Launch week also marks debut of cross-promo ads

Put fresh batteries in your remote: Monday night is the official start of the fall TV season.

With millions of viewers hungry for new prime-time programming, marketers are looking to cash in by tying their brands to must-see TV.

Gemstar-TV Guide International gmst Monday night will begin airing show-specific commercials that pitch its TV Guide magazine, website and cable channel as the go-to sources of behind-the-scenes scoops and star interviews between new episodes of their favorite shows.

An ad that will run this week toward the end of ABC's Grey's Anatomy, for example, begins counting down the number of "heartbeats" until the next show (from 601,000) and reassures viewers that TV Guide's outlets will "get you through the week." The brand will have a total of 13 ads tailored to individual shows, including Fox's Prison Break, NBC's Heroes and CBS' Survivor: China.

The goal is an image shift from "just a magazine of listings" to "the resource to help satiate a viewer's needs until the next episode," says Peter Krivkovich, CEO of TV Guide ad agency Cramer-Krasselt.

The company has prime placement in the second half of each show, says Gemstar chief marketing officer Alan Cohen. "Tying (the campaign) to the launch of the fall TV season made a lot of strategic sense for us. People have a passion for their favorite show."

Other marketers also linked brands to the TV season opening, some with formal promotion partnerships. Those include a trio of car brands and a restaurant chain:

•Cadillac. gm The luxury brand is the official sponsor of the whole prime-time lineup tonight on CBS.

Throughout the evening, CBS will air promos with CSI: Miami star Adam Rodriguez next to a red Caddy CTS. He proclaims the night "The Cadillac of Premieres."

CBS' marketing agency Initiative also created a program of information about CBS shows and about the redesigned 2008 CTS for packaging on USB flash drives and viewing on a computer. The drives were included with subscriber copies of the Sept. 21 Entertainment Weekly.

"We liked the (joint promotion) because it draws attention to our program premieres," says CBS Marketing Group President George Schweitzer. "Together, we're both pushing the message out there for CBS and Cadillac."

•Applebee's. appb In a product placement deal, Applebee's will be a hangout for Friday Night Lights characters for a second season. Meanwhile, about 1,500 of Applebee's 1,937 restaurants have promotional posters aimed at building "tune-in for the premiere and the season in general," says Caroline Boese, associate entertainment director at Applebee's media buying agency Starcom USA.

•Nissan. NSANY Every night this week, NBC and Nissan will give away a 2008 Nissan Rogue SL crossover SUV that includes a plaque signed by Tim Kring, creator of Heroes. To win one of the five Rogues, viewers must go to www.nbc.com/nissan and answer a question about that night's show. The Rogue also will have placement in Heroes.

Barbara Blangiardi, NBC head of strategic marketing and content innovation, sees more such cross-promotions. "It's mutually beneficial, and we'd love to do more of it."

•Honda. HMC NBC and Honda created offbeat vignettes promoting both the redesigned Accord and NBC's new shows. For example, one this month had a couple in the Accord discussing the benefits of a bionic tongue. That spot ended with a plug for Wednesday's Bionic Woman premiere.

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