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Home is where the brands are as The Block claims a local first

The Block is one of the biggest reality TV shows in the world. In Australia, where the show began, it remains the highest-rated television series of all time, and over 350 episodes have been produced in the UK, USA, Israel, Russia, Romania, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Given New Zealand's penchant for property, it's perhaps surprising it's taken this long to arrive here, but it's landing soon and MediaWorks is claiming a first for a major New Zealand television series by allowing foundation partners whose brands are integrated into the show the ability to use the stars in commercial campaigns outside the broadcast of the programme.

Of course, MasterChef stars are regularly wheeled out by major sponsor Countdown after the season has finished. And MediaWorks has been playing this game as well, with one star of New Zealand's Next Top Model being linked with 2degrees' and models featuring in the Glassons segment of the show playing in the opening sequence of the programme. But, for example, if The Block sponsors decided to create TVCs that featured people from the show, they could, for example, potentially play them on TVNZ or Sky.

The show, which is being produced by Eyeworks, will air for ten weeks on TV3 sometime in the middle of the year (MediaWorks' publicist Rachel Lorimer says the launch date is "still very confidential") and the sponsorship model sees foundation partners built around four categories: DIY (Bunnings Warehouse, the broadcast sponsor), financial services (Kiwibank), transport (Mazda) and coffee/food (Wild Bean Cafe). There is additional support from Dulux, Peter Hay Kitchens, Mitsubishi Electric and Fisher & Paykel Appliances.

Some call branded content the holy grail of marketing; a strange and lucrative beast where paid-for advertising messages can be inserted into editorial content without greatly affecting viewer numbers. For broadcasters, it's the epitome of a win-win. And for sponsors, being in the show carries more weight than putting ads in between it, so, not surprisingly, all four major sponsors of The Block are working on marketing campaigns that extend well beyond traditional sponsor activity and support both the programme and the brand objectives. But it's a fine line, and viewers don't like it when commercial obligations affect editorial content, as the fake trip to Countdown for MasterChef showed.

As well as the ability to use the contestants in their marketing, MediaWorks TV head of integration Melanie Reece says another point of difference is that it can offer clients the ability to create integrated advertising campaigns that extend across television, radio, online and mobile platforms. It has also extended its reach into the print media space and named ACP Magazines as the official media partner for the show, with Woman’s Day and Your Home & Garden set to feature exclusive coverage from the build-up to the grand finale and offering advertisers new sponsorship opportunities to integrate around the content.

The Block NZ is the perfect fit for ACP," says ACP chief executive Paul Dykzeul. "Judging from the success of the format in Australia, Kiwis will no doubt be captivated by it. We’re a house-mad nation with a huge appetite for inspiring home content, both in print and on screen."

The show will see four couples compete to renovate four dilapidated houses in a very upmarket suburb (finding four similar houses in close proximity is one of the big challenges of the show) and the winning couple is decided by the real estate market when all four renovated houses go to a live TV auction. All four couples will receive profits from the sale of their house, and the winners will take home an additional cash prize of $80,000.

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