New strategy in play to promote fall lineup

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter)--This fall, most of the major broadcast networks are taking their cue from ABC's success last season with Desperate Housewives and Lost by putting most of their marketing resources behind a few shows.

"If you're working on more than three shows at a top level, you're probably doing too many," said Vince Manze, president of NBC Agency, the in-house marketing arm of NBC Universal.

NBC, for example, is focusing on My Name Is Earl, E-Ring, and Surface.

At CBS, returning programs Two and a Half Men, Without a Trace, and the CSI franchise will be getting a big push along with new shows How I Met Your Mother, Close to Home, and Ghost Whisperer.

Fox is pinning its hopes on Prison Break, Bones, and Reunion--as well as its Sunday night block of hit returning shows The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad, which are being joined by the new comedy The War at Home.

And following its major comeback last season, ABC is repeating the strategy this year, focusing on the returning hit series that solidified the industry trend, as well as new shows Commander In Chief, Invasion, and Night Stalker.

"The challenge that we have this year that we didn't have last year is that we have more children to pick from," said ABC senior vice president of marketing Mike Benson. "We've got to make sure we bring Lost and Desperate Housewives back. They're key to the success of the network."

But even putting most of a network's resources behind a few key programs is not enough to get the word out, at least not with traditional media, so the networks are promoting their shows anywhere they can possibly think of to pique the interest of viewers in new offerings for the 2005-06 season.

Marketing executives at most of the major networks say they are spending significantly more this year on Internet and alternative marketing, continuing a trend of the past few years. NBC plans to enhance its banner ads with embedded video so that visitors to major portals like Yahoo, AOL, and MSN don't have to click through to NBC's Web site to view promos of the network's new shows.

Cross promotions with advertisers integrated into network programming are also expected to provide an additional marketing push this season, much more so than last year. Most networks say those deals are still in the works, but NBC has a fall launch partnership with Mazda, in which the MX-5 Miata and the Mazda5 are integrated into promo spots for Earl, E-Ring, and Surface.

In exchange, Mazda created a Web site in conjunction with NBC that features previews of all of NBC's new shows as well as a sweepstakes that offers viewers the chance to win a new Mazda if they spot the vehicle in an NBC promo.

CBS last week announced that it will digitally embed the logo of the new Chevrolet Impala in five shows during premiere week as part of a sweepstakes and multifaceted promotion with Chevrolet.

The major networks are also being quite aggressive with nontraditional marketing schemes.

In a takeoff on its new do-good reality show, Three Wishes, NBC will send street teams to perform three acts of kindness for residents of 15 US markets. The acts of kindness will be paid for with some 150,000 one-dollar bills that contain stickers promoting the show and its Web site, thus becoming circulating billboards, NBC said.

The WB debuted the entire first episode of the reality-bending series Supernatural on Yahoo TV the week leading up to the September 13 premiere. It is also promoting the show in subway tunnels and video games and on bar mirrors, gasoline nozzles, and heat-sensitive coffee sleeves that will project images of the show onto cafe ceilings.

Fox has arranged to promote Reunion, which follows a group of six friends from their high school graduation through the present day, at 300 reunions being held across the country through November. In addition, it is partnering with Supercuts for a sweepstakes offering the chance to reunite with five friends on a reunion vacation.

CBS has partnered with online dating service to create a customized program that allows visitors to the site to determine which How I Met Your Mother character they are most compatible with. A video preview of the show is also available on the Web site. The network is also advertising its new comedy Out of Practice, about a family of five doctors, on hundreds of AquaCell Media water coolers in Rite Aid and Duane Reade drugstores with the tag line Quench Your Thirst for Comedy.

UPN is launching the biggest promotional campaign for any show in its history with a multimillion dollar push for Everybody Hates Chris, the sitcom based on Chris Rock's life. One million DVDs featuring the first episode of the show are being given out at venues like concerts, baseball games, and movie theaters and are also being distributed in Entertainment Weekly. The show is also being shown in its entirety on American Airlines during September.

Comments (1)
Sep 13, 2005
Cool, may the force be with them...