MasterCard, Unilever Try New Long-Form Ad Format: Shorts

In the latest effort to devise new, more engaging advertising formats, two Turner networks are offering ad-supported movie shorts backed separately by MasterCard and Unilever.

On TNT, MasterCard will be weaved into a story about a high-speed adventure with a high-profile purchase using one of its credit cards. Called "Late: A MasterCard Mini-Drama," the two-minute cinematic vignette premieres during the film "Runaway Jury" on Saturday.

Then this fall on TBS, comes the Unilever-sponsored series of 65, two-and-a-half-minute shorts chronicling the life and loves of a vivacious twenty-something female. Known as "lovebites," the shorts premiere Sept. 13 after "Sex and the City."

The content dovetails with each of the networks' calling cards, TNT's drama maypole and TBS' comedy focus. The MasterCard concept was cooked up by its media agency GSD&M, while JWT's branded entertainment arm was involved in the development of "lovebites," which is sponsored by client Unilever's Sunsilk.



Turner is not the only programmer experimenting with "ad shorts." The new CW network promises minis it calls "content wraps" where sponsored stories could unfold over the course of an evening, perhaps in three installments.

On TNT, the MasterCard mini-drama will run during "Runaway Jury," a marquee event with a boffo cast including John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz, and on each of the next four weekends during films on TNT. Other distribution outlets include TNT's VOD channel and Web site and MasterCard's site.

"We are always looking for new and innovative ways for MasterCard to engage with consumers," said Betty Pat McCoy, senior vice president and director of national broadcast for GSD&M. "By partnering them with TNT to create this mini-movie, viewers will be rewarded with a unique entertainment experience that also delivers a relevant MasterCard message."

The mini-movie's storyline involves a man blazing around with a pile of cash on the passenger seat. The action then includes a purchase with a MasterCard and a dramatic briefcase exchange amidst a crowd. The short ends with the TNT and MasterCard logos on the screen and the tagline "Saving the Drama" - a link to TNT's "We Know Drama" mantra.

TBS' ambitious "lovebites" 13-week series (with Paul Reiser as a producer) follows twenty-something "Katie," described as "a witty, spirited girl...going through a quarter-life crisis." Over the course of the 65 shorts, Katie's comedic exploits involve her new boyfriend Max along with her sex life, career, friends, fashion and hair -- hence the Sunsilk sponsorship.

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