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'Celebrity Apprentice' Stars The Donald, A Playmate -- And Your Product?

The new season of "The Celebrity Apprentice" will feature a slew of celebs, such as Joan Rivers and Andrew Dice Clay, as well as product placement galore -- including one from midsize company LifeLock. Here are some tips on how to make your own product a TV star.
The new season of "The Celebrity Apprentice" will feature a slew of celebs, such as Joan Rivers and Andrew Dice Clay, as well as product placement galore -- including one from midsize company LifeLock. Here are some tips on how to make your own product a TV star.You've heard about "The Celebrity Apprentice," right? Business-savvy stars try to impress Donald Trump in various challenges and are voted off each week, with one prevailing in the end and winning a bunch of cash to be donated to a charity of the celebrity's choice. The stars use their contacts and their business skills -- and, of course, their fame -- to win weekly challenges, which last season included selling hot dogs on the streets of New York and this season starts off with a cupcake sale. Each week one celebrity will hear those dreaded words: "You're fired!"

The challenges for "The Celebrity Apprentice" -- and most reality shows -- rely heavily on product placement. For example, during season 2 -- which premieres on Sunday, March 1 -- a cast including Tom Green and Dennis Rodman is tasked with taking LifeLock's identity-theft protection service and producing a physical product that could be a sold in a retail store. It's prime exposure for the 400-employee LifeLock and unique in a show that normally includes product placement from corporate giants such as Procter and Gamble.

So what attracted LifeLock to product placement advertising? "In order for the celebrities to do a good job with the product, they had to figure out how to use it," Andrew Wyant, LifeLock's vice president of marketing, explained to me. "That lets watchers engage in a way they wouldn't if they were watching a commercial."

"24" fan Wyant said that product placement works best when it's "organic and meaningful to the program.

"In past seasons on '24,' when they go to video content, they go to Cisco, so now when I think of videoconferencing, I think of Cisco." Because product placement has become so ubiquitous, Wyant said, there are product placement opportunities for any budget. However, it can be competitive to get onto a reality show. "We approached Mark Burnett Productions directly," Wyant said. "They're extraordinarily good at reality TV, so they're approached with a tremendous number of companies, often big ones. But they also realize it's much more important that it makes for good television, so they pay attention to small and midsize businesses and not just those who can write big checks."

Based on his experience with getting LifeLock onto "The Celebrity Apprentice," Wyant had some advice for small companies wanting to break into TV.

"It's important to figure out your ROI," he said. "If you decide to play in the world of product placement, it doesn't pay to just put your product in there -- you can't maximize your investment unless you find ways to activate tools around it." For example, use your product placement to drive people to your company's Web site, include promotions, and direct consumers to retail sites.

"Brand building is important, but it's important to leverage the product placement as well," Wyant said.

Season 2 of "The Celebrity Apprentice" begins this Sunday, March 2, at 9 p.m. EST on NBC. This seasons cast consists of 16 "stars":

Asked to divulge who won the LifeLock challenge, Wyant would only say: "Both teams did excellent." You can find out yourself who prevails on April 12, when the LifeLock episode airs. And maybe you can even pick up some business tips from these entrepreneurial celebrities. Imagine what you can learn from a celebrity who created a Web site called Financially Hung -- which aims to "help maximize your business and or personal desires" -- that celebrity being Playmate Roderick, of course.