The season premieres of two series on Viacom’s TV Land will include, for the first time, live commercials delivered by cast members of the shows. “Live commercials were once a mainstay of television, and radio before that, as were what were known as cast commercials, spots that featured stars of shows, frequently still in character playing the parts from their programs. They were staples when marketers and agencies owned the series and controlled the content as well as the ads,” said a NY Times story. “Both types of commercials virtually disappeared after the 1960s, when the sponsorship model was phased out in favor of the networks holding the programming reins and selling spots 15, 30 or 60 seconds at a time. Now they are making a comeback of sorts as part of the trend known as content marketing or branded entertainment as advertisers seek to weave sales pitches into shows to make ads more appealing — or, at least, less annoying — to consumers.”
TV Land is presenting live episodes “Hot in Cleveland” and “The Soul Man,” with characters crossing over between the shows. The episodes will also include two live cast commercials.
One live commercial, for the Toyota Highlander, will appear during “Hot in Cleveland” and be delivered by the principal cast members: Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White. The other live commercial, for Bush’s Grillin’ Beans, will come during “The Soul Man” and be delivered by a star of that series, Niecy Nash.
Viewers will be able to watch the two commercials live along with the two shows in the Eastern and Central time zones, from 10 to 11 p.m. ET and 9 to 10 p.m. CT. In other time zones, the commercials and the shows will be taped, as will the rest of the commercials in the two episodes.
There will also be a live presentation during “Hot in Cleveland” of a branded integration for eHarmony: not a commercial per se but rather a paid inclusion of eHarmony in the plot of the episode, said the story.
This will be the second live episode of “Hot in Cleveland,” following one on June 19, but the first time a live episode will include a live commercial. There has not previously been a live episode of “The Soul Man.”
For the “Hot in Cleveland” initiative, scheduled during the first commercial break in the show, Toyota is working with TV Land and Brand Arc in Los Angeles, a branded entertainment agency.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” said Michael Davis, chief operating officer of Brand Arc. “We like the show, we have a good relationship with Viacom and this live commercial is unique, trying to enhance the viewer experience instead of interrupting it, making the product more of a character.”
For “The Soul Man” effort, scheduled during the second commercial break in the show, Bush is working with TV Land; Doner in Southfield, MI, part of MDC Partners; and Empower MediaMarketing in Cincinnati.
RBR-TVBR observation: If these are done right, they will be extremely powerful. It’s a win-win, because viewers will not view them as an interruption; they will pay full attention to the messaging and will be much more motivated to buy than a regular spot. In return, we’re sure Toyota, Bush’s Grillin’ Beans and eHarmony paid TV Land handsomely. Of course all live shows have their inherent risks, but we’re pretty sure these seasoned actors and actresses will do just fine.