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TLC Rebuilds Commercials for ‘Trading Spaces’

When the folks at TLC decided to bring the home-design series “Trading Spaces” back to the network’s programming lineup after a decade off the air, they knew they’d have to craft more than just the show’s episodes.

There’s a whole new advertising structure in place as well. And it will surface for the first time this Saturday, April 7, when the program makes its return at 9 p.m.

In years past, “Spaces” drew the attention of Home Depot, Lowe’s, GMC, Bosch Tools, Behr Paint and even Procter & Gamble’s Swiffer. For its 2018 return, executives at the Discovery Inc. cable network decided to weave two advertisers, Wayfair and Overstock, directly into the action of the program. Meanwhile, one of the original sponsors, Lowe’s, will sponsor a six-part streaming companion series, “Training Spaces,” that has some “Spaces” veterans squaring off against new designers. Lowe’s will be incorporated into a “tool wall” in the background of certain scenes.

“’Trading Spaces’” is kind of synonymous with TLC,” says Bill Carney, vice president of client and brand partnership for the network.” Fans will recall that the series featured two sets of neighbors who were joined by redesign experts and sent to redecorate a room in the other person’s home. The series brought new fame for people like Ty Pennington, who would go on to host “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” for ABC.

The idea of “if you build it, they will come” may work in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” but it doesn’t hold true in the world of advertising. Media outlets concoct all kinds of innovative ideas, but there’s no guarantee Madison Avenue will drive up to sample them.

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So maybe that’s why TLC decided to bring back “Trading Spaces,” which hasn’t been on its schedule since 2008. More TV networks are reviving old favorites, recognizing there’s a built-in audience for retooled favorites like Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” and “Fuller House” or Fox’s “The X-Files.” With more networks reviving old favorites like “Roseanne” and “Will & Grace,” and home-improvement remaining a popular subject, Carney adds, “it was just the right time to bring it back.”

Some things about the old shows, of course, have to change. The commercials and the way they are woven in and around the program must be more up to date than the series.

Consider the case of “American Idol,” recently rebooted on ABC. When the program aired on Fox, Coca-Cola placed red cups on the judges’ table. AT&T helped fans text their votes to determine winners each week. And Ford Motor Co. was able to lace itself into the proceedings. These days, ABC has enlisted Johnson & Johnson’s Zyrtec as well as Macy’s to both appear in and around the show but also sponsor “Idol” related video promotions designed for venues such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and ABC.com.

For the new season of “Spaces,” the series’ ninth, online retailers Wayfair and Overstock will each appear in half of the new eight-episode cycle. Each sponsor will back a “pop up shop” from which homeowners will be able to select one home décor item to include in the room they are redesigning for their neighbor. This marks the first time Wayfair has worked with TLC.

Wayfair felt the show would allow it to give potential customers ideas of how they might shop online at the site, says Courtney Lawrie, the company’s director of brand marketing.”There is a Wayfair tent, if you will, with lots of different productgs that folks on the show can shop around and incorporate into their space,” she explains. “We get to showcase selection and unique items.”

TLC is turning the revival into an event, , bringing back the cast for the first time since the original series’ demise in an 8 p.m. reunion special on Sunday. A second hour of reunion will appear the following week. The season premiere will feature the return of designers like Doug Wilson and Hildi Santo-Tomas, and carpenters Ty Pennington and Carter Oosterhouse. New carpenters and designers will show up as well, and Paige Davis returns as the series’ host.

TLC executives have for years been besieged with requests to bring back the show, says Howard Lee, the network’s president and general manager. But TLC had evolved, he says, moving beyond home repair to programs such as “Cake Boss” and “Sex Sent Me to the E.R.”

“We had to really think had about whether we wanted to reboot it, because there’s so much competition out there in the world of programming,” says Lee. “In the end, though, the fan fervor was just so high, we wanted to do it justice and just try it out.”

TLC has other reasons to relaunch a popular home-renovation program. Its parent company, Discovery, recently acquired Scripps Networks, owner of HGTV and DIY, two networks that boast a round-the-clock schedule of programming devoted to home improvement. And while executives had no comment about the potential for the TLC franchise to play on some of the company’s new properties, one can see how “Trading Spaces” could serve as part of a bigger advertising build if it were to continue.

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