Playing off the "Like" button on Facebook pages, the ad campaign took a different tack from the normal pitch to advertisers. As Fox touted its continued leadership in the 18-to-49 demo, it didn't mention ratings.
The ad featured "Family Guy" character Peter Griffin next to an "America's Most LIKEd Network" tagline and the Facebook thumbs-up logo.As Fox tabulated the "Likes" for its Facebook hub and the numbers for all its show pages, the network found it outdid competitors. With that data, and faced with buyer fatigue over traditional leadership claims, it turned to the new tactic.
"We thought is was sort of a Fox attitude and we wanted to embrace it," said Joe Earley, Fox's president of marketing and communications.
Fox had booked the ad space in print and online some time ago, but some of the creative genesis came as Earley sat through rehearsal for Fox's upfront presentation. As Peter Rice, who oversees the network, was going through his script with a notable portion about new connectivity, the concept germinated.
"Our fans are now connecting before our shows come on, while they're on, after they've aired, and when they travel to their successive platforms," Rice was saying. "These days, thanks to Twitter, Facebook and all of the other social networks, we actually get to see, measure and participate in these conversations as they're taking place all across the country."
Networks are fastidious in checking each other's braggadocio. So, Fox was careful enough to hire a third-party vendor to do the "Most LIKEd Network" counting, then compare the results to ABC, CBS, NBC and CW.
It's intriguing to look at some of the numbers in the social scene. As far as network pages (on Friday), Fox's "Likes" toppled the other networks by far.
But advertisers generally don't buy networks, they buy shows.
At Fox, "House" has 21.9 million "Likes", "Glee" has 14.1 million, but "American Idol" only has 6.1 million.
At ABC, "Grey's Anatomy" has 14 million, but the popular "Modern Family" comes in at 3.7 million.
For CBS, "Two and a Half Men" has 19.5 million and "The Big Bang Theory" is at 13 million. And at NBC, "The Office" has 8 million and "Law & Order: SVU" has 3 million.
The CW is, not surprisingly, led by "Gossip Girl" at 9.2 million.
Why did Fox choose "Family Guy" for its ad, which ran during "upfront week"? The show appears to have the most "Likes" for a broadcast show by a wide margin -- 31.1 million.
But social media is moving fast and, turning to Twitter, CBS may gain some momentum with the Ashton Kutcher for Charlie Sheen trade on "Two and a Half Men." Even with all of Sheen's recent entertaining commentary, Twitter phenom Kutcher still has nearly 3 million more followers than Sheen does.
What all this means is unclear, but it must count for something. Certainly, it has made network advertising a little more likable and forward thinking.