U.S.A.:'24' includes 6-minute F-150 film-ercial
By Michael McCarthy, USA TODAY
Broadcast TV networks like Fox, NBC and ABC are putting on their director's hats and entering the short film business. Fox and Ford are teaming up to air a six-minute short film starring the new F-150 truck around Tuesday's premiere of 24, the hit drama starring Kiefer Sutherland. NBC recently premiered the first of a series of one-minute movies, or "1MMs." ABC is putting the finishing touches on its own "Micro" miniseries project. The network will air 10 three-minute films during prime-time programming.
Short films are the latest example of the convergence of commercials and content. Networks and marketers hope entertaining films will stop viewers from flipping channels during commercial breaks — or zapping them completely with digital video recorders such as TiVo. Critics charge, however, that things like advertiser-sponsored flicks are "stealth advertising" that blur the lines between ads and programming and can deceive viewers.
The Ford film from JWT Detroit, called "The Donation," mimics 24 with its own spies, car chases and kidnapping. The mini-movie runs for 31/2 minutes at the start of the show and 21/2 minutes at the end. As part of its estimated $100 million marketing campaign for the F-150, Ford is paying Fox to show the rest of the 54-minute series premiere commercial-free. NBC and ABC are also taking the serial approach. NBC aired the first half of its first film starring Carmen Electra and the Pussycat Dolls during Will & Grace; the rest during Coupling. ABC will divide its mini-comedies into three parts and show them over the course of an evening. The network got more than 370 submissions from writers before selecting 10 to put into development.
"It's all about keeping viewers tuned to shows," says Jean Rossi, president of integrated sales for Fox Entertainment Group. Rich Stoddart, marketing communications manager for Ford Division, says broadcast networks are "being more creative" with things like sponsored films. "We thought the cable networks would come to us first. But it's really been the broadcast networks that have stepped up to the plate."
The goal of Ford's drive-in movie is to win over consumers by showing them a long-form ad that's entertaining in its own right, rather than the typical 30-second ad, according to Tom Cordner, chief creative officer of JWT. "You know people are tuning in to watch 24, they're not tuning in to watch commercials," he says.
Ralph Nader's Commercial Alert recently asked the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to make TV networks and stations disclose what it calls "embedded advertising" on TV, including title placement, product placement, product integration, paid representatives and virtual advertising. "TV networks and stations regularly send programs into American living rooms that are packed with product placements and other veiled commercial pitches," wrote Commercial Alert in its petition to the FCC.
Ford will have product placement in 24 but deliberately avoided deals like making F-150 the show's "official truck" due to concerns that consumers might be turned off, counters Stoddart. "We think that might be stepping over the line. In the world of 24, there are other vehicles that people drive."
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....