Fox Wants Viewer Creative For 'Terminator'

Looking to use all possible marketing tools in this strike-tainted TV season, Fox for the first time will ask viewers to create a promotional poster for a new show--"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles."

Viewers can go online and assemble pre-selected artwork--graphics, photos, fonts and title cards--to create their own movie-like poster for the new sci-fiction series. Contestants must submit their designs before midnight, December 14, 2007.

The top five posters will be featured on fox.com/terminator, where viewers can vote online for their favorites from December 18-21. The poster with the most votes wins the grand prize--a trip for two to the premiere party for the show on January 9 in Los Angeles.

Joe Early, executive vice president of marketing and communications for Fox, said the network had so many good pieces of marketing creative that Fox decided to let interested fans in the show weigh in. He notes, for example, that the new show has three different pieces of key art for the billboard campaign of the show--whereas virtually all new shows have only one.

Early says much of this was sparked by some introductory posters that ran in Entertainment Weekly--art which had fans using it for their own fan Web sites.

"The campaign started in August," said Early. "It was really planned out far in advance." He noted that the outdoor campaign was set in motion two months ago.

Early on in the marketing process, hints of "Terminator" ran during Fox's other prime-time shows. Lower-third bottom-of-the-screen 'bugs,' which at first seemed like two red lights, appeared during Fox shows. Later bugs revealed those lights to be two eyes. Finally, other bugs displayed the show's marketing line, "Take Back the Future" and its takebackthefuture.com Web site.

Other TV shows and films have used similar poster contests to tease the creative juices of potential consumers--particularly those in the science-fiction vein.

In 2005, Sony Pictures Entertainment had a contest for horror movie "Silent Hill." Three years earlier, Sony Pictures also stirred potential theatergoers to create posters for another sci-fi horror film (originally a video game), "Resident Evil."

For entertainment marketing executives, the push is to get young-skewing, passionate fans of TV shows and films involved in creating marketing or other content that will also generate buzz.

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