`Fair Pricing’ sells Viacom Plus deals

Mar 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

In a difficult marketplace, Viacom Plus, the new cross-media selling unit from Viacom, has signed deals with Philip Morris Cos.’ Kraft Foods, Merrill Lynch and Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol brand totaling $50 million in new network, cable and Internet money.
How did CBS do it, considering the persistent tide of seemingly bad advertising and economic news? “If you look at the deals, it’s fair pricing,” said Lisa McCarthy, senior vice president of Viacom Plus. “It was not premium pricing. That’s not realistic. It is a challenging market right now.”
The biggest of these deals is with Merrill Lynch, an accord executives say is valued at $35 million. Merrill Lynch’s campaign is for its private client group-those customers with $500,000 or more to invest-under the company’s current theme: “We provide sophisticated solutions to simplify your life.”
“It’s one of the most significant deals-but not the largest,” said Pam Haering, another senior vice president of Viacom Plus. “We are getting fair pricing. I wouldn’t say it’s either premium or discounted pricing.” In 1999, CBS Plus, the forerunner of Viacom Plus, struck a deal with Fidelity Investments valued at $50 million.
Merrill Lynch’s deal is across seven Viacom units-Infinity Radio, Infinity Outdoor, Westwood One, CBS Television Network, CBS Television Stations, CBS Sportsline and CBS MarketWatch.
CBS is producing special financial-news vignettes for TV, radio and the Internet that will target Merrill Lynch’s higher-end investing clients. Special areas on CBS Web sites also will be devoted to Merrill Lynch.
“You can’t look at this as a regular media deal,” said Paula Polito, first vice president of private client brand marketing for Merrill Lynch, who helped put together the Fidelity/CBS deal two years ago. “We have tried to do this at other networks. CBS helped implement our strategy. [WPP Group’s] MindShare USA [Merrill’s media agency] did a very, very good job negotiating this deal.”
The Kraft deal focuses on a family theme: “The importance of family coming together.” Kraft will sponsor a segment on CBS’s “The Early Show” during which host Jane Clayson will talk with women about how they have time to do it all-run a family and have a career. Kraft also will sponsor “Come Together” dinner parties during Nickelodeon’s Nick at Nite, where the Viacom cable network will program shows that focus on life around the dinner table.
Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol brand is re-upping a deal for its “Home Town Heroes” local news vignettes, which run on all 16 CBS-owned and operated stations. J&J also is sponsoring a special billboard at the beginning of CBS’s popular “Touched by an Angel.” The billboard urges viewers to visit CBS.com or Tylenol.com to send special Tylenol CareCards-e-mail post cards sent to recognize achievements of friends and family.
In this soft marketplace, Viacom Plus claims it has been careful in making sure these cross-media deals don’t come at a cost to other straight-ahead TV or Internet deals.
For instance, CBS asked Kraft not to exercise its options that entitles the food company to cut its CBS network advertising. “We didn’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul,” Ms. McCarthy said. “This is new money.”