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Stealth Advertising Offers New Ways to Reach Consumers - 2003-05-26

To the high-tech world now. With so many TV channels and technology that allows viewers to speed past commercials, advertisers are seeking new ways to reach consumers. Brian Purchia has more on this.

This is the Hollywood premiere of Ticker. It's a short film, eight and a half minutes, and the star is a car. BMW is out with a series of these short films featuring well-known celebrities.

"We never quote MSRP or sticker price or factory rebates or so on."

But make no mistake, these films are commercials. Jim McDowell is Vice-President of Marketing for BMW.

"We really hope that people will have a wonderful entertaining experience and if they do they might go to bed at night dreaming about a BMW."

“What do you think of the movie? And the cars…” “The cars are nice.”

The pitch is part of a new trend in advertising based on the theory that marketing is most effective when it isn't recognized as such. Take the new James Bond movie.

007 drives an Aston Martin car. Halle Berry gets a T-bird. Together they push a record 20 products in the film and the deals are reportedly worth 120 million dollars to the studio. Product placement agreements like these are skyrocketing.

"This is our prop center."

Terra Hanks works for the marketing company that owns this warehouse in Los Angeles. It is stocked with everything from Miller beer to Lucky jeans. Directors come here to decorate their sets.

"I think there's a real fragmented media market and so this is one of the tools that corporations can use to break out of the clutter."

On the U.S. soap opera All My Children, the line between advertising and entertainment is even fuzzier.

"This really is a dream job. Revlon is paying for my whole wedding."

In a groundbreaking deal the cosmetic company Revlon paid the network ABC to be part of the storyline. Gail Sullivan, ABC Daytime.

"As long as it's done tastefully and it's not obtrusive to what you're viewing I think it's the route that everybody is going to be looking at in order to stay alive."

While the network is worried about the bottom line, critics like Gary Ruskin of Commercial Alert are concerned with what some call the "brandwashing" of America.

"What we're seeing is a nation a overcome by ad creep which is the creep of ads into every nook and cranny of our lives and culture."

Check out this street scene

"Excuse me, sorry. Would you take my picture."

Seems innocent enough. But these tourists are actually actors hired by Sony Ericcson to promote their new combination cell phone camera.

"It's incredible man, check this out. You look in there and you just press the button."

It's called stealth marketing, and most people have no idea that they are the subjects of a sales pitch. It can happen on the street, or in a crowded bar.

“Lisa, I'm Mickey nice to meet you, Mickey I'm Sara. Sara.."

A simple introduction can lead to a product demonstration in a matter of moments.

"So how do you take a picture? You just, hold on, see, look."

The idea is to create buzz to build demand. Marketers are constantly scanning the crowd for trendsetters to give their product to. It could be a free car, or sneakers, or Reebok's new line of exercise wear that comes out next spring. Nancy Chew is giving Reebok gift bags to stylists hoping they'll spread the word.

"If I'm successful you'll be running down Ocean Ave. wearing my sports bra."

In the movie Josie and the Pussycats, Hollywood made fun of all the marketing. The movie’s villain said we're going to turn your world into one giant TV commercial. These days that doesn't seem too far off.