, USA - In episode one, "Meet the Billionaire," which originally aired Jan. 8, 2004, eight-member teams Versacorp and Protege went head to ambitious, young, entrepreneurial head on the streets of Manhattan in a quest to see which could generate the most cash selling lemonade.

It was just lemonade -- neither Sunkist nor Countrytime nor any other citrus beverage company, had anything to do with it. And 18.5 million viewers -- the seventh most for any series that week -- drank up this dignity-defying spectacle, as 31-year-old venture capitalist David Gould became the first contestant on NBC's "The Apprentice" to get fired by Donald Trump.

In the ensuing weeks, the reality competition skein's brandless innocence would begin to slip away, as the narrowing field of contestants competed in tasks ranging from selling Marquis Jet cards to managing a Planet Hollywood.

According to "Apprentice" creator-exec producer Mark Burnett, these early sponsorship deals were merely structured to cover production costs. "We only used real businesses because we had to fill up the show," he explains, noting that such sponsorship served the producers' needs for locations and settings to build tasks around.

Belying the purity of these stated intentions, however, was Burnett's previous success with selling integrated ads on "Eco Challenge" and "Survivor."

"'Survivor' only got sold because (CBS topper) Leslie Moonves understood the value of integration," Burnett concedes. "I've been doing this a long time. I understand how to provide added value to sponsors." With "The Apprentice," Burnett not only had a show that drew an audience that was more upscale than most reality programs, but here was a skein about selling ... with a star that was perhaps the most iconic salesman in America.

While "American Idol's" thematic structure limited its opportunities to mere product placement, "The Apprentice" would build its story arc around brands, with even their corporate reps invited to come on the air and judge the competitions.
Source : Originally Published Variety - Los Angeles, CA, USA, Mar 19, 2008

Categories : The Apprentice, Celebrity Marketing News, Celebrity Advertising News
Posted 3/19/2008 03:03:20 AM | Permalink
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