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Question of the Day
NEW YORK (AP) - If you watch NBC’s “The Jensen Project” on Friday, you probably won’t realize how much the science fiction movie owes to toothpaste and diapers.
The science fiction movie is part of a broader narrative being written by the world’s largest retailer and the world’s largest consumer products company. It is produced and bankrolled by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Procter & Gamble Co. as the second of what the companies hope is a long-running series of family friendly programs they will bring to television.
“The Jensen Project” features LeVar Burton of “Roots” and “Reading Rainbow,” with Patricia Richardson of “Home Improvement.” The “project” is a secret community of geniuses formed to solve some of the world’s problems, and they must fight to keep a new technology from falling into evil hands.
The companies consider it a perfect movie for parents to watch with their children _ without bad language or questionable content. It is material company executives say isn’t often available.
NBC welcomes the relationship and acknowledges that it “truly is programming that the entire family can enjoy together.”
“We’re trying to increase the supply,” Stephen Quinn, chief marketing officer at Wal-Mart, said. “Our belief was that the demand was there but the supply was short.”
Their first project, the movie “Secrets of the Mountain,” aired on NBC in April and was seen by a healthy audience of 7.5 million people. It was subsequently packaged by Wal-Mart to sell in its stores as a DVD and has sold more there than any other television movie, Quinn said.
“The Jensen Project” will get similar treatment, and the DVD will be paired with a soundtrack produced by Randy Jackson with music from Jordin Sparks and others.
The companies say their own research shows their customers want more family material. What is more important is that consumers have a more favorable view of their products, and a stronger inclination to buy them, if advertisements are associated with family friendly material. And the shows counter an opposing trend: Some consumers notice if a company’s ads are seen in racy programming, and advertisers are often targeted when boycott campaigns are launched.
“You’ve heard of being judged by the company you keep?” said Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand-building officer at Procter & Gamble, which makes products such as Tide laundry detergent, Crest toothpaste and Pampers disposable diapers. “We’re judged by the company we keep.”
The companies insist they’re not trying to use their muscle to force out more adult-oriented fare. Instead, they want more alternatives for their brands. Wal-Mart says it has recently started advertising more on the Hallmark Channel, known for its family movies and reruns of such series as “Little House on the Prairie.” Procter & Gamble traditionally buys more television advertising than any other single company.
Wal-Mart is using many ways to get the word out to its customers about “The Jensen Project,” including promotion on its Facebook page and several blogs aimed at mothers, Quinn said.
Many of those customers are looking for alternatives. Family viewing is key to television’s most popular show, “American Idol.” But with scripted material, many Hollywood producers and network executives consider family friendly a synonym for dull, particularly when they’re most intent on seeking young adult viewers.
For NBC, a family movie on a summer Friday night is a relatively risk-free move _ particularly when the producers paid for making it and have guaranteed that the network will not lose money by airing it.
Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble have started the Alliance for Family Entertainment with about 40 prominent advertisers, including Hasbro, General Mills and Pepsi-Cola. They have one other movie, “A Walk in My Shoes,” that will be ready to air this fall.
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