Reality TV: Rats are Out, Roofing is In
Prime TimeOwens Corning has participated in several episodes of Extreme Makeover. Each episode of the show features a project done at break-neck speed, involving a team of designers, contractors and several hundred workers who rebuild an entire house-every single room, plus the exterior and landscaping-in seven days. Examples of projects include rebuilding a house for eight children who lost their parents and remodeling the living space of a young man confined to a wheelchair.
"Participating in the show allows us to provide a deserving family with changes to their home that will change their lives," says Brian Chambers, vice president and general manager, Residential Roofing, for Owens Corning, Toledo, Ohio. He says that the company's purpose is "Delivering Solutions, Transforming Markets and Enhancing Lives," thus, "We truly believe that helping families by participating in shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is an excellent example of living that purpose."
The extent of participation among supporting manufacturers varies. "We have provided materials, services and technical support," explains Chambers. "Some of the products you may have seen in the show are our Woodcrest™ or Oakridge PRO® Series shingles, PINK Fiberglas® insulation, Cultured Stone® brand manufactured stone veneer, or our Basement Finishing System. What you don't see-because it happens after the family moves back into their home-are the Life of the Home™ services provided by our HOMExperts® professionals, who help the families move-in, get comfortable in their new homes, and ensure that the homes are properly maintained. In every case, we are helping to give deserving families a special new home that will have an incredible impact on their lives."
Chambers says that Owens Corning is only involved in the labor end of the work through use of the HOMExperts professionals; the producers of the show make arrangements for all of the product installation. In the case of MonierLifetile, however, the company went to great lengths to gain control. Extreme Makeover featured a MonierLifetile concrete tile roof in the episode that aired nationally on Oct. 17, 2004. This was the first time the show used concrete tiles for the roof.
In addition to donating all the needed material, MonierLifetile donated the tear-off, removal and installation of the new roof. "Because the roof was instrumental to the overall look of the house, we utilized two different roofing crews and paid them ourselves," says Cheryl Inbody. "Orange County-based Roy L. Cox Roof Removal Service did the tear-off and prep, and the installation was completed by Mayer Roofing Inc., Riverside, Calif."
Inbody herself was on site for the majority of the work, overseeing the crews and MonierLifetile staff. "We had our technical teams on site full-time, working with the roofers to ensure accurate use of the products, checking the engineering, etc.," she explains. The project used the company's Duralite® Espana tiles. The roof was then boosted with the company's Boosted Barcelona tiles to replicate an Old World two-piece roof. New decorative vented eave risers that were recently introduced complemented the design and will enhance the performance of the roof. "We used new products, so we were there to help," continues Inbody. "My product manager was also there, as well as Dave Mills, our director of marketing. They both spent some good time on the roof."
Inbody herself was involved in a great deal of coordination with the crews, the general contractor and the production company before, during and after the show. Overall, "It was a positive experience for us, although it was a lot of work," she says. "We took it very seriously and ensured our portion of the project was completed on time. We also appreciated the general contractor, Bagwell Construction, who did an excellent job coordinating the project." In addition, MonierLifetile has actively promoted the project. "It was a good morale builder for our employees, vendors and partners," says Inbody.
Getting InvolvedIn the case of MonierLifetile discussed above, the company contacted the show and indicated interest in participating, but it took some time before the ideal opportunity for tile application came along. On the other hand, opportunities for Elk Premium Building Products, Dallas, to participate have come from different sources.
In addition to Extreme Makeover, Elk has been involved in HGTV's Curb Appeal, which features a real house and homeowner with guest experts who discuss the owner's needs and propose projects to improve the home's appearance. A "virtual makeover" then shows how to further increase the home's curb appeal. Elk also took part in a Fox invention, Renovate My Family, a show hosted by Jay McGraw, son of Dr. Phil McGraw (yes there are two of them) billed as "not just a home-improvement show, [but] a life improvement show."
The company's relationship with Centex Homes was key in the January 2005 appearance on Extreme Makeover. For Renovate My Family, Jennifer Reich, Elk marketing specialist, did some investigating, talked to producers, and decided it was a good cause. For Curb Appeal, that show's producers attended the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco and were looking for manufactures to contribute products.
Relationships are also key for CertainTeed Roofing Corp., Valley Forge, Pa., which has participated in Extreme Makeover and has a long history with This Old House. In addition, the company has done shows for the History Channel, HGTV, Discovery and The Learning Channel. This Old House recently chose CertainTeed's XT™ 30 AR fiberglass roofing shingles for its 25th anniversary project in Carlisle, Mass. The farmstead, which was built in 1849, will be renovated and sold to homeowners. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the Carlisle project will endow a new scholarship for the building arts. Throughout the renovation, apprentices from Minuteman Regional High School in Massachusetts will learn the ropes from This Old House's expert craftsmen, and before the property is sold, it will be open for a limited time as a designer show house.
