Project Runway to Introduce Ad-Supported Voting

If that dress on Project Runway is hideously awful, more people in more markets will be able to click their remote to say so, following a deal with four separate cable providers and Bravo, the show’s network.

NBC Universal, which owns the Bravo cable channel network, announced yesterday it has signed on competing cable networks Cox, Charter, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, to enable their customer’s set-top boxes to interact with viewers during the fashion designer reality contest show. Viewers of Project Runway Season Four, currently airing Wednesday nights, will be presented with interactive overlays during each episode to answer trivia questions or vote for their favorite designer or outfit. The overlays are sponsored by Brother International Corp., which is the official sewing machine sponsor for Project Runway, and has a product placement deal with the show.

While the collaboration involving the four cable providers and Bravo is still officially a trial run, as only customers in select areas will be able to access the features, advertisers shouldn’t miss the importance of four cable providers joining together in a common advertising goal, said Alex Dudley, a spokesperson for Time Warner Cable.

“We believe in this technology and the importance of working with it all in concert. That’s the gist of this demonstration. That individually we’ve all used some of the similar technology and bringing it all together really demonstrates the possibility of some real synergy here for advertising partners,” said Dudley. Advertisers making a national buy want to make sure ads look and feel the same across cable companies — an obstacle this initiative is intended to address.

The same interactive sponsored elements will be made available to the show’s viewers using Cox in Phoenix and Tucson, AZ, San Diego, CA, and Las Vegas, NV; Charter in Los Angeles; Comcast in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach, FL,; and Time Warner Cable in Greensboro, NC. Up until this initiative, viewers from only one cable provider at a time participated in voting.

Brother has branding deals with Bravo for Project Runway, including its logo placed on the clock overlooking the sewing room that ticks down time for the show’s contestants. It was impressed enough with the collaboration of the cable providers to sign on for exclusive sponsorship of the overlays, according to Carolyn Woodside, marketing coordinator, for The EGC Group, the advertising agency of record for Brother.

“This was proposed to us from Bravo and it sounded like a great deal that was too great to pass up. It’s relatively new and we try to keep them competitive that way. The fact that they brought so many different markets together probably influenced us more to participate in this opportunity since it does reach so many households,” she said.

Woodside also noted that as television viewers are increasingly using DVR devices like Tivo and others to skip advertisements, Brother is eager to reach consumers in new and more subtle ways than standard television commercials.

“If they are fast forwarding through our commercials, at least they will see our branding one way or the other,” she said. “As these companies come up with better ways for advertisers to get involved, the better it is for us.”

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