Surprising Development: ABC Unveils New TV Ad Formats, Reminiscent Of Pop-Ups

The most dramatic part of ABC's program development meeting in Los Angeles yesterday wasn't a new lineup. What intrigued media buyers was watching real commercials double as part of show content.

Showing how to retain viewers during spots, ABC said it was considering inserting commercials "seamlessly" into program scenes. For example, in "According to Jim," a real commercial would appear in the living room TV of Jim and Cheryl's suburban home. That real commercial would then run full-screen.

To those who attended, ABC used 10 examples--all comedies, such as "Ugly Betty," where commercials would pop up out of media props such as TV, cell phones, and print ads in magazines. It used marketing messages of automotive, beverage, and sinus remedy brands for its sample reel. "It's an interesting idea," said Shari Anne Brill, senior vice president of program analysis for Carat USA, who attended the meeting. It's like a vignette, she said--but wondered "if writers and producers will help them pull this off, and allow [them to change their program content]. I imagine more powerful producers would say, 'no way, Jose.'"

On Tuesday, Mike Shaw, president of advertising sales and marketing for ABC, said the net was working on ad efforts that would keep viewers watching commercials--not tuning out or turning to other networks. Speaking at the Association of National Advertisers' Television Advertising Forum in New York, Shaw didn't reveal any details.

ABC did emphasize, however, that this new commercial approach is a work in progress.

In addition, Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, discussed some development ideas, but showed no video. ABC also brought the new cast for the proposed spinoff of "Grey's Anatomy," starring Kate Walsh and Taye Diggs, to the meeting--but offered few details.

ABC announced yesterday that it was picking up 14 shows for the 2007-2008 season, including "Brothers & Sisters," "Men In Trees," "Ugly Betty," "The Bachelor," "Boston Legal," "Dancing with the Stars," "Desperate Housewives," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Grey's Anatomy," "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Lost."

These shows were added to the list of three series that were previously announced: "America's Funniest Home Videos," "Supernanny" and "Wife Swap."

An ABC spokeswoman said this was one of the earliest and most extensive pickups of shows for a new season the network has ever made.

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