Marketing Push: Promo Efforts For Fall Lineup Get Early Buzz

With a month to go before the onslaught of the new fall season, the broadcast networks' collective tracking study points to two shows with the highest awareness level so far: "Bionic Woman" and "Cavemen."

That comes as no shock to most executives, who have already seen a number of "buzz" and "Internet" studies that single out these two. But network executives caution that this is only about "awareness." Two other, perhaps more important metrics--"intent to view" and "first choice"--are yet to come.

One network marketing executive also tracks programs on the lower side of the tracking awareness list: NBC's "Life," "Journeyman," Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares," "Nashville" and "Back To You;" and CBS' "Viva Laughlin" and "Moonlight."

Even then, the TV program tracking study isn't an absolute harbinger--it only has a 70% accuracy rate. Plus, early data may not tell much about what these shows mean to viewers. "Questions can be pretty simple," admitted George Schweitzer, president of the CBS Marketing Group. For example, one is: "Have you ever heard of the "Bionic Woman?" The "Bionic Woman" ran on ABC and then NBC in the 1970s. ABC's "Cavemen" has a big presence, thanks to those omnipresent Geico insurance commercials.



While many networks have ramped up summer off-air efforts and promotion stunts for their new shows, Schweitzer says most don't amp up their full marketing plans--on-air, off-air and promotion--until after Labor Day. That's when consumers start focusing on the fall season, and when networks typically do heavier print, radio, and outdoor media.

ABC has been jump-starting its efforts a bit early, with a big push to revamp Wednesdays. Much like the last several seasons, ABC will focus on a couple of key shows from the eight they are launching.

"We are doing the most on Wednesdays for "Pushing Daisies" and "Dirty Sexy Money," said Mike Benson, executive vice president of marketing for ABC network. Both shows--"Daisies," which will run at 8 p.m., and "Money" running at 10 p.m.--are key time periods for the network that dropped 22% on the night last season in 18-to-49 viewers.

Aggressive Network Efforts

ABC appears to be the most aggressive so far, with an outdoor effort in New York and Los Angeles for those two new dramas. In New York, there are traditional side-of-bus ads, subway platforms and banners draped on buildings. The network is also running video promos on the screens placed above subway entrances.

In Los Angeles, there are traditional billboards for the shows. Separately, an ad for "Pushing Daisies" appears in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly; another will run in the next issue of Us Weekly.

But as in the past, not every ABC show gets the same treatment. "Carpoolers," ABC's 8:30 p.m. Tuesday show, will get on-air promo time. The bulk will come from that and an expected strong draft behind the high awareness level of its 8 p.m. lead-in program, "Cavemen." "You can't do the same thing for every show," says Benson. "It's not a hard-and-fast rule--but you may not put much behind some shows in terms of paid media."

Now weeks from launching its fall season, Fox's marketing efforts hit a bit of a bump in the road. Its executive vice president of marketing, Chris Carlisle, just left the company to head up theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema. A Fox spokesman had no comment about any replacement.

The good news is that Fox's marketing machine is already in motion. Fox has launched an outdoor push in Los Angeles with billboards for new drama "K-Ville" and the much-hyped comedy "Back to You" (starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton). There will be outdoor ads on New York City buses and transit shelters, as well as in other cities around Labor Day.

This summer, Fox used its successful reality series "So You Think You Can Dance?" to promote comedy "Anchorwoman" and reality show "Nashville," as well as the reality music competition show "The Search for the Next Great American Band," which is from the producers of "American Idol."

Save for NBC's "Sunday Night Football" campaign, ranging from taxis to signage in Times Square, NBC appears to be keeping its powder dry, just doing its own on-air promos. The same is true for CBS.

CBS' sister network, The CW, did get the ball rolling a bit this summer with a special stunt. In trying to seed interest among a teen and young-adult target, the CW had ads rolling out in nearly 40 malls in 12 markets. A more extensive, multi-platform campaign for promising series, such as "Reaper" and "Gossip Girl," is slated for after Labor Day.

ABC--perhaps more than other networks--did some summer promotion work. For "Dirty Sexy Money," a banner dragged by a plane over Paris Hilton's jail in the summer said: "We Love Paris - the Darling Family." Like the Hiltons, the fictional Darling family in "Money" is a powerful yet dysfunctional New York City family. The same message in a print ad ran in the New York Post's "Page Six" section.

For "Pushing Daisies," ABC has had street marketing teams give away daisies on city streets. "Daisies" also got a special screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles last Thursday.

In the weeks to come, NBC will make the full initial episodes of its four new shows--"Chuck," "Bionic Woman," "Journeyman" and "Life"--available free on VOD on at least the top-four cable operators and Dish Network, according to press reports. In return, NBC will get hundreds of local spots to promote its shows.

"If you're trying to build an audience, in order to get more than your own viewers to come over, then you have to go off-air," said Mike Mohamad, a senior vice president at A&E Networks and former top marketing executive at NBC.

Pre-season marketing smacks of the movie industry, where there's pressure on executives and their agencies to deliver a big audience for a premiere. It's the same when "opening" a TV show. After that, much of the ultimate success lies with the producers and programming executives.

Next story loading loading..