Sunday, January 25, 2009

'Trust Me' me on TNT - branded entertainment at its best

Creative executives, Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny are part of the team responsible for creating "Trust Me", a series premiering tomorrow on TNT. The authenticity is provided by the fact that both have worked at agencies like Leo Burnett, JWT and Y&R.

Now, what does this mean for all the brands competing with each other in every possible media in every possible way? Can we hold the television viewer's attention in today's fast paced touch-screen dominated world? Let's hope so, for Unilever's sake. Apart from being one of the sponsors of the show, Dove hair care products are actually being woven into the story-line. Which of course is no big deal since the show deals with brands and products anyway.

And that is why big brands like Apple, Chris-Craft boats, Effen vodka, Green Giant, Hallmark, Frosted Flakes from Kellogg’s, Nike, Pillsbury, Potbelly Sandwich Works and Starbucks have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon. Not all of them have the luxury of being the focus of an episode, some are merely being mentioned or or in-film brand placement as we know it.

To balance out the heavy dose of real brands, the show also has a few imaginary products like Arc Mobile Cellphone Service. But is that enough to ensure that the series maintains its distinct flavor and doesn't become lost in a sea of brand promotions? In order to preserve its individuality, the script of the show may sometimes deviate from what the sponsors prefer.

According to the Jan 21, 2009 New York Times - David Rubin, United States marketing director for Unilever hair brands in Chicago is fine with it. “What is so central on any branded integration,” Mr. Rubin said, “and I’ve worked on a bunch, is that with the ones that do it right, the brand’s involvement adds to the story being told without usurping the storyteller’s job.The show has to be great entertainment for me to succeed in doing what I’m trying to do.”

True, and given the premise of the show, it will be fairly impossible for it to be anything other than entertaining. Having worked in an advertising agency including two of the three mentioned above, I can safely say that no advertising firm can dare to be boring. Ego clashes, weird fashion choices, creative temperament, hard-to-please bosses and unreasonable client demands...all add in making an ad agency unlike any other.

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