NEW YORK: Ad-skipping – the bane both of advertisers' and broadcasters' lives – is an increasing problem in this era of shrinking marketing budgets and the incursions of the internet. Many adfolk have sought solutions in the arms of technology. But the answer, it seems, might lie in the history books.

CBS and Unilever North America's Bertolli Italian foods brand have harnessed a TV format that dates back to the late 1940s: sponsored programs in which the brand plays an integral role in the show and is plugged during intermittent breaks.

Launched during the network's two-hour comedy segment on Monday, the format will run for several weeks. It stars Lara Spencer, host of CBS's popular tabloid-style showbiz program The Insider.

In so-called interstitials (or mini-segments) during breaks in the show, Spencer touts CBS's other popular comedy output while niftily preparing a new Bertolli product.

Over the next three weeks CBS plans to air a single 45-second mini segment in each show followed by a 15-second standard TV spot.

The format grew from a series of briefings Unilever gave to media companies earlier this year, from which sprang discussions between Unilever North America media director Rob Master and CBS, culminating in the present format.

Recalls Master: "We said we're briefing you on these ideas as a test of your thinking, your flexibility in how you can bring them to life using your array of assets, from talent to shows."

The result, he says, proves that a network's "ability to come back with big ideas provided [CBS with] a greater share [of spending]."

And in a word to the wise: "You have to make commercial time count," says Melissa Shapiro, managing director at WPP-owned media buyer MindShare, which helped forge the deal.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff