Product placement in television reaches a new level on Saturday when NBC and the Ford Motor Company team up for a reality show. And a brother team from Puyallup are among the cast members.
“Escape Routes” is an hour-long point-based competitive reality series which has teams visiting six cities in their 2013 Ford Escapes.
Drew and Derek Konzelman make up one of six teams hoping to reap a $100,000 award and their own Ford Escapes by winning a series of challenges and tasks. At the end of the six episodes the team with the most points wins. It’s “The Amazing Race” meets “Survivor.”
Derek called me Wednesday night from the Malibu loft where the contestants are staying. I asked him what he thinks of the “entvertising” aspect of this show.
“I think it’s cool. We have yet to see the show and my opinion may change but at this point I think (the Ford Escape) is a great product. The whole concept of the show is groundbreaking. Just because Ford is paying for it and we’re featuring their vehicle doesn’t detract from the quality of the show,” Derek said.
Derek, 24, manages Puyallup’s Anthem Coffee and Tea. Drew, 27, lives in Kirkland and works as a musician. They are two of five brothers who, along with their parents, make up the Konzelman Family Band. Sometimes it’s just the five brothers (all but Derek live at home with parents Greg and Joan in Puyallup) who perform as The Konzelman Brothers. Their Americana music incorporates bluegrass, folk, celtic and acoustic rock.
The family of musicians has toured the nation, Europe and Japan playing fairs, Christian venues, corporate events and Disney World. They have performed regularly at the Puyallup Fair since 2001 and will return this year. All five Konzelman brothers are Eagle Scouts. “It’s helped us prepare for a variety of challenges (on ‘Escape Routes’),” Derek said.
Drew learned of “Escape Routes” from a friend who had won a web-based Ford reality show, “Focus Rally: America.” Drew asked Derek to audition for the “Escape” show with him.
“At first I was a little hesitant and then I realized this is exactly the kind of adventure I wanted,” Derek said.
The brothers auditioned in January. That was followed by Skype interviews and lots of paperwork. In February they flew down for finalist auditions in Los Angeles. “We weren’t allowed to talk to any of the other finalists. We were sequestered in our hotel room. It’s a crazy process getting on a reality TV show,” Derek said.
When they learned earlier this month that they had made the show they had only days to prepare for the seven week-long filming schedule.
“Escape Routes” is highly interactive. Like many reality competition shows there’s public voting involved but the show heavily incorporates social media. The teams will work with online fans on some of the challenges and tasks in order to win prizes for them and their followers.
The show will visit six cities. Saturday’s opener is in Los Angeles and then the teams travel to New York. They also visit Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Derek said they’ll use the Escapes to travel from wherever they are staying to the sites of challenges. But he cautions, “It’s not a race. There’s never any incentive to race or speed.”
Derek is already won over by the Escape. “There’s a lot of features in it that blow my mind. The car can park itself. You can swipe your foot under the rear bumper and the back door opens.”
Though the show hasn’t aired on TV yet the online broadcast challenges have already begun. The teams held a talent show contest this week (which online viewers could vote on.) They also had a foot race on the beach which the Konzelman brothers won, netting them and a couple of online participants new bikes. They also had their Twitter followers help them solve a clue-based challenge on Tuesday. The latter showed Derek the power of social media.
“We had to rely completely on our Twitter followers. It was all live and incredibly fast.”
Though fans and followers will interact and participate nearly every day with the teams the weekly shows will feature taped segments shot during the week, Derek said.
Television executives and their advertising clients know that consumers are increasingly hitting the fast forward button through ads while watching their TiVo and Video on Demand selections. The new show marks an end run around this trend and another evolutionary step in television where the lines between advertising and entertainment are becoming increasingly blurry.
“Escape Routes” comes on the heels of major Ford product placements in “The Amazing Race” and the weekly music video ad in “American Idol.” But, this is the first time a prime time network show has been built around a specific product. Derek said the show is similar to the previous online “Rally” show.
“Except this is going to be bigger and better and crazier.”
WHAT: “Escapes Routes”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturdays
TWITTER: @derekkonzelman (Derek) and @konzybaby (Drew)