In a new partnership that underscores the widening reach of product replacement, Sears, Roebuck and Co. has signed on as chief sponsor of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," a six-episode series that is in production and expected to air beginning in early 2004.
The head of an advertising watchdog group said the new show extends a disturbing trend of more and more embedded ads on television.
"'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' is not a regular program -- it's an infomercial for Sears," Gary Ruskin, director of Commercial Alert, said Wednesday from Portland, Ore. "It's not just product placement, it's product integration, plot placement, title placement, paid shills, virtual ads. Increasingly, television is turning into an infomercial medium."
The new ABC program will carry scenes of trips to Sears stores, trucks delivering merchandise from Sears to the homes and visits by Sears repair workers who will use Craftsman tools in their home-improvement work.
Sears officials also said they have been sensitive to criticism about branded entertainment.
"It's obviously something that needs to be integral or natural to the program, which in the case of home improvement is a totally logical and authentic place for Sears to be," McDougal said. "Consumers would not be fooled by forced sponsorship."