Project Runway (PR) made its network debut in 2004 on Bravo as a reality- competition TV show. On this wildly successful show, fashion designers compete for $100,000 to start their own design line. PR became the No. 1 show in its time slot among 18-49-year-olds. This Emmy-nominated show features model Heidi Klum as host and fashion designer, Tim Gunn, as mentor and co-host. Judges have changed over time, but the current judges are Nina Garcia, Marie Claire’s creative director, and Zac Posen, fashion designer. Celebrity hosts are recruited to add panache each season. Project Runway is currently promoting its 14th season which premiered in August. Project Runway is a solid brand in the reality sector of TV programming.
To say that Project Runway has been a success is an understatement. The TV show has been nominated every year for the Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Reality-Competition Program” since 2005. In 2009, it was awarded the GLADD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Program and nominated for the Astra award for Favorite International Program (“Awards”, n.d.) . Its production company, Weinstein Co., won a 2007 and 2009 Peabody Award for “using the ‘television reality contest’ genre to engage, inform, enlighten and entertain” (“Project Runway”, 2007). In 2013, hosts Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum won an Emmy for “Outstanding Host(s) for a Reality- Competition Program” (“Awards”, 2015). Project Runway was so successful that it merited a $150 million 5-year contract in 2008 with Lifetime Television (Datskovsky, 2008). Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong said, “’Project Runway’ is one of the best television programs on air today on broadcast or cable” (as cited in Sheffield, 2008).
The reality TV show has had several brand extensions; not all have been successful. Project Runway: Threads was a 2014 spin-off which featured pre-teen and teenaged designers competing for a chance to win a scholarship for a summer design program. Because the show featured primarily middle-school aged kids, the quality was low (understandably). Denhart (2014) commented that even though the kids did have “noticeable skills, their work ultimately seem[ed] like kids produced it. It [was] not all that great… especially in terms of construction and finishing.” Models of the Runway was a spinoff that “failed to connect with viewers” (Guthrie, 2011); Project Accessory replaced it in 2011 with competitors designing handbags, jewelry and shoes but failed to make the desired splash with its audience. Project Runway: All Stars has been the most successful brand extension for PR. It is a sort of “second chances” program, giving previous losers another opportunity to break into the fashion designing industry (Anibundel, 2015). Viewers have positively responded to Alyssa Milano as host and judges Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman. It has been well received by its target audience and will be premiering its 5th season in the spring. Hogler (2014) claimed that All Stars is a “must watch for any fan of the Project Runway universe”.
The newest extension of the flagship brand is the fall 2015 debut of Project Runway: Junior. This reality TV show will follow the same formula for success as its adult predecessor. Heidi Klum, mother of four, was the “inspiration behind the new junior spinoff due to the fashions of her own kids” (Mary, 2015).
Teens between the ages of 14 and 17 will be given a variety of challenges and one contestant will be eliminated each week. Because the brand has a very distinct identity, there will be no doubting that Project Runway: Junior is a brand extension of Project Runway. The format of the TV show will be similar, the only difference being the age of the contestants and the prize. The Junior winner will win cash prizes and a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising instead of the adult winner’s prize of $100,000 for a design line and other prizes.
Project Runway: Junior should be successful because the producers identified a target market that would embrace its brand: Generation Z. Generation Z is “ambitious, love to stand apart, and want to create (Bearne, 2015). The Project Runway brand is synonymous with these attributes. In addition, Gen Zers are highly involved in social media. Project Runway digital platforms span Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Piictu and Viddy (Spilka, 2014). PR uses the social media agency, Movement Strategy, with the sole purpose of engaging fans. By having fans do things like post their own fashion photography or vote for previously eliminated designers for a chance to reemerge on Project Runway, the brand is pulling in their audience(Spilka, 2014). Continued use of these social media tools will resonate with Generation Z viewers. Another reason to think the reality show will be efficacious is that other reality TV spin-offs have been. The success of La Voz Kids on Telemundo and MasterChef Jr., as an offshoot of MasterChef, proves that a junior version can draw an audience.
Finally, the teenage audience is typically attracted to drama, a known component of Project Runway. With Project Runway: Junior, Generation Z viewers will have an opportunity to cry, laugh and rage with the contestants over fashion mishaps, missed deadlines, and an overall sense of being misunderstood by peers and mentors.
Though brand extensions of Project Runway have been hit or miss, Project Runway: Junior should be a hit given that its content should resonate with its target audience: Generation Z. Only time will tell if it will meet the same end as Project Runway: Threads or Project Accessory or if it will thrive like Project Runway: All Stars. Either way, reality TV enthusiasts will vote by their remotes and ultimately be the final judge as to whether or not they want more of the 11-year-old brand. According to Holger (2014), “The Project Runway universe continues to grow its media presence. This empire is on the rise, and surely fans hope it won’t end up like Rome.”
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Awards- Project Runway (2004-). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0437741/awards
Bearne, S. (2015, May 22). Forget millennials, brands need to win over Generation Z. Retrieved from http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1348169/forget-millennials-brands-need-win-generation-z
Datskovsky, M. (2008, July 16). What’s Project Runway worth? Retrieved from http://upstart.bizjournals.com/culture-lifestyle/culture-inc/arts/2008/07/16/Monetary-Value-of-Project-Runway.html?page=all
Denhart, A. (2014, October 23). This is no ‘Masterchef Junior’. Retrieved from http://www.hitfix.com/news/threads-is-another-project-runway-spin-off-fail
Guthrie, M. (2011, September 7). Lifetime sets ‘Project Accessory’ team. Retrieved from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/lifetime-sets-project-accessory-team-232129
Holger, D. (2014, November 3). Project Runway empire. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dieter-holger/project-runway-empire_b_6047632.html
Mary. (2015, June 29). Lifetime greenlights ‘Project Runway Junior’ and renews Project Runway All Stars. Retrieved from http://www.realitytea.com/2015/06/29/lifetime-greenlights-project-runway-junior-renews-project-runway-stars/
Project Runway- Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn [Online image]. (2015). Retrieved from http:/www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway
Project Runway (Bravo) Winner 2007. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.peabodyawards.com/award-profile/project-runway
Project Runway Junior with Hannah Davis [Online image]. (2015, June 26). Retrieved September 8, 2015 from http://anibundel.com/2015/06/26/project-runway-season-14-gets-start-date-new-spin-off/
Gayne, G. (n.d). MasterChef Junior cooking [Online image]. Fox. Retrieved from http:/time.com/3556063/masterchef-jr-review- best-cooking-show/
Sheffield, A. (2008, April 7). Breaking: ‘Project Runway’ moves from Bravo to Lifetime. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/thecut/2008/04/breaking_project_runway_moves.html
Spilka, S. (2014, August 12). Project Runway social media campaign takes to Instagram. Retrieved from http://www.psfk.com/2014/08/project-runway-instagram-social-media-campaign.html