The Style Network is experimenting with consumer-made cable commercials, created by fans of the channel's reality show Ruby.
The show, following the weight-loss struggle of 500-pound Ruby Gettinger, has prompted a large online reaction, according to Suzanne Kolb, chief marketing officer of The Style Network and E! Entertainment Television.
At the same time, the channel has been inquiring about a user-generated content technology that has been used in political campaigns to allow partisans to make low-cost commercials for cable TV. The convergence of the two is the Ruby experiment, a partnership with SaysMe.TV. The latter company is funded by Intel Capital, Prime Capital, with participation by Aston Kutcher's Katalyst Films, and advertising pioneedrBill Apfelbaum, among others.
Ruby fans can choose from between two 30-second ads. The first, Root for Ruby, cheers on Ruby as she continues her battle to lose weight. The second, Ruby Inspires, talks about how she has pushed viewers to make changes in their own lives and encourages them to work together to battle their own addiction "beast."
Once the fan selects an ad version it will be customized with the fan's name. SaysMe.TV will place the ad at a time selected by the fan on a cable network. Fans can make their ads at http://www.mystyle.com/mystyle/.
Kolb called the gambit an experiment, not a revenue-generating opportunity for the channel. In fact, Style Network is underwriting the spots so the fan cost will be about $25, the executive said. Style is more interested in testing whether viewers will respond to the opportunity to interact with a show of this sort because Gettinger has proven herself to be sort of a "Pied Piper for people facing quiet obstacles," Kolb said.
Ruby, which debuted Nov. 9, has become Style's highest-rated original premiere and its most- watched show.
The series will conclude Jan. 4 Kolb said no decision has been made on a second season for the reality skein.