"We occasionally get approached by This Old House when they are working on a project and are looking for specific types of products," explains Mike Loughery, manager of communications for CertainTeed as well as marketing communications manager for the Insulation Group. "Our relationship with the show's producers dates back about 10 years when we were first approached about using our Grand Manor Shangle on one of their projects. Since then, we've been a regular participant." Loughery says that CertainTeed enjoys participating with This Old House because, "The show's producers and hosts are committed to restoring homes to their original greatness and really take the time and care to explain to the show's viewers the nuances of home renovation. We welcome the association with a television production committed to quality information and education."
TAMKO is another example of a manufacturer that was approached by television producers. Extreme Makeover's management contacted the company a couple of months prior to the show in which its products appeared. "They asked if we would consider providing product for this event in a trade-out agreement in exchange for the extra TAMKO publicity and a general listing in the credits at the end of the show," says Neil Robinson, creative director of marketing for TAMKO. "They also offered to give us credit on the abc.com Web site."
As the arrangements for product decisions, quantities needed to ship, and other project details were complete, Robinson spent a few days in Granada Hills, Calif. He visited the site to see the project, the application of the TAMKO product, and to take some digital shots of the process. Says Robinson. "It was quite impressive the amount of work that is done, the large number of different suppliers involved, and the amount of workers involved in the project. It was impressive, but at times a little unorganized."
RewardWhy do roofing manufacturers participate in such endeavors when the value, in terms of direct exposure, is so limited? Are there measurable benefits as far as marketing and public relations are concerned? According to Loughery, with CertainTeed's involvement in This Old House and similar shows, "Often, the show gives us the opportunity for an on-camera presence to talk about the features of the products being shown," says Loughery. "CertainTeed's involvement in such programs is rewarding not only because we get to talk about our products, but it's a chance to educate consumers about what makes a quality building product." In addition, "We get instant recognition for our products and our customers and contractors talk about it for quite some time. Many of the cable stations play the shows multiple times so we get the benefit of having our products seen more than once. Also, publicity such as this really validates the work of our sales and marketing teams as well as our manufacturing plants. When a plant worker or a sales rep sees a segment featuring products that they made or sold, that really goes a long way to making that person feel good about their efforts and those of the company."
For a more high-profile, splashier show like Extreme Makeover, "There is charity involved," says Mike McLintock, director of marketing for Elk. "Exposure for us is a bit limited because the shows don't necessarily talk about the roof. But we can make references to our participation in our literature."
"I think what is being done on programs like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a good thing and they seem to make a real difference in the lives of the families," comments Robinson at TAMKO. "They also help the various manufacturers involved to get their product information out to viewers across the country. I think some products are a little more suitable for promotion on these types of programs and I am not sure that roofing is one, because they really didn't focus much attention on that area of the home. This might be different depending on the slope of the roof and the prominence of the roof in the overall design."
What's the bottom line? " I would say that the project was an exciting opportunity for TAMKO, and we did our part in helping this family in need," says Robinson. "Whether or not this show will help promote Heritage 50 Thunderstorm Grey shingles by TAMKO is still a wait and see."
To Chambers at Owens Corning, it's a matter of being "a company that has a responsibility to give something back and do our best to enhance the lives of others." Diane Gola, marketing communications for GAF Materials Corp., agrees. "The people we are working with are so happy that GAF is helping. They are so appreciative. We are changing their lives," she says. "That good feeling of helping makes up for the fact that as far as actual PR value, GAF's name isn't necessarily plastered all over." GAF has done four houses for Renovate My Family and participated in A&E's House of Dreams, a show where 16 people work together to build a house but only one gets to keep it. "We are now working with The Learning Channel on a new show called Moving Up," continues Gola. "We are working with a family in Poughkeepsie [N.Y.]. Our main role is to coordinate materials. We speak to homeowners on some occasions, helping them pick style of shingles, color, etc. -any assistance we can offer."
Perhaps the words of a person who has been helped say all that's really needed. "If I had to pick a roof, I would have picked out that one," said Bill Grinnan, owner of home renovated with MonierLifetile. His six-year-old daughter Hannah is a heart-transplant patient and the family needed to relocate to Redlands, Calif., to be near Loma Linda University Medical Center. "The roof catches your eye on our new home and we absolutely love it."