BROOKE GLADSTONE: And now an entirely new concept in TV production from the people who brought you Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It's called Live from Tomorrow, a live variety news and entertainment show aimed at young people. What's new is that it won't need commercial breaks, because the sponsors are built right in as part of the show. Movies, music, high tech gadgets will all be featured and extolled organically, say the producers who are currently pitching a 6 episode run next summer. Matti Leshem is executive vice president of Diplomatic, the production company for Live from Tomorrow. Welcome to the show.
MATTI LESHEM: Thank you very much.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Describe if you will exactly how the advertiser will fit into the programming.
MATTI LESHEM: I'll use an example. We just saw a brilliant line of new cell phones coming out from Sony Erickson. They're really revolutionary. They have cameras in them. They do all kinds of amazing things. We might play a game with a hundred people who will come down to the studio. We will give them the brand new Sony Erickson phone that has a camera in it and we will allow them to go on a scavenger hunt through America, which is sort of a mini-reality show, with the help of their friends on line and they have to photograph fantastic landmarks throughout America as part of the game, and the person who photographs in the most creative, artistic way will win a prize. This is a show that says here's an interesting product. We're interested in it. We think you'll be interested in it. And here is a way for you to look at it that you might find appealing.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Which also increases credibility since most people as we know tend to regard commercials rather skeptically.
MATTI LESHEM:There's good reason. Commercials are there for the sole purpose of selling you a product. The idea with this is it's not Consumer Reports. We're talking about, you know, a new device that happen to be really unbelievably useful; has a new technology in it that we haven't seen before [...?...]-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Matti, Matti-- unbelievably useful -- or maybe not! I mean you don't necessarily have best product on the program. You have the advertiser on the program.
MATTI LESHEM: That's an interesting point. Right now there aren't any other phones out there with cameras, but Motorola I hear is going to come out with one. This is not a, a show that is here to say this is the best product and you should buy it. The great thing about this is that we don't have to take every advertiser. There are a lot of products that I think wouldn't work in the show. Also, not everything that you're going to see in the show is a product! This show is going to have a heavy musical component in it--
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Yeah, but they're all products. Their records, their CDs. We understand that this would replace the network commercials, but what distinguishes your approach from product placement?
MATTI LESHEM: Well it's actually quite different. I mean product placement is usually with few exceptions pretty inorganic. The bag of potato chips or Doritos in Survivor sort of seems like it doesn't really fit. Like what's it doing there in the middle of this island? What we've tried to do is actually build an organic script around product.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It's like a lot of children's cartoon shows have been doing for years.
MATTI LESHEM: I'm not sure that's a really apt analogy. People haven't really created shows around the ideas of a product and what it can do.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Actually though, you have certain cartoon shows that basically feature the toys as the principal characters.
MATTI LESHEM:That's true, and those exist. It's very hard for me to explain why it's different other than to say there's something very blatant about that. Something that I think becomes very clear that that's the only reason it's there. In other words-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Right.
MATTI LESHEM:-- it isn't organically part of the script. It's merely saying here's the toy; we're going to put it in; we'll find a way to use it, because we want to sell this toy.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I guess it feels a little closer to infomercials.
MATTI LESHEM:I think that your need to try to analogize it to things that already exist is understandable. There might be a little bit of an irf--infomercial quality to it, but the truth of the matter is it doesn't look like an infomercial. It doesn't feel like an infomercial, and the goal of it is not to sell products out of the show, which is the goal of an infomercial.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It's the goal of the advertiser who funds the program, certainly.
MATTI LESHEM:Listen, I think that the notion that there's something wrong with commercial products being involved in our programming is a pretty old-fashioned idea. The business of television is driven by commercials and is driven by commercial money. I sort of sense that you think that there's something sort of Machiavellian or evil about it. There really isn't. I think the mo-- the important thing about our show is that it's completely transparent to the viewer what it is. We're not trying to product-place something. We're not trying to hide something in the show. We're very upfront about the fact that this show surrounds itself around new and interesting products that people actually want to know about.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I don't think it's Machiavellian. I think that simply people tend to be more relaxed when there's a clear line between advertising and content. They seem to be more comfortable when they know okay, now I'm being sold to and now I'm being entertained.
MATTI LESHEM: Well I think you're making certain assumptions there that may or may not be true. I think there's a group of young people out there who are really interested and would understand that if we're showing them something, that this new product is actually part of the show that we are presenting to them. And we don't intend to hide that in any way; we want that to be unbelievably transparent to the viewer; and we actually don't think that there's a problem with it at all.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Matti, thanks very much.
MATTI LESHEM: Thank you very much.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Matti Leshem is the executive vice president of Diplomatic, the production company creating a show without commercials.