'Band' plays on with free placements

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Dismal ratings are not the only surprise from Fox's "The Next Great American Band," the latest reality show produced by "American Idol" powerhouse FremantleMedia North America.

In its first three weeks on the air, "Band" has placed first, second and fifth on Nielsen's list of the top 10 broadcast shows with the most placements, but not one brand has had to pay yet for its integrations, according to sources close to the show. This from a company known for commanding the highest fees on television for integrations, including more than $30 million in media and placement from each of its three main "Idol" partners — Coca-Cola, Ford and AT&T.

Even before the minuscule ratings became apparent — the show drew just 2.6 million viewers and a 1.1 rating/3 share among adults 18-49 in its most recent airing — only one advertiser, Garnier Fructis shampoo, cut a paid integration deal with Fremantle. While a green room modeled after the color, look and feel of the Garnier Fructis "Rock Your Style" music Web site has appeared on the show, there will be just two episodes that clearly feature the Garnier Fructis brand, which has made music a part of its brand since its inception. The first of those episodes is scheduled to air Friday.

In contrast, Marshall Amps, which said it wasn't even contacted by Fremantle about its use in the show, was the most frequently placed brand in all three episodes so far. It tallied 147 occurrences for a total of 599 seconds, or nearly 10 minutes, in "Band's" first airing Oct. 19. Marshall, with its brand logo clearly visible, even appears in many of the show's publicity photos as host Dominic Bowden and judges Ian Dickson, Sheila E. and John Rzeznik pose with the stackable, popular amps.

"While we're pleased that we're part of the show, we weren't completely surprised," said Leslie Buttonow, a spokeswoman for Marshall USA. "The benefit of having a popular brand with a lot of cachet is that sometimes it will naturally find its way into a product placement situation."

Although Marshall Amps are widely used in the music industry, and it might be tough for a show to command top dollar before it's proven itself in the ratings, it is still quite a high-profile integration for a brand paying nothing, especially from a proven integration team like Fox and Fremantle.

According to Nielsen, "Band" had a total of 265 placements that lasted an astounding 1,401 seconds, or more than 23 minutes, in its Oct. 19 premiere; 197 placements for 1,050 seconds in its Oct. 26 episode; and 176 occurrences for 1,008 seconds Nov. 2. Marshall was the most-placed brand in all three episodes.

A majority of the other brands placed in the first three episodes also are musical instruments and equipment, obviously critical props for the show. Still, if the tide somehow turns and "Band's" ratings significantly improve, it's certain Fremantle and Fox will be able to command fees from brands for the rights to be featured.

But so far, that's not looking likely. "Band" regularly finishes fifth in its Friday 8 p.m. slot.

"We'd like the ratings to be better, but they're not," said Kris Magel, senior vp at Zenith Optimedia, who orchestrated the deal for Garnier. "As a partner, the Fox and Fremantle folks will work with us to make sure we feel comfortable that we got the right value out of this."
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