It’s Revlon vs. Erica

ABC soap 'Children' plots with sponsor

Revlon is giving ABC’s “All My Children” the ultimate makeover.

The cosmetics company is spending between $3 million and $7 million — the bulk of its daytime TV scatter budget — on the sudser so it can co-star in a bunch of upcoming episodes.

In a storyline that started Monday, Revlon has surfaced as an archrival to Enchantment, the cosmetics company owned by “All My Children” headliner Erica Kane, played by Susan Lucci.

Over the course of three months, or about 25 episodes, Revlon will try to steal away one of Kane’s employees. Kane, in retaliation, will send her daughter to spy on Revlon’s activities.

With their high femme appeal, soaps have been attractive partners for advertisers for years. Heavy soap media buyer Procter & Gamble produces CBS’ long-running “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light.”

But this is the first time that ABC, by making Revlon a regular story element, not just a simple product placement, is getting this lathered up for one of its sudsers. ABC continues to be the only net to own all of its soaps.

Now that there are “100 more channels than there were 20 years ago … (the networks) must look for other ways to find revenue,” said Jonathan Reiner, a senior producer for Soap Net’s “Soap Center,” a daytime drama newsmag presently on hiatus. “This is a brilliant financial decision.”

Reiner points out increased TV options have made ratings for many soaps “softer” over the years. So to make up for lost ad dollars, a net can re-purpose their sudsers (a la the current Soap Net) or find tie-ins with corporate sponsors.

A spokeswoman for “All My Children” says the show’s numbers are fine. But she admits the Revlon pact will help “keep the (daytime) business fresh and alive” for ABC. She also said the net is open to hooking up its other soaps (“Port Charles,” “General Hospital”) with advertisers in this extensive fashion in the future.

Stacy Lynn Koerner, a senior veep at Initiative Media, sees plenty of upside for advertisers in diving this deeply into a soap’s storyline.

“Twenty percent of the (soap) audience tapes their shows, so they are fast-forwarding through the commercials. But they can’t fast-forward through the plotlines,” she explained.

Plus, “the media environment is more and more fragmented these days, so it’s harder for an advertiser to stand out.”

As far as viewers possibly getting turned off by Revlon’s major presence, “Soap Center’s” Reiner says that won’t happen. Erica Kane’s running of Enchantment has been key to “All My Children” for several years now, so it makes sense for her to have Revlon as a business competitor.

“If anything, it adds validity to the story. Erica has made it!” said Reiner, noting that the arrangement would not have worked if the products had been something like a Ford car or Smucker’s jelly — items not related to anything that’s going on with the show.

“This had to work within the storyline,” agreed the ABC spokeswoman, or the net would never have approached Revlon. “This isn’t going to be jarring at all for people.”

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