Revlon adds gloss to soap opera plot

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The cosmetics firm Revlon has is to take on the advertisers' old enemy– viewers popping out to put the kettle on during commercial breaks. It has bought itself a part in the plot of a US soap opera.

The company has reportedly spent up to $7m (£5m) to get a part in the ABC soap opera. All My Children. Product placement has long been a feature of soap operas and films but the deal is believed to be the first in which a company has levered itself into a dominant position on a show.

Despite the money paid, Revlon is still cast in the role of corporate baddie. Revlon is cast as a rival company to that of the show's star, who runs a cosmetics company. Revlon poaches one of her employees. In the story, the lead character uses her daughter as a company spy and infiltrates Revlon, keeping them at the centre of the show's plot for three months, about 25 episodes.

The high proportion of women viewers for soap operas has meant that advertisers have long coveted them. However, declining viewing figures because of the proliferation of channels have had a knock-on effect with advertisers, who have put less money in.

It has forced networks to think of new ways to drum up trade, leading to the "plot placement" on All My Children. Researchers have found that, since one in five viewers of soaps records them on video, they tend to fast forward through the commercials.

Despite the likely opposition to the deal from other programme makers, ABC, defended the arrangement and said it would be open to negotiations with other advertisers for similar plot placements

The network claimed it would not lead to viewers switching allegiances and said the plot had already been written before the tie-up happened.

It will not be the first time Revlon has been cast in the role of the bad guy over one of its promotional deals. Howls of disapproval greeted the company's decision to ditch the supermodel Cindy Crawford as its "face" after 10 years, following a series of poor financial results.

ABC told the entertainment magazine Variety the Revlon deal had to be consistent with the storyline or it would not have gone ahead. "This isn't going to be jarring at all for people," a spokeswoman said.