'24' spinoff deal no sweat for Fox


NEW YORK -- Unilever's Degree Men has announced a multiplatform marketing deal with 20th Century Fox Television's hit series "24" that includes two original online short films, TV ads and an online animated series prequel with "24"-related themes and creative content as well as in-store promotions tied to "24" DVD releases.

The online short films follow the adventures of Jason Blaine, a rookie at "24's" CTU and a new character created for the campaign. The films, which can be viewed on a new interactive Web site, www.CTURookie.com, will be turned into a series of six episodic national TV spots with "24"-esque cliffhanger endings that will air on Fox networks. The films and the first spot debuted this week to coincide with the Season 6 premiere "24."

MindShare Entertainment, the branded entertainment arm of Unilever's media agency Mindshare and production company Science + Fiction, created and produced the films and TV spots. In order to give the content the "look and feel" of "24," they hired Rodney Charters -- "24's" director of photography who has helmed previous episodes of the hit show -- as director. Various members of "24's" key production crew and stunt coordination teams also were involved.

"We wanted the creative content to be produced in conjunction with a lot of key people at '24' to make sure the experience and the final result was authentic," said David Lang, senior partner, director of programming at Mindshare Entertainment. Lang, who was executive producer of the short films along with Science + Fiction president Kevin Townsend, said Fox Studios allowed them to shoot on the CTU set and use many of the show's key signature elements "from the clock to the sound design to the box-in-box format."

At the conclusion of the season, Degree Men will present "Day Zero," an online flash-animated prequel to "24" that will delve into the events that took place before the series began. It will be produced by Fox Studios, with animation by digital content studio Icebox. Degree Men will not be integrated into any of the content, but rather will have "Powered by Degree" branding on CTURookie.com and Degree branding on the TV spots.

"The creative idea was what really got our attention," said Amy Lorbati, vp worldwide promotions at 20th Century Fox licensing and merchandising. "It was a really interesting opportunity to do something really unique. They had an interesting vision for something beyond your normal promotional tie-in, and they were really dedicated to making it as authentic as possible."

Unilever is paying Fox undisclosed licensing fees for the rights to create the "24"-themed content. The deal, which includes a large media buy on Fox networks, was negotiated by MindShare Entertainment and MindShare.

Sam Chadha, marketing director, deodorants, at Unilever, said the high-stakes world of "24" was a "perfect fit" for Degree Men, a brand that is about "men embracing challenge and risk."

The deal involves in-store promotions around the release of "24" DVDs this year.

"24" has been proactive in striking branded entertainment and interactive marketing deals with advertisers. Last week, Sprint Nextel said that it will be providing its subscribers with exclusive sneak peaks of episodes of "24" this season, while Sprint phones and Nextel walkie-talkie phones will be featured throughout the series (HR 1/12).