Eisner-Backed Teen Mystery Series Mixes Product Placement and E-Commerce

In a demonstration of the expanding relationship between Web product placement and ecommerce, viewers of a new Michael Eisner-backed online mystery series will be able to buy items they see on the Webisodes.

Called “Prom Queen,” and slated for distribution over a number of Web sites on April 2, the teen-focused series will consist of 80 shows each running 90 seconds. While viewers watch, they can purchase products they see on the set by visiting StarStyle.com, a product “contextualizing” portal owned by Entertainment Media Works.

Most of the items on the new show — including electronics, furniture and clothing — will be purchased by the series’ set and wardrobe designers who will order them at significant discount from an online “lookbook,” said Entertainment Media Works CEO Ashley Heather. Every product ordered will be tracked by StarStyle.com so that it can be displayed for sale to viewers when the episodes are shown.

“We filled the show with current products,” said Heather. “We facilitated all that … The producer and stylist have been using the lookbook to order products. They get delivered the next day and we can identify what’s been taken.”

StarStyle.com will not do the actual sales. It will direct viewers to online stores that carry the products. “We identify products,” said Dornan. “If you see a character wearing a top, you may know you like the top but not who makes it.”

Many of the items to appear on Prom Queen will be coming from Victoria’s Secret Pink, Jessica McClintock, People’s Liberation and HotKiss, companies that have “apparel relationships” with the show.

Heather and Dornan said StarStyle’s systems have been used in television, movies and music videos. Prom Queen will be the company’s first foray into offering products displayed on an Internet-distributed, serialized program, they said. In fact, they said Prom Queen is the first such program of substance to be developed for the Web.

“We facilitated all the products to be included in the shows and … our objective is to monetize this media in a new way,” said Heather. He said the program, and the StarStyle purchasing avenue, will be available on mobile devices.

“Typically, you’ll go to Prom Queen’s Web site and you’ll be able to see the program every day. Then you can click on a link if you like any products,” said Heather. Doing so will activate a StarStyle “player” which will display all available products on a scene-by-scene basis.

Heather noted the player is also being “syndicated out” to other Web sites on a revenue-sharing basis.
Despite the “apparel relationships,” Heather stressed StarStyle is not involved in the typical product placement, where product vendors pay big money to have their items shown in movies and TV shows.
“We are not necessarily trying to influence the stylist,” he said. “What we try to do is offer them a very large catalog, which is almost like walking into a store … But instead of walking into a store and spending real money, they come to our Web site.”

Prom Queen is the first production by Vuguru, an independent studio formed by Eisner’s The Turante Company, which invests in new media and entertainment companies and opportunities.

Vuguru will produce and distribute content for Web and other emerging digital platforms and, according to a statement, it’s goal is to be at the forefront of “producing high-quality, story-driven content for the Internet that, up until now, could only be found in movie theaters or on television.”

“In the past few years, the development of exciting and innovative digital media platforms and technologies has outpaced the creation of truly great content,” said Eisner in a statement. “Vuguru will produce and showcase original and third party content in all genres and formats to meet the new demands of the evolving media landscape.”

Prom Queen, which will portray the last two months of a high school year leading up to prom night, is being sponsored initially by ELLEgirl.com, FIJI Water, POM Wonderful (Pomegranate Juice and POM Tea) and Teleflora.com.

Videos on PromQueen.tv will be hosted by Veoh and viewers will also be able to see the show on YouTube.com and ELLEgirl.com.

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