CBS rings Burnett’s ‘Jingles’

Network orders eight episodes of reality show

CBS has ordered eight episodes of “Jingles,” a nonscripted skein from Mark Burnett in which contestants compete to dream up memorable melodies on behalf of real products.

In what may be Burnett’s most Madison Avenue-friendly program since “The Apprentice,” teams of players will be given weekly jingle-writing assignments — coming up with, say, the next Oscar Mayer wiener song or a new pitch for Coke — and will then have to perform them in front of a studio audience. Viewer votes will determine a weekly winner (whose ditty will end up in a real ad) and loser (who will go home).

“This show is sort of like ‘America’s Got Talent’ but with a purpose,” Burnett said, adding that the skein will be heavy on elaborate performances as teams try to sell their songs to viewers.

Burnett is exec producing the tentatively titled “Jingles” with Roy Bank, David Hurwitz (“Fear Factor”) and Paul Cockerill. There’s no planned airdate yet, though summer 2008 is a possibility.

Bank, who heads development for Mark Burnett Prods., said casting will be key, with the producers aiming for diversity within the teams.

“A team could be anything from a sole singer-songwriter to a brother/sister team to a hip-hop group or a barbershop quartet,” Bank said. “Their performance onstage will really determine the vote.”

The show, he added, will combine “a lot of things that are currently working on television: fun, high-energy performances mixed with competition and a more pointed purpose.”

Burnett has just started talking to advertisers about the show, but it’s not hard to see the appeal to Madison Avenue.

“It’s a very organic way to give advertisers what they’re looking for,” Burnett said. “It’s totally family- friendly, it’s noncontroversial, and (the product placement) is very organic. It’s not about pushing something that doesn’t belong.”

Jon Harris, head of communications for Sara Lee, said the baked goods giant is “always looking for ways to connect with consumers” and that Burnett-produced skeins such as “Jingles” are attractive to advertisers.

“Mark has a tremendous track record with product integration,” Harris said. “The iniatives really help a brand cut through the clutter of the marketplace and help put your brand and company front and center.”

To ensure that inappropriate jingles aren’t selected for advertisers, companies will have on-camera reps rendering verdicts about the various jingles, letting home voters know if a song doesn’t make sense for a specific product.

Because weekly winners will see their jingles used in actual commercials, contestants don’t have to win the entire competish to see some benefit. “If someone comes up with the next great Oscar Mayer jingle, it could be on TV for the next 20 years, even if they’re voted off in week three,” Burnett said.

The ultimate winner will likely get a large cash prize and a job at a major ad agency. And while most of the weekly competitions will likely focus on real brands, some weeks will see contestants dreaming up songs for charities — or maybe even people.

“You could end up writing a jingle for your mother-in-law, showing everyone how you would brand her,” Bank said.

Burnett’s slate currently includes “Survivor,” “The Contender,” “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” and the upcoming quizzers “Amnesia” and “My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad.” Hurwitz is currently prepping the new “American Gladiators” for NBC.

“Jingles” was packaged by Endeavor.