Taking The Sledgehammer To Spike

Restarting an old established cable network? Don’t think about a brand campaign. Let your shows do the talking.

On January 17, Viacom’s 15-year-old Spike network met its maker -- that is, its logo. A marketing stunt blew up a big Spike logo in the desert. Viewers had a role in voting how Spike would meet its end. After the logo was engulfed in flames and keeled over, a new banner was revealed: The Paramount Network.

This was part of a six-week marketing effort for the network change in the campaign called “Goodbye Spike.”

The desert blow-up of the logo was a nod to the 15-year-old Spike, which started as a young male-centric, “unapologetic” TV network, airing WWE wrestling programming and UFC mixed martial arts shows, among other options. 

Spike had an appropriate tagline early on: Get More Action.



Since its early days, Spike loosened up the reins a bit, looking to bring in more women viewers. “Lip Sync Battle” emerged as the network’s biggest show. Other notable efforts included “Ink Master” and “Bar Rescue.”

Launching in 2003 (transforming from TNN), Spike was part of an overall Viacom mindset when it came to network development and structure: Target specific niche audiences. For example, young kids for Nickelodeon, teens with MTV, and older millennials for VH1.

Things will now be different with the Paramount Network, which replaced Spike on January 18. Niels Schuurmans, CMO of the Paramount Network, says much of the focus will be on different kinds of audiences for shows: “It is less about demographics and more of psychographics.”

The network’s initial marketing efforts will be to focus on big new premium-looking TV series. This includes “Heathers,” a TV series from the movie franchise; “Waco,” a series surrounding the real-life 1993 standoff between cult leader David Koresh and the FBI and ATF; and ”Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner as the nation’s largest ranch owner.

It may be somewhat unusual in re-starting this Viacom cable network that Schuurmans says he is in no rush to kick off a brand marketing campaign -- until perhaps June -- after the TV shows find their way.

Brand marketing for TV networks can typically give consumers a feel for what a channel is currently like overall. Social media will do some work here for Paramount. “Let’s have people buzzing a little about even something as innocuous as changing your social handle,” he says.

One thing the channel won’t do, says Schuurmans, is rely on Paramount’s movie history past. However, he did point to the network as a “storytelling brand. ... The aim is to be part of cultural conversation. Let’s create a narrative.”

Much of Paramount’s new creative and marketing will come from in-house efforts. But it will also rely on outside marketing companies, like We Are Social, which created the blow-up Spike logo event. Horizon Media is the network’s media’s agency.

For specific on-air show promotion, the Paramount Network will gain from Viacom channels -- more so than in previous years. The Viacom Marketing Council is where senior marketing executives from all Viacom channels gather to discuss how they can help each other.

“The biggest change in Viacom is that it used to be much more silo-ed,” says Schuurmans. “We [now] identify priorities.”

With growing competition against all sorts of media -- and especially in re-starting any new cable or other media platform -- TV executives need all the promotional help they can get.

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