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AstraZeneca, Cisco Deals Go Everywhere

Greg D'Alba says that the multiplatform packages his ad sales team at CNN puts together for clients are no longer novelties.

"What's interesting is it's not about what's new anymore, but what's becoming the norm," said Mr. D'Alba, chief operating officer of CNN ad sales and marketing.

Just last week, CNN signed the renewal of a deal with drug company AstraZeneca to sponsor CNN's "Fit Nation," a news series about the obesity epidemic in America that is augmented by an array of extensions on multiple media platforms.

CNN also announced plans to launch a new series of profiles called "People You Should Know" that will be sponsored by Cisco. Those profiles will also be distributed beyond television, with Cisco's ads going along for the ride wherever and whenever they're viewed.

"These platforms are connecting our viewer with content that's relevant and provides a real purpose for engagement," Mr. D'Alba said. "Advertisers want their brand associated with a program that involves viewer participation. Whether it's 'Fit Nation' or 'People You Should Know,' it's all relevant content that affects people's lives day in and day out."

This type of content creates what Mr. D'Alba called "the backpack effect" by attaching itself to consumers who are ingesting and interacting with media wherever they may be.

"We know they're taking CNN with them. We're just giving them real content alternatives for day-to-day life guidance and information they need to know, want to know and are asking for."

Shari Cohen, president and co-executive director of national TV at Mindshare, Cisco's media buying agency, says most buyers are looking for these 360-degree packages.

"Some products lend themselves to it easier than others, and then there are some clients like Cisco who do things in a less traditional way and are looking for these types of tent-pole things that they can activate 360," she said.

Ms. Cohen said that not all attempts at integration work and the best ones are customized to a client's specific needs. "Certainly no one wants something that's cookie cutter. Depending on what the client is about, it makes it more difficult to find that idea that really resonates with the consumer and what the product is all about," she said.

While the agency has input, it's usually up to the network to figure out what assets it has that would best connect consumers to the content and the brand, she said. "I think some people do it better than others, and CNN has certainly had examples of harnessing all their assets into a meaningful program."

Both programs involve original content that is distributed and marketed in multiple ways.

In addition to being the exclusive on-air advertising sponsor of "Fit Nation" 2007 programming and tune-in ads, AstraZeneca will also appear with the health-related content on the CNN.com "Fit Nation" Web site, including user-generated content on CNN Exchange.

During the year, AstraZeneca will also be the sponsor of CNN's "House Call With Dr. Sanjay Gupta," a one-hour investigative special featuring Dr. Gupta and his three-part series on health issues. It will also sponsor the monthly "Fit or Fat" segment on "Anderson Cooper 360."

These elements were similar to last year's sponsorship. This year, the package includes "Fit Nation Challenge America," a grassroots campaign to encourage Americans to exercise. The campaign will feature a retro Airstream camper that will travel to local festivals and events encouraging people to lead healthier lives. The camper will naturally carry joint CNN and AstraZeneca brand branding supporting "Fit Nation." "Fit Nation" material will also include podcasts and interactive guides for determining obesity risks and proper weight.

The "People You Should Know" package is built around a series of profiles that will air each week on CNN. The people spotlighted will be influential but, at this point, little known. Cisco's sponsorship package includes television advertising on all CNN networks, plus wireless, broadband video, audio podcating, video-on-demand and online advertising on CNN. Cisco will also provide consumers with a free day of CNN Pipeline, the subscription broadband network. The integration also incorporates Time Warner print properties, including ads for the profiles in Fortune and Business 2.0 and banner ads on CNNMoney.com, when the featured personality is from the business world.

Mr. D'Alba said the content is being generated by the CNN's editorial staff.

"We want to provide more relevant information to the consumer," he said. "News coverage is one way of doing it. Lifestyle information is another. I think what makes us such a versatile news operation and a relevant news operation is that we're able to provide content platforms that provide different opportunities for engagement with our viewers and users."

That material is very salable, he added. "For every fully integrated package that we present there is an advertiser. We're batting 1,000 percent on that. And it's not because we're developing it and throwing it out there and we're finding sponsors, it's because our advertisers and our partners are requesting it, they're demanding it."

Mr. D'Alba said that while once online ads were a throw-in to sweeten an ad deal--value added, as they used to say--"this multiple-media connection to a consumer through the right content has become the commodity, not the value added. It's funny how that changed. A couple of years ago the commodity was ratings points. Now the commodity is fast becoming reach through multimedia connection with content and the value you could say will eventually be ratings points. We're kind of in the evolution of a flip-flop."

This article is part of TVWeek.com's Media Planner newsletter, a weekly source of breaking news, trend articles, profiles and data about media planning edited by Senior Editor Jon Lafayette.

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