Celeb Chef Stars in Holiday Recipe Vids, Sponsor at His Side

Celeb chef Tyler Florence will be roasting chestnuts and glazing profiteroles online in a series of holiday recipe videos on FoodNetwork.com, with sponsor and sidekick Calphalon at his elbow all the while. The brand association is not the simple in-show product placement one might expect — though the companies do that too — but rather a series of “how to” video clips featuring the cookware seller’s products deployed in the service of seasonal dishes.

Tyler’s Ultimate Holiday Menu Planner” lets visitors plan a holiday meal from start to finish by accessing 27 recipes in any combination they choose — or they can surrender control, allowing Tyler to align entrées with appetizers and desserts. The application has two layers of video. “There’s Tyler, the guide on the site, helping you walk through it. Then there’s Tyler in the kitchen,” said Robert Holzer, president of Syrup, the New York agency that created the application.

Florence’s cooking lessons will be interspersed with in-stream :15 spots — one for every two or three videos played — but the more interesting monetization piece is the integrated content. When a visitor calls up a Tyler vid, the site will suggest one or more sponsored clips in the space adjacent to the video frame. Clicking one of these will pause the primary content until the sponsor video has played out, at which point the original lesson will resume. The Calphalon guides tackle kitchen basics like “How to make a roux” and “How to sear and caramelize.”

The online sponsorship is part of a cross-platform deal with Scripps-owned Food Network, which also includes on-air spots and a retail promotion. MasterCard is a second sponsor of the Web content, but won’t offer videos of its own.

“Our goal is to buy a mixed media plan that would lay one piece on top of the other,” said Adam Rockmore, Calphalon’s VP of marketing. “Consumers are absorbing media in many ways. At Food Network, [online] is a good augment. It can help hit the same people in a different way.”

Rockmore added the mix of formats, talent and cooking styles provides “a diverse kind of online experience, both from a consumer standpoint and from a client standpoint.”

FoodNetwork.com is the most popular U.S. site in the food and beverage category, according to both comScore and Hitwise. It received 8.8 million unique visitors in October and has a third more users than second-ranked foodie site AllRecipes, according to data comScore shared with ClickZ.

The tight integration of the sponsorship content with Tyler Florence’s videos is part of a macro trend toward custom marketing solutions on the part of TV networks’ online operations. Peter Naylor, head of digital sales at NBC Universal, spoke about the phenomenon at Ad:tech in New York last week.

“We’re becoming agencies. The advertisers are becoming content providers,” he said, adding that he believes a day will come when marketers won’t be able to buy separate TV and online packages. “You buy the program on all platforms. When people say, I want just TV, I say you can’t buy just TV, you buy all of it.”

Fully integrated sponsorships are still problematic though, partly because of the abundance of broadcast inventory relative to online. “There are 20 commercials in a program, and only one or two advertisers can buy the Web site or the blog or the mobisode. The supply just isn’t there yet,” admitted Naylor.

FoodNetwork.com is preparing two new Web video series for 2007 in the spirit of the Holiday Menu Planner.

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