EDITORIAL: Survivor sponsor Macleans looks to have the best deal

Survivor, the much heralded 'reality TV' gameshow, faced a reality

check itself this week when it remained sponsorless just two days before

the first episode was due to air.



The last-minute arrival of Macleans Complete Care, the

GlaxoSmithKline-owned toothpaste brand, will have put a smile back on

the faces of the ITV executives who had confidently spent the past few

months hyping the arrival of the show.



It is also a brave move - and that's meant in a good way - by Macleans.

The brand has stepped in where others feared to tread, committing a

hefty chunk of budget while many advertisers chose to remain

risk-adverse in a flat market. The sponsorship, GSK's biggest ever,

could turn out to be the deal of the summer, as reality TV returns to

our TV screens with a vengeance.



Survivor will go head-to-head with the second series of Big Brother,

which begins on Channel 4 on May 26. The reality TV genre has proved a

success and the schedules are now more cluttered with me-too versions

that have failed to deliver the anticipation or the audiences of the

first-generation shows (Analysis, page 18 to 19).



The risk that Macleans has chosen to take is that audiences may return

to the tested format of Big Brother. On the other hand, figures from

Media Planning show that in Spain and the Netherlands, where two series

of the show have already run, audience ratings fell by 20% and 25% on

the first series. In this context the fresh offering of Survivor, which

has already been a storming success in the US, is more likely to achieve

the status of 'talked-about TV'.



Whatever the final outcome, ITV has every right to be disgruntled at

advertisers' anticipation of the show. Carlton could have sold the

sponsorship better, giving more details of content and broadcast times,

but the fact is that ITV has achieved success with Who Wants To Be A

Millionaire and delivered a 50% share of the 18- to 24-year-old audience

with Popstars.



With this record there is no reason to suspect Survivor will be anything

other than another pearl in ITV's 'event TV' portfolio - and still the

potential sponsors stayed away.



There is still the possibility of buying in to the ad breaks of

whichever reality show turns out to be the most popular - and that is

undeniably the safer option. But the real success stories are those that

take a gamble and win: Southern Comfort spent a mere pounds 1m

sponsoring the first series of Big Brother; T&T went from being a barely

known soft drinks producer, to achieving 48% spontaneous brand awareness

after backing Popstars.



Macleans deserves to repeat the success of these sponsors - for being

creative and committed to building its brand where others are just being

cautious.



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