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‘X Factor’ Ad Switcheroo As Honda, Procter Replace Pepsi, Chevrolet

A new generation of sponsors for a program once touted as a potential replacement for 'American Idol'

When Pepsi signed on to host the first season of Fox’s “The X-Factor” in 2011, the deal was heralded as landmark: Where network sister “American Idol” had three main sponsors, “X Factor” would have just one flagship season-long backer that would have its products and messages woven into the program as well as the commercials that interrupted it.

Now the soft-drink giant is parting ways with the program, along with another big advertiser, General Motors’ Chevrolet.

In their place: Honda and Procter & Gamble.

Honda, which is promoting its 2014 Odyssey minivan, will be placed into the Simon Cowell-backed competition three times as part of the deal, while also having its name placed alongside digital-voting opportunities, off-air promotions and the show’s “Fan Rewards,” which give die-hard followers incentives when they interact with  the show’s digital venues.  Procter & Gamble, one of the nation’s largest and most-scrutinized advertisers, will use “X Factor’ to promote its Cover Girl makeup, Secret deodorant and Herbal Essences hair products.

The advertiser switch-up illustrates how difficult it can be for a marketer to stick with a single media property for a long duration. In decades past, advertisers would do everything but marry themselves to specific shows, sticking their names into the titles of properties like “Kraft Television Theater” or  “Colgate Comedy Hour.” The practice lingers today: Coca-Cola and Ford Motor  have sponsored Fox’s “American Idol” since its debut in 2002 (though Ford has cut back its spending on the program in recent months), while AT&T has been enmeshed in the program since 2003. But with a marketer’s business plans changing so rapidly in the modern frenetic business climate, it’s not always possible to keep a TV-program alignment going for years on end.

Pepsi did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment. But Ryndee Carney,  a spokeswoman for General Motors said Chevy ended its alliance with “X Factor” after 2012 and noted “As our business strategies change, so do our media plans, including specific programming choices.”

Honda  and P&G feel differently about the show, at least at present. “As a part of our season-long sponsorship, the redesigned 2014 Odyssey will be an integral part of the contestant experience, and our engagement with ‘The X-Factor’ community will extend beyond the show through a robust social media and online presence,” said  Accavitti, senior veep  of auto operations at American Honda, in a prepared statement.

“The partnership is a natural fit for our collection of beauty brands, as we’ll follow contestants on their transformative journeys and through fearless performances,” Procter & Gamble said in a prepared statement. “We’ll also offer at-home viewers behind-the-scenes access to their favorite contestants as we’ll be right alongside them throughout all the action.”

The second-season finale of “The X Factor” saw its total-viewership ratings fall by about 18% from its first-season wind-up, according to data from Nielsen.  Approximately 9.6 million viewers saw the second-season finish.  The ratings fell even though producers attempted to generate new momentum for the program by enlisting Demi Lovato and Britney Spears as new members of  the show’s judges’ panel.

Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio will serve as judges for the show’s third season, while Mario Lopez will continue as host.

Whether justified or not, “X Factor” has long been compared with “Idol.” Indeed, when the show debuted, Fox executives articulated a plan in which “X Factor” would serve as a tent pole for the first half of the season, and the show was seen as a potential schedule bulwark as ratings for the maturing “Idol” began to decline.

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