They're among the top shows on TV—reality shows that range from wedding extravaganzas such "My Fair Wedding" and "Platinum Weddings" to homey home improvement programs including "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The producers often turn to party rental companies to lend products, promising fabulous PR exposure in exchange. But do the promises live up to reality?
In an informal poll from Special Events, respondents who have contributed to reality TV shows seem to be evenly split between those who loved the experience and would do it again and those who thought it was all give with no payback.
Van Nuys, Calif.-based Town & Country Event Rentals worked on a destination wedding on Catalina Island, Calif., for "Platinum Weddings," an experience that paid off in many ways, according to account manager Julio Villasenor.
Once the episode aired, "We were getting a lot of phone calls from all over the nation asking us to do projects all over the nation," Villasenor says, "New York being the city with the most inquiries." While it's hard to say if the TV show was the sole factor contributing to growth, "I found myself with a steady increase in revenue especially last year," Villasenor says, "having close to a 40 percent increase in revenue compared to the year prior."
Similarly, Larry Ott of Open Aire Affairs of Newtown, Pa., saw a "number of bookings" after donating his venue to an episode of "My Fair Wedding."
"We had one client who booked the property sight unseen because she saw it on the show," Ott notes. In some ways, this was too much of a good thing: "We cautioned her against this time and time again, but she insisted," he says.
Ott adds that the production team at "My Fair Wedding," which stars celebrity planner David Tutera, was top-notch.
"The staff from the production company was very upfront about everything," Ott says. Even after some tiles were broken during install, "The production company compensated us without any hesitation. I would recommend to anyone in the industry to work with 'My Fair Wedding' if you get the opportunity."
Other rental companies are not so positive.
Some respondents asked to remain anonymous because they got involved with the TV shows at the behest of longtime wedding planner clients.
Says one, "We just did $7,000 in support of a photo shoot for [a client] and I still don't have their end of the deal defined."
Says another, "Our involvement in two different segments on two different networks cost us over $8,000 and produced about 12 seconds of exposure to an audience that was national in nature when our business is very local when it comes to weddings. I don't mean to sound bitter, but it was not a good decision for us."
One multi-unit operator tells Special Events that to win PR exposure, showcasing a branded product is fine, but "if it's just white folding chairs, forget it."
See the full story in the May-June issue of Special Events.