Industry Watch: Online, It's Always Showtime

Butts in couches is still the goal of TV marketers

Industry Watch: Online, It's Always, Showtime

There's no dearth of primetime TV shows about families. For the launch of NBC's Parenthood, the agency Ignited used video as the key play for its digital campaign. Ignited was aiming for a broad target: 18- to 49-year-olds, with a slight skew toward older and female. In fact, this particular show, more than most, seems carefully designed to hit this broad range, chronicling the lives of several generations and several kinds of parenthood, from career mom to baby daddy to matriarch and patriarch.

David Martin, senior vice president of Ignited, is not a big fan of viral video campaigns. "You can make a viral video and roll the dice and hope - but I'd rather not roll the dice. I'd rather pay for people to watch the ads, knowing that's the best way to drive affinity and interest," he says.

Ignited used Tremor Media, a video ad network, to provide both reach and targeting. Tremor showed Parenthood spots as pre-rolls, targeting video viewers with interests in parenting and entertainment. The Tremor buy included some pay-per-click-to-view ads.

Parenthood sponsored "The Best of Dooce," an archetypical mommy blog, and ran ads on other such blogs within the Federated Media network, including "Cool Mom Picks" and "Suburban Bliss." Blog buys included a program with that included roadblocks and home page skins the day the show premiered. Clips also made it to Facebook and Twitter, via Sharethrough, which distributes video ads to social media properties.

"Day-of is really critical," says Martin. "People are choosing among many shows, so we've got to be as loud as we can be the day our show airs."

Search played a key role in the campaign - but keyword marketing for this show was challenging. After all, most people searching for "parenthood" on regular search engines aren't looking for what to watch. So Ignited bought placement against searches on the Internet Movie Database ( for "Ron Howard," the producer, as well as cast members' names.

There is a section of devoted to Parenthood, offering recaps of episodes, show credits, clips and full episodes. But Ignited's brief was to get people to watch, not to hang out on the Web site.

"The message is always, 'Tune in,' " Martin notes. "There's usually a 'click for more information,' but clicks are a secondary metric for us. We're mostly interested in reminding people what day and time the show airs."

Fighting for Fans
Online engagement is the name of the game for Bravo Media. It recently announced three multiplatform games based on their series Top Chef and The Real Housewives franchise. The first title, "Top Chef Food Fight," was scheduled for release in May on and iPhones.

"'Food Fight' will be fun, engaging, and maybe addictive - so much so that you want to compete and share your results with your friends," says Lisa Hsia, senior vice president of new media and digital strategy for Bravo.

It's really a bundle of quick, single-player games that test agility, memory and presentation. Contestants can obtain "power-up" ingredients like pomegranate that give them special powers or protection. At the same time, characters representing Top Chef contestants throw food at players, who have to protect themselves by wielding a frying pan. Once you make it through all three rounds, you get to "chefify" yourself, creating a special profile you can post to your Facebook page.

"We've taken the basic ingredients of casual games known to work, branded them around the shows, and added a few social elements," says Hsia.

Games have always done very well for Bravo, according to Hsia, and the network's marketing has long had a strong social media component, but these games aim to kick it up a notch or two. People can invite their friends to play and display each new "chefication" via Facebook Connect. A partnership with Foursquare, a mobile, location-based friend-finder/game, lets people win Top Chef badges when they happen upon preselected locations across the United States.

The goal, Hsia says, is to encourage fans of the show to spread the word via social media, thereby introducing new people to the channel and the Web site.

The games are part of a strategy that blurs the distinction between digital and on-air. TV spots encourage people to visit the Web site, while the site - along with mobile media - builds more engagement with shows themselves. Bravo also hosts "Talk Bubbles," virtual viewing parties for The Real Housewives of New York City. While the show itself airs, fans and members of the cast chat and react via Twitter, Facebook and text.

Hsia notes that every tweet or post about the show gets magnified exponentially among followers, letting Bravo aggregate a huge audience. In one week in April, The Real Housewives brand had three trending topics on Twitter.

"Social media is really helping to grow our audience," she says.

Socializing At Travel Channel, social media - especially Facebook - is almost as important as the TV shows and the Web site, according to CMO Patrick Lafferty. The Travel Channel made its first voyage into social media two years ago, via a Facebook game called "Kidnap." The game, developed by social media marketing agency Context Optional and Rapp Digital, lets you "kidnap" a Facebook friend to a particular city; then the friend has to answer a trivia question about the city. If he doesn't know the answer, he has to go to to find it. Over time, as players unlock more levels, they get more kidnap methods and a better passport.

The strategy was twofold: branding the channel and getting people to the Web site. The latest iteration upped the branding by tying cities to a particular show. For example, in Paris, Anthony Bourdain plugs his show, No Reservations. With 3 million daily users, the branding part is certainly covered.

While it's difficult to correlate social media usage with TV viewing, Lafferty says Travel Channel is getting more sophisticated about mapping social media activity with behavior, thanks to semantic learning tools provided by Room 214, a social-media marketing agency. "There's always a balance between innovating and trying to quantify what you're doing," says Lafferty.

With its strong emphasis on social media, Travel Channel no longer has a relationship with a traditional agency. Much of the creative is done in-house; sometimes agencies like Room 214 or Context Optional are asked to pitch concepts. "We don't spend a ton of money, so it's really important that we get strong ROI from every dollar we spend," says Lafferty. "Right now, working with smaller agencies, freelancers and internal assets has proven to be a good mix for us."

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