Remember when George Burns and Gracie Allen used to plug Carnation Evaporated Milk in live TV ads during their 1950s TV series The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show? Of course you don’t! But live ads using show cast members, in character and on set, did not used to be “news” — much less a scoop in the New York Times‘ business section. And, 60 years from now, when a future generation is watching on their glasses a live broadcast of some happy-zombie-family comedy starring some Hollywood It Couple, replete with product promotions by the happy zombies, they will think back to today’s NYT report (“Commercials to Go Live With Show Cast Members”) about the airing of two whole live ads during the live season debuts of TV Land‘s Hot In Cleveland and The Soul Man, and think “How quaint.”
The cast of Hot In Cleveland — Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White — will take part in an ad for Toyota, and Niecy Nash of Soul Man will do the same for Bush Brothers beans, tonight at 10 PM ET/PT. “First, we decided to do two live episodes… Then, we decided to do LIVE commercials. Are we crazy? Yes!” TV Land president Larry W. Jones said in the announcement. “Can’t wait until tonight to see how it all works out!”
In the 10 PM half-hour, the 30-second Toyota spot will revolve around Elka (Betty White) showing off her 2014 Toyota Highlander in her new parking spot — right on the Hot soundstage. Then, the 30-second ad for Bush’s Grillin Beans will run in the 10:3o PM half-hour, as Nash’s character Lolli will tell viewers her secret for great barbecue and getting your man to cook: Bush’s Grillin Beans. Hot In Cleveland also will feature an advertising integration with eHarmony. In the live episode, Joy (Jane Leeves) and Bob (guest star Dave Foley) struggle to get out of a sticky situation using eHarmony as part of the solution.
“We like the show, we have a good relationship with Viacom and this live commercial is unique, trying to enhance the viewer experience instead of interrupting it, making the product more of a character,” said Michael Davis, chief operating officer of Brand Arc in Los Angeles, a branded entertainment agency working with Toyota on the Hot in Cleveland ad.