Jun 4, 2009

Scoop

Showtime Emmy Campaign: Ahead of the Times?

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Showtime has opted against running Emmy advertising in the daily Hollywood trades in order to mount an exclusive 13-day kudos campaign in the Los Angeles Times.

Starting Friday—the first day Emmy nomination ballots are available for viewing—Showtime will take out so-called “tower ads” in the Times every day (save Saturdays) through June 22. The ads run the full length of a page, from top to bottom, and feature branding tied to each series: “Sho Many” for “The United States of Tara” and “Sho Killer” for “Dexter.”

Two shows will be promoted each day, with one ad on the left side of a double-page spread and the other ad on the right. Nearly a dozen series will be touted during the campaign.

Showtime takes pride in stirring up buzz for how it markets its Emmy contenders, from splashy DVD boxes earlier this decade to its more recent move to online screeners. But with the Times play, the CBS Corp.-owned premium cable network is trying to drum up attention by focusing on where its advertising is going.

Showtime communications chief Richard Licata, who oversees the network’s Emmy marketing, said the network believes print trade advertising is no longer cost-effective for the Emmys. The network did pay for a splashy insert in the current issue of Emmy magazine, which is sent directly to Emmy voters.

“I don’t know how many people are depending on the trades every morning anymore,” said. “Everybody goes out to their driveways in the morning and picks up the LA Times, and then reads the Calendar section.”

He said the Times play is unique for a network.

“No TV network has ever gone to them to campaign for Emmys,” Licata said. “That’s a domain for the movie world. And I’m always looking for new ways to break through the clutter and to create a new trend for Emmy campaigning.”

Then there’s the matter of money.

“It will be significantly cheaper this year for Showtime,” Licata said. He declined to discuss specifics of the costs, but Showtime’s decision to blaze a trail with the Times might have helped with the rates for the campaign.

“Lynne Segall (head of entertainment advertising for the Times) recognized that if this works for Showtime, other people might follow,” Licata said.

Indeed, the deal is something of a coup for the Times, which has dramatically stepped up its effort to steal away awards advertising from the trades over the past few years. The Tribune-owned newspaper now holds an Emmy screening series, and it has put much effort into its awards website, TheEnvelope.com.

The Times has also made it clear that it’s willing to try untraditional approaches to advertising in order to land accounts. It raised hackles of some within its own newsroom earlier this spring when it allowed NBC to buy a front page ad designed to read like a story as part of the network’s “Southland” launch.

As for Showtime, its Times campaign will be linked to its Emmy screening website, Sho.com/foryourconsideration. While regular Times readers won’t be able to access the online screeners—you need a password-- Licata thinks there’s a halo effect from Emmy marketing.

“You expose the product to the general public,” he said. “They can buy the DVDs at Costco or download a show on iTunes.”

Licata was careful to note that he had personally informed the sales chiefs of Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter about the network’s decision. He said they “understood” his move.

“I never perceived it would jeopardize our editorial relationship,” he said.

Licata said Showtime currently isn’t interested in online Emmy campaigning, even though the network makes use of Internet advertising for individual series promotions.

“I just don’t think it’s an effective way to get attention for an Emmy campaign, at least not yet,” he said.

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