July 23rd, 2008

USA Revs Up Product Integrations for Top Performers

By Richard Tedesco
PROMO Magazine

USA Network is pushing multi-platform product integrations in the second seasons of two of its top-performing series, “Burn Notice” and “Starter Wife.”

“Burn Notice,” about a blacklisted spy trying to sort out the reasons for his sudden termination, will feature a black Saab 9-3 convertible in its story line on air and in a separate online narrative this season. It’s part of an ongoing relationship with General Motors: a Cadillac played a role in the drama in its inaugural season.

In October, “Starter Wife,” about a divorced woman seeking to recover real romance in her life, will feature four product integrations on air, online and in mobile platforms. The product categories are mobile phones, beauty aids and financial services, according to Alexandra Shapiro, USA senior vice president of brand marketing and digital.

“Starter Wife” featured Pond’s last season in a six-episode run that also had an online component. It will return for a 10-episode run this season. It was the top-rated new cable series among 18-to-49-year-olds.

“When you have multiple touchpoints, that’s where the most interesting and innovative ideas can come to life,” Shapiro said.

“Burn Notice” began a nine-week run two weeks ago, and operating features of the Saab 9-3 will figure prominently in the plot line of two episodes.

An online game, “Covert Ops” challenges players to take on nine spy missions in helping characters solve a case at http://www.BurnNoticeOps.com. Those who complete the nine missions become eligible to win the grand prize of a Saab 9-3 or one of 50 pairs of Oliver People sunglasses—the kind worn by “Burn Notice” protagonist Michael Westen.

USA is aiming to create more multi-platform product integrations, pitching enhanced ROI to prospective advertisers for products that fit. Ultimately, Shapiro aims to develop a plot line integration that plays back and forth on two platforms.

“A real home run would be for something online to further the narrative on air,” he said.

The “Burn Notice” online integration was conceived by Los Angeles-based Omelet, with USA and Saab collaborating on the story line.

The Saab integration is aimed at an upscale 25-to-54-year-old demographic. The show’s season premiere drew 2.7 million viewers, which USA claims was the second highest audience for an original cable series this year.

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