What Kind Of Marketing Will Keep Fox On Top?

We plead for some anxiety-ridden marketing at the Fox network these days. No, not the kind that puts thoughts of digital ticking bombs on the side of highways a la Cartoon Network. Just something that will make us fidget in our chairs.

With a number of new shows on the loose, hoping to break the trend of an always lackluster start to the fall, Fox has a lot to think about when it comes to marketing -- especially now that the network has a change of marketing leadership.

Recently Fox marketing veteran Chris Carlisle fled to the theatrical ground belonging to New Line Cinema, after that company lost its head of marketing, Russell Schwartz, the marketing legend that kept the "Lord of the Rings" flames firing for three years.

Now there's a different marketing plan at Fox, where Joe Early, who runs Fox's communications department, has taken over. Instead of hiring a veteran with marketing, media or advertising background, Fox decided to let Early have a try in mixing marketing and communications under the same roof - a tactic movie studios have used for years.



It's always tough to create marketing that will make a top network repeat as champ. Perhaps it's even harder for Fox, which has been in the driver's seat for a number of years.

The network's nuclear bomb, "American Idol," becomes a bigger challenge every year - and not just to use the show's crushing ratings domination to launch new Fox titles.   

A lot of marketing power rides on "Idol"'s name as it makes its annual return in January.

But this time around, Fox can't take too much for granted now that "Idol" is coming off its first down rating season since it started. Can marketing reverse the trend -- bringing back young viewers who are trickling away?

Second issue: Can "House" --  Fox's real rising star -- grab bigger rating ground, taking on the likes of  "Grey's Anatomy"?  Third issue: What about the hard-working "Bones"? The network should keep it from getting lost in the shuffle of Fox's eclectic offerings this fall -- from a reality show set in Nashville to a very CBS-like sitcom, "Back to You," starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton.

"Back to You"'s marketing tricks seem earnest enough: Faux news trucks skipping around in some big market towns pretending to be real local TV news vehicles - all with the appropriate people handing out flyers.

But all this doesn't seem quite like Fox, now, does it? Where's the tension in that marketing and publicity -- the stuff that came from those crazy reality shows like "Joe Millionaire" and "The Littlest Groom"?

Instead you see the headlines and the outrage all belonging to CBS these days for the controversial reality show, "Kid Nation" -- all of which probably has Fox's reality chief, Mike Darnell, breaking a knowing smile.Didn't he used to get that kind of media attention and scrutiny? 

Whether intended of not, that's brand name gusto we expect from Fox -- a sometimes rough-around-the-edges mix of marketing and publicity. Good luck with all that, Mr. Early.

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