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CBS' 'Clash of the Commercials' makes advertising the star

May 23, 2011 |  5:35 pm

Those pesky commercials -- you know, the ear-splitting half-minute shills for soda, cellphones and sneakers that interrupt your favorite TV shows -- are actually pieces of branded content. When they're deftly done, they can rise above that, becoming full-fledged entertainment and pop-cultural touchstones.

Just ask the Old Spice guy.

Or ask Bob Horowitz, who produces TV shows about commercials. His latest effort, "Clash of the Commercials: USA vs. the World," airs Monday on CBS. The 10 p.m. show, hosted by Heidi Klum, will trot out the crème of the crop from different countries, pitting them against homegrown best such as "Messin' With Sasquatch," an ad series that repeatedly punks the mythical creature in order to sell Jack Link's Beef Jerky to prank-loving young men. (See an example below). Viewers will be able to vote on their favorite spots, and the crowd pleasing-est will be crowned winners.

At a time when so many TV viewers try to avoid commercials by watching on demand or using their DVR to skip through the paid pitches, Horowitz said they're still drawn to "irreverent, outrageous, envelope-pushing" ads.

"The good ones are like 30- or 60-second 'Saturday Night Live' vignettes," he said. "They're little skits."

Viewers also respond to the heart-tugging ads, and those will be represented on the show. (Example: "Little Darth Vader," a "Star Wars" homage for Volkswagen Passat that was one of the most memorable ads from this year's Super Bowl).

Horowitz's production company, JUMA Entertainment, also churns out the annual postgame favorite "Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials." The well-watched show has been airing on CBS for a decade. And he's at work on a project with the CLIO Awards, the Oscars of the advertising realm, that could bring decorated ads to TV as a clip special.

There are a couple of advertising-based reality shows in the works too: "Commercial Kings," coming next month on IFC, follows comedy/writer/filmmaker duo Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal as they develop commercials for local businesses. Their intentionally goofy/cheesy/low-tech ads, now the stuff of Internet legend, have pulled in more than 80 million online views.

And AMC, home to "Mad Men," plans to air a reality show dubbed "The Pitch" about the creative process that happens at an ad agency. It's intended to give a fly-on-the-wall perspective of ad executives' quest to create the next famous tagline. Eli Holzman and Stephen Lambert from Studio Lambert, producers of "Undercover Boss" and "Project Runway," are executive producers of "The Pitch," expected to launch next year.

-- T.L. Stanley