The Los Angeles Times: Reinventing online ads

October 31st, 2011

The Los Angeles Times
By Dawn C. Chmielewski
October 31, 2011

British television producer Mark Burnett turned program financing on its head a decade ago when he brought brands like Doritos and Mountain Dew as sponsors into the expensive, prime-time reality series “Survivor,” helping to defray costs.

“Survivor” is considered a watershed in paid product placements, opening the floodgates to a projected $2.75 billion in spending this year on such shows as “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” WWE’s “Monday Night Raw,” “American Idol” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” Before “Survivor,” brands got promotional placements in exchange for use of a prop, such as a car, or as a bonus for buying commercial time.

Burnett is now trying to bring that formula to the Web through his investment in the Vimby digital production studio. The Van Nuys venture launched in 2005 with a network of filmmakers around the country who create original, short-form videos for Vimby’s website that now also may find a home on other sites including YouTube and Myspace. As part of Burnett’s investment in 2010, Vimby began rubbing elbows with such major advertisers as Aflac, General Mills, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Pepsi and Puma — helping these brands create their own content for distribution on YouTube or on a company’s Facebook page.

“Mark Burnett said, ‘Guys, we need to build an arsenal, a bigger toolbox, working with General Mills, with Pepsi, doing stuff in a way that’s consistent, authentic and involves great story-telling,'” Vimby founder and Chief Executive Dean Waters said of the digital studio’s expanded focus.

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