Ad agency claims it invented TV product integration

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Ad agency claims it invented TV product integration

Wed Oct 28, 2009 @ 10:15AM PST
By Eriq Gardner

Maneater-621x275 No advertising agency would have the brass to claim to have invented the concept of integrating a product into a television show, right?

Guess again.

Delaware-based ad agency Denizen is suing media agency Mindshare for stealing an idea to integrate a brand of Vaseline into a Lifetime miniseries called "Maneater."

In the complaint, Denizen says that TV networks face the problem of viewers not paying attention to ads in between segments of a show and claims to have "created the concept of 'program integrated advertisement' in order to entice viewers to pay attention to advertisements in various media, including, but not limited to, television, radio, and the Internet.

Denizen points to a patent the company registered in 2005 as proof. Here's a link to the patent in question.

But Denizen isn't suing Mindshare for patent infringement. Perhaps the company realizes that an army of advertisers would descend upon the USPTO with prior art on product placement, um, program-integrated commercials.

Instead Denizen says Mindshare violated trade secrets. It cites a confidential meeting between the two companies in 2004. An agreement was allegedly reached that Mindshare wouldn't use, publish, disclose, communicate, or divulge information shared on Denizen's proprietary method of product integration. What were those trade secrets? From the complaint:

"During the meeting, Denizen disclosed to MindShare certain techniques...that could be used to implement program integrated advertisements, such as, but without limitation, ways to shoot the advertisements, strategies for obtaining Screen Actors Guild contracts, methods to gain access or rights to television program content, and how and when an advertising agency could work with a production house or network."


Denizen claims Mindshare misappropriated trade secrets, breached a contract and committed misrepresentation when the defendant brokered an agreement between client Unilever and Lifetime Networks for the integration of Vaseline Aloe Fresh into "Maneater." Here's one of the integrated commercials.

This isn't the first lawsuit filed by Denizen. Two months ago, the company sued agencies JWT and subsidiary WPP on similar grounds for brokering the integration of Microsoft's Bing.com into NBC's "The Philanthropist."

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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