Brandtique: Hershey's, 'Project Runway'

A recent "Project Runway" could have carried the title "Kids in a Candy Store." Assuming there's room for the truth to be fudged a bit (pun intended).

The Bravo reality competition features would-be Valentinos battling it out to win an array of prizes for their designing wizardry. Designers on the show are given random materials to spin something together each week.

On Jan. 2, they were taken to the Hershey's store in Times Square and given the chance to rush through the emporium and collect as many giant bags of candies and related items (pillows and the like) as they could. There were Kit Kats, Kisses, Reese's, Twizzlers and more. Then, they went to work.

As with "The Apprentice"--where corporate marketing executives are given a star turn in episodes featuring their brands--"Runway" did the same, with a Hershey's Vice President, Michelle Gloeckler, welcoming the contestants to the store she called "the sweetest place in New York."

A mix of camera shots follow with a palate of Hershey's brown, Reese's orange and Twizzlers' red on display (one of the top product placements of the week, according to measurement firm iTVX.) "I'm so excited to go to Hershey's," said one contestant. "It's chocolate, and how can you not want to make things with that sort of, like, magic, magic, magic?"



As the designers then plied their craft--turning wrappers and pillow cases into dresses--there were many more shots of brand iconography. Most of the contestants turned to material from the flagship Hershey's brand.

One, however, chose Twizzlers. And her contrarian pose didn't stop there. Despite a competitor concluding that "real food is not practical," she took it a step further by knitting actual licorice twists together into a red outfit.

Did the red--or brown--lead to any green for Hershey's? Or in marketing-speak, did the intended organic brand integration drive viewer engagement that yielded noticeable ROI?

Possibly. Reason being, product placement arguably works best when a back-bench brand is thrust onto the front burner. Twizzlers would fit that bill.

"Runway" airs Wednesdays--and surveys would likely show it attracts a highly "engaged" audience. Some probably opted for the Twizzlers instead of the M&M's or Junior Mints at the movies the next weekend.

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