ABC Wants Viewers to Feel Right at Home
Promo Campaign Uses Net’s Family of Characters
After spending the last few years telling viewers to “Start Here,” ABC this week will begin telling viewers just where “here” is.
During its upfront presentation to advertisers Tuesday, the network will unveil a massive new on-air promotional campaign built around the concept of the ABC House. “Your favorite shows live here,” the network will tell viewers with the spots, which will feature a comedic tone and a wide assortment of ABC talent appearing in character.
“We want people to think of ABC as a place,” said Mike Benson, the network’s co-executive VP of marketing with Marla Provencio. “We want people to feel ABC is more of a home, a place where you and your family can gather.”
The new campaign comes as ABC, which will finish just behind CBS to rank third in adults 18-49 this season, is expected to unveil an aggressive slate of programming, including more comedies than in recent years. The comic bent of the ads could serve to evolve ABC’s reputation as a drama-heavy network.
ABC plans to roll out around a dozen different spots at the start of the campaign. In one, Sally Field of “Brothers & Sisters” reads a bedtime story to Jimmy Kimmel; another has “Lost’s” Matthew Fox freaking out when Teri Hatcher of “Desperate Housewives” uses the word “island.”
“We’re cross-pollinating all of our different characters,” explained Ms. Provencio, also executive VP, marketing. “Viewers might feel they know these characters, but we’re showing you how they would act if they lived together in a house. It’s giving you a slice of life as to what an ABC family would feel like.”
Other ABC star combinations seen in the spots include Dana Delany with “Dancing With the Stars” cast members; Jorge Garcia (“Lost”) with judges from “Dancing”; Kate Walsh (“Private Practice”) with Dave Annable (“Brothers & Sisters”); and Christina Applegate (“Samantha Who?”) with Rob Lowe (“Brothers & Sisters”).
Former NBC marketing chief Vince Manze, who quietly signed a consultancy deal with ABC in January, helped shape the campaign, along with Becky Daugherty, VP of specials and late night, and her team.
ABC’s marketing department wrote the scripts for the spots in-house. A house in the Pacific Palisades section of Los Angeles was rented to film the ads.
“It’s a nice house, but nothing you wouldn’t see on ABC,” Mr. Benson said. “We wanted a house that seemed like it could be on Wisteria Lane. We wanted it to be familiar and to represent the personality of ABC.”
Each of the ads begins with a shot at the ABC House front door, which is emblazoned with an ABC logo. The network’s four-note musical signature serves as a doorbell sound.
As with most ABC promo spots, the ABC House ads make extensive use of pop music. Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” can be heard in the ad featuring Ms. Hatcher and Mr. Fox; other spots feature artists old and new on their soundtracks.
Right now, the ABC House is limited to on-air promotions.
“But we think this campaign has legs,” Mr. Benson said. “Not only with more spots, but in other ways.”
While the ABC House ads will be a key part of the network’s fall marketing plan, ABC obviously will devote the lion’s share of its promo budget to ads hyping individual shows. The network began airing teaser ads for new drama “Flash Forward” back on April 29.
“It was very strategic why this campaign started on that day,” Mr. Benson said. “There was a reason that date was used.”
Mr. Benson, however, declined to reveal the reason, saying he needed to preserve the mystery behind the date, at least for now.