Jill Martin has been incredibly busy. After introducing a new business to the world, another entrepreneur might take a break to unwind from all the stress and preparations. Instead, the “Today” star got married.
Just over a week since she unveiled her immersive new TV shopping platform, Shop the Scenes, this month, Martin tied the knot with banker Erik Brooks at the New York Public Library. The “Steals & Deals” host let WWD in on a little-known detail about the event: French haute couture designer Pierre Cadault was a key figure at her wedding — which is fascinating, because he doesn’t actually exist outside of Darren Star’s Netflix series, “Emily in Paris.”
The character, played by actor Jean-Christophe Bouvet, appeared in luggage form, his face emblazoned on an army of rolling bags for guests, Martin told WWD in an exclusive interview. They were dead ringers for the customized Rimowa trunk from season two, a popular item that sent fans blanketing the Internet to secure their own. They weren’t available to purchase then, but they will be via Shop the Scenes.
Turns out, those bags weren’t just wedding swag. They were a preview of a signature STS offering: The business is actually manufacturing fictional “in-show brands” like the Cadault bags, manifesting invented products from beloved TV series into actual ones available for sale. Other items from real-world brands will be sourced directly from the shows, and cast as 3D graphics that fans can shop inside virtual WebVR environments, each designed to reflect a given show.
Think of it as a multifaceted approach to bring immersiveness to shoppable TV.
As for Martin, she’s been absorbed in the shows since she cofounded the business with her partner, entertainment company 101 Studios. She has been living and breathing “Yellowstone” and “Emily in Paris,” even decorating her home with the series’ merchandise. She somehow balances that, while still focusing on her broadcast work, including showcasing her own brands on QVC.
And, of course, she also had a wedding to plan. So perhaps some overlap was inevitable.
“I’m so grateful for all the opportunity and what we’re building in all of these arenas,” she said. “The thread that keeps it all together, all of it, is just passion and love for what I do…it’s part of my life, and so the shows [were] incorporated into my wedding.”
Guests even sipped Champere, the abysmal champagne from “Emily” now transformed into a delicious sparkling wine. The bubbly will join a broad but highly curated selection of merchandise ranging from $10 to $10,000 across clothes, beauty products, furniture, jewelry, home goods and more, as seen on beloved TV shows.
In a retail market bursting with e-commerce platforms, shoppable TV efforts, virtual worlds and initiatives targeting fan communities, it’s natural to wonder if there’s room for yet another, or how this one can distinguish itself from the pack.
But what those businesses don’t have is Martin herself.
A former sportscaster and a New York Times bestselling author, the Emmy-winning media personality has built a career as a fashion and lifestyle authority and e-commerce expert with a knack for igniting sales. Her bio credits her as the first to pioneer the concept of bringing shopping into unscripted television. One media report claims she drove as much as $60 million in revenue for “Today” in 2018 alone.
In other words, she has an innate understanding of what consumers want. Her partner, entertainment company 101 Studios, knows what the studios want. This blend, she said, is Shop the Scenes’ secret sauce.
“[Longtime friend and 101 cofounder David Glasser] understands, from a showrunner perspective, why it’s so important for products to be organic and available to the consumer,” she explained. “And I come at it from a viewer perspective and a consumer perspective of how we make that environment seamless and enjoyable. And so with the merging of 101 Studios and David and myself…we have all the areas covered.”
Together, they aimed to flip the old model — retail’s use of storytelling as a tool to drive sales — to show storytellers how the shopping platform can expand the worlds they’ve created to the real world, in real time.
“Rather than ad placements, we’re coming at it by working with the showrunners, working with the costume and set designers, and that is where the difference is, where it’s never been done before,” she continued. “There are so many times that you’ve watched something and you love it, and you’re scouring the Internet, and [wondering,] ‘Where do I get it?’ Now the behavior will just be there, to know that you could go to Shop the Scenes and just get it with one click. It’s an authentic and organic way to shop your favorite show.”
As if to punctuate the point, she held up her hand. She was wearing Rip’s ring from “Yellowstone.”
It’s an ambitious play to redefine what an immersive fan experience can be, and according to Martin, creators like Darren Star find it rather compelling: “I flew to Paris to meet with Darren and Stephen [Joel Brown, producer], and they gave me insight into the brands that will be pitched in this coming season,” she added. “And so when Emily pitches that brand, you will be able to buy that particular item, as in real time.”
