NBC, Scripps & Universal Studios Discuss Online Spending
At NBC, the interactive spend for some news/cable properties is about 25-35% of the overall budget, up from 15% last year. While it is not uncommon for niche content smaller budgets to have 100% of ad dollars spent in the digital space, most major properties are plugged through a mix of on- and offline channels.
NBC has seen its most tangible multi-platform success with "Heroes"--from a peak of 14.3 million viewers on air to 7 million unique visitors to its Heroes 360 microsite. The show was featured on social networks, in blogs, and even in an online game, and remains a prime example of traditional media leveraging digital channels for excellent results.
Chris Meador, director of media planning at The NBC Agency, says there has been a shift from "viewing digital targeting in terms of being a tool for mass reach, to a tool for building a core audience around properties that people really want to engage with."
At HGTV, Scripps Networks' home and garden lifestyle channel, digital spending averages 16% of the spend for some shows--up from 11% last year. Although the actual allocation differs by show or "brand," the budget typically includes a mix of search and display advertising, as well as initiatives on emerging channels.
With "Living with Ed," a reality show centered around Ed Begley, Jr. and his attempts to live an environmentally friendly life, the goals were to generate a quick buzz that would inspire users to tune in, and to reinforce perceptions of HGTV as a network with high entertainment value--not just "how-to" shows. The challenge? "Living with Ed" only had a six-episode run and less than 10% of the budget of a priority launch campaign.
Another major obstacle the HGTV interactive team faced was that searching for the phrase "living with ed" continuously resulted in Web sites related to living with "erectile dysfunction." But through a carefully targeted search engine marketing and optimization campaign, as well as display advertising, and even an AOL-based avatar initiative, the team was able to boost "Living with Ed" to 90% of the primary page results for that phrase on Google and Yahoo. "The entire shelf space in search was filled with positive info about the show," said Mike Boyd, senior vice president of marketing, HGTV.
More tangible proof was in the ratings, however, as "Living with Ed" came in with 14% more viewers than the show in the same time slot the previous year. A second season of the show debuts August 26.
At Universal Studios, digital spending overall is now about 7% of the ad budget, up from 5% last year. Because so much of a movie's earnings potential stems from opening-day success, "film is still an industry that's driven mainly by broadcast and in theaters," said Doug Neil, senior vice president of digital marketing, Universal Studios.
Still, for specific titles, such as "300" and the soon-to-be released "Transformers," interactive campaigns make up almost 10-15% of the ad budget. For many of Universal's films, the goal of digital ad initiatives is to generate online behavior that reinforces offline behavior, so search engine marketing and optimization are the favored tools.
With "Knocked Up," a critically acclaimed, modestly budgeted hit that grabbed $8.9 million on its opening night, Universal used search to generate early buzz. Google's content network brought in relevant placements in categories like young men and comedy, and Universal also optimized its knockedupmovie.com site for search, as well as purchasing relatable keywords such as pregnancy and "one night stand."