a Show From Our Sponsor
New York Times
June 12, 2008
advertisers produced TV series like “Schlitz Playhouse
of Stars” and viewers watched Barbara Walters and Ed
McMahon deliver Alpo commercials on “Today” and “The
Tonight Show,” marketers of beer and pet food are
developing programs that are centered on their products.
Dos Equis beer will present a reality series on the Mojo
HD cable network that will chronicle the search for an
assistant to a character who is featured in the brand’s
advertising campaign, a person of wealth and taste known
as the Most Interesting Man in the World.
And the Meow Mix line of cat food is underwriting a game
show for GSN, the Game Show Network cable channel, that
will test how well cat owners understand their pets —
and vice versa. With a nod to predecessors like “The
Dinah Shore Chevy Show” and “Coke Time With Eddie
Fisher,” the Meow Mix program will be titled the “Meow
Mix Game Show.”
The Meow Mix and Dos Equis ventures are additional
examples of a throwback trend that Madison Avenue is
embracing as ardently as it once did the three-martini
lunch. The trend is called branded entertainment, or
branded content, and it is intended to embed a product
in the plot of a show, hoping to making it more
memorable than it would be if it merely made a brief
appearance in a scene.
Unlike a product pitched in a commercial, which can be
skipped, zipped through or zapped, a product peddled
through branded entertainment is almost always noticed
because it is an intrinsic part of the show.
“Branded entertainment brings the experience of the
brand to the viewer, to the consumer, and does not rely
on just a commercial,” said Mitch Sheiner, vice
president and associate media director at the Dos Equis
media agency, MediaVest in New York, part of the Starcom
MediaVest Group division of the Publicis Groupe.
“Putting something on TV is easy,” Mr. Sheiner said.
“Putting something on TV that’s effective and engaging
and builds awareness — that’s the key.”
The Dos Equis series, called “MIA: Most Interesting
Assistant,” is to run for five consecutive weeks on Mojo
HD, starting in late August or early September. Those
interested in being considered for the real job of being
the assistant to an imaginary character can fill out an
application at a Web site (staythirstymyfriends.com/jobs),
which is named after the theme of the Dos Equis ad
campaign, “Stay thirsty, my friends.”
The “Meow Mix Game Show” is scheduled for taping in late
August, to be shown Nov. 15. Auditions are being held in
eight cities for cat owners and their pets. The first
will be held in Chicago on Saturday, and auditions will
continue through early August in cities that include New
York, Denver and Los Angeles.
Big cups bearing the brand’s logo will be on the judges’
tables at the auditions. The gesture is intended as a
wink at the branded Coca-Cola cups that are omnipresent
on “American Idol” on Fox, said Joe Tuza, vice president
for marketing at the Meow Mix parent, Del Monte Foods in
“We like being able to be developers of the content,”
Mr. Tuza said, “versus being a sponsor of a show or just
running a 30-second commercial.”
At the same time, “we’re not making every question on
the show have ‘Meow Mix’ as an answer,” he added. “The
trick is to make sure there’s a fine balance between
self-serving and having content that’s interesting to
That is also a goal of the Dos Equis effort, according
to executives at the Heineken USA division of Heineken,
which markets the brand in the United States.
“As we explore branded content,” said Kheri Holland
Tillman, vice president for marketing for the Dos Equis
and Amstel Light brands at Heineken USA in White Plains,
the most important issue is to determine “how you get
your points across without hitting viewers on the head
with the brand.”
A decision was made to orient the series so that “we’re
using the Most Interesting Man in the World to reach our
consumer,” she added, “as opposed to the brand itself.”
Executives at the networks that will carry the Dos Equis
and Meow Mix programs say they welcome the emphasis on
“That is, from the beginning, our biggest challenge and
our biggest focus, to have a show that’s interesting to
our viewers, even if they’re not familiar with the Dos
Equis campaign,” said Emilio Nunez, vice president for
programming at Mojo HD in New York, which is owned by a
consortium that includes Comcast and Cox Communications.
“If there’s a Dos Equis in every shot, no one will be
happy,” Mr. Nunez said. “If we do not inundate people
with Dos Equis messaging, we would have accomplished
Jamie Roberts, senior vice president for programming at
GSN in Santa Monica, Calif., owned by Liberty Media and
Sony Pictures Entertainment, said: “The key thing is,
it’s got to be entertaining. If I’m not entertaining the
viewer, it’s failing Meow Mix and GSN.”
Each of the five episodes of the Dos Equis series will
run 30 minutes. The host will be Shannon Cook, an
actress and news personality, and production is under
way. There will be commercials during each episode, Mr.
Nunez said, but, of course, no spots for rival beers
will be accepted.
The “Meow Mix Game Show” is scheduled as a single show.
That format echoes a previous foray by Meow Mix into
branded entertainment, when it produced a show called
“Meow TV” in 2003 for the Oxygen cable network.
The sole commercials during the game show will be from
Meow Mix, Mr. Tuza of Del Monte Brands said, but rather
than sell the product, they are meant to “educate you on
how to be a better pet parent and how to better
understand your cat.”
Those commercials will also run on GSN from August
through the premiere of “Meow Mix Game Show.”
As is often the case with branded-content initiatives,
the shows have multiple parents.
The Meow Mix show involves, in addition to Del Monte
Foods and GSN, five other partners.
Grand Central Marketing, which has worked on several
branded-content concepts for Meow Mix, conceived of the
show and is an executive producer along with David
Doyle, a former executive at the Animal Planet cable
TracyLocke, part of the Omnicom Group, is integrating
content related to “Meow Mix Game Show” into other
marketing for the brand. TracyLocke is the creator of
the current Meow Mix ad campaign, which carries the
theme “Think like a cat.”
Starcom, which is also part of the Starcom MediaVest
Group, made the deal with GSN in its role as the Meow
Mix agency for media buying. And Agency.com, a unit of
Omnicom, is creating content related to the game show
for the Meow Mix Web site (meowmix.com).
The Dos Equis series involves, in addition to Heineken
USA, MediaVest and Mojo HD, two agencies that are owned
by Havas: Euro RSCG Worldwide, which is creating the
campaign featuring the Interesting Man, and Euro RSCG
4D, which is bringing the campaign to the Internet with
the stay-thirsty Web site.
Sony Pictures Television in New York, also part of Sony,
which is the national advertising sales representative
for Mojo HD, was another partner.
“The brand, the message, the programming fits the
channel,” said Amy Carney, president for advertiser
sales at Sony Pictures Television in New York, because
Mojo HD, like Dos Equis, is aimed at men in their
mid-20s and into their 30s.
“The idea is not to make a 30-minute infomercial,” she
added, “because that would not be interesting to the
Notice that the people involved with a beer whose
character is the Most Interesting Man in the World have
figured out a way to brand their sentences by using the
word “interesting” a lot.
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