That’s notable, since TV productions are usually locked down to prevent leaks. But it speaks to the platform’s appeal.
“We are so excited to be partnering with Shop the Scenes and to bring the world of ‘Emily in Paris’ directly to fans of the show,” said Brown, Star’s producing partner on “Emily In Paris,” in a statement provided to WWD.
“Our partnership will, for the first time, make the brands and products exclusively created for the show immediately shoppable. Fans will be able to buy everything from Champere to Pierre Cadault luggage to Chez Lavaux kitchenware,” he added. “Bringing the show to life in the real world has always been a goal of ours and our partnership with Shop the Scenes makes this a reality.” Martin and Star are even working on an undisclosed beauty product.
From the fans’ point of view, the experience should feel seamless. By scanning a QR code that will air onscreen, visitors can step inside richly detailed virtual locations that match the show — like rooms at Dutton Ranch from “Yellowstone” — and, as the platform’s name suggests, shop those scenes. In the future, the environments may include digital collectibles or NFTs, Martin said. But for now, the experience is decidedly crypto-free.
Other retail and shoppable TV initiatives have been using QR codes for years, from NBCUniversal — Martin’s stomping grounds — to a recent Coinbase Super Bowl commercial. In essence, they’ve trained consumers to view the codes as commerce gateways. For Shop the Scenes, they’re also a branding opportunity. Its QR code, which resembles a bag or a production clapboard, was designed to be an icon that viewers will immediately recognize as a doorway to Shop the Scenes’ shopping environment, exclusive content, contests and curated product selection.
Martin is particularly proud to support small brands, in addition to established labels. She even partnered with a tech firm to digitally scan and render products in 3D, removing an obstacle for small operators.
“The item is then placed, and it will look real on the virtual set, so you get a better sense of what it looks like up close,” she explained. “Then the product page will tell you about the small business owner that might have made it.
“We’re able we have hundreds of small businesses, which is so exciting to me. With a lot of women-owned businesses, where if somebody has to hand-make them or make 10 of them, they’re not able to go into retail,” she elaborated. “But because we have a centralized warehouse [in Texas] and distribution, we’re able to help those small businesses, so I’m really jazzed about being able to do that.”
Shop the Scenes will open for business on Nov. 12, timed with Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone” season four marathon, followed by the season five premiere on Nov. 13. Fans will be able to explore select virtual environments at Dutton Ranch styled with products from or inspired by previous seasons. The company is planning to offer watch party kits, gifts, contests, VIP memberships and exclusive content. For the season five premiere, key items from the show will be available for purchase.
The buzz has already begun. Paramount Network aired a Labor Day Marathon with past seasons of “Yellowstone,” with several spots introducing Shop the Scenes to viewers. According to the company, the response was overwhelming. The flood of sign-ups looked like a proof of concept, prompting the business to continue innovating. In addition to virtual shopping via WebVR, the e-commerce site will offer shoppable video and “stills,” and it is exploring partnerships to shop via remote.
Dates for “Emily in Paris,” plus a “Today” holiday pop-up shop on the platform, will be announced at a later time.
But it won’t end there. So far, STS has secured NBC, Paramount Media Networks and MTV Entertainment Studios for its initial wave of shows, but talks are underway with other potential partners. In the coming months, the company plans to announce 25 more shows for next year.
Some could include programs with a younger demographic, so Martin formed a junior advisory board over the summer. The 10 members, ranging in age from 10 to 25, weigh in on topics like gamification or how to appeal to parents.
When STS launches, it will arrive with some 1,000 stock keeping units, Martin estimated — including “Yellowstone” items such as John Dutton’s cowboy hat, from heritage brand Burns Cowboy; the horse saddle that appeared in season four; Beth’s faux fur coat from Geneva-based brand Faz Not Fur, and a very limited collection for Rip’s wedding ring, with only 300 produced.
The “Emily” line of merchandise will feature a limited edited of the Pierre Cadault suitcase and the de Lalisse Champere, in addition to other home goods, beauty, fashion, accessories, travel items and kitchenware.
Sounds like Martin, whose home is already decked out with Pierre Cardeau pillows, blankets and more, may need to get a bigger place.