Called "Be Real" and scheduled for the spring, Stolichnaya will help underwrite production and present each episode without ad breaks. Co-producer Logo is part of MTV Networks, and targets a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) audience.
The effort is emblematic of two trends in the changing dynamics of television advertising. It's driven partly by viewer fragmentation and the growth in DVR-aided viewing. Advertiser involvement in production is a way to craft content as a platform for brand messages. The increasing interest in exclusively sponsoring commercial-free broadcasts is an attempt to build brand affinity via goodwill.
WPP Group's massive media-buying operation, GroupM, joined with ABC earlier this month to announce joint production on a six-episode drama, offering an outlet for GroupM clients. And this summer, TNT aired three ad-free premieres of drama series underwritten by advertisers.
Stolichnaya's involvement in "Be Real" represents the largest-ever investment targeting an LGBT audience by both the brand and parent Pernod Ricard USA, the company said.
The series is an outgrowth of a "Be Real" documentary that premiered last night and will be repeated through the series' run. Stolichnaya will also promote the "Be Real" programming via a national ad campaign, an online effort with user-generated content and other initiatives.