Product pushers get creative with cable platforms

Feb 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Cable advertising has evolved during the past few years from the simple 30-second spot to a more elaborate-yet also seamless-integrated media buy. This new type of deal incorporates on-air commercials, Web site advertisements, radio and magazine ads, promotions, contests and subtle product placements.
For example, when Calista Flockhart’s makeup artist appeared on E!’s Golden Globes coverage in late January, his appearance wasn’t just an interview about the “Ally McBeal” star’s facial paint. It was part of an integrated media buy that E! had made with advertiser L’Oreal during last year’s upfront.
During the interview-arranged by L’Oreal’s ad agency, E! Networks’ Dave Cassaro, senior executive vice president for sales and distribution, and the Golden Globes special’s executive producer-the makeup artist displayed and talked about a special-edition lipstick that L’Oreal, a sponsor of the awards, had given to female nominees as part of a Golden Globes goodie bag.
Advertisers are eager in the current economic climate to find new and creative ways to reach the consumer precisely and with as little waste as possible, said Neil Baker, senior vice president, ad sales for E! Networks.
If that overall media buy can be enriched by attaching a promotional thread, product placement, billboard or sweepstakes, all the better, he said.
“If you are going to incorporate [product placements], let’s do it organically. It is perfect editorial content to interview a cosmetologist. [You need] to find a way to do it [that is] intrinsic to the story or special,” Mr. Baker said.
Such cross-platform marketing assists advertisers in reaching their demographic in an increasingly fragmented media environment where it takes multiple messaging in diverse outlets to affect the consumer.
“We are the best antidote for fragmentation,” said Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC Sports customer marketing and sales. He has made it his business to devise integrated purchasing opportunities for advertisers since he joined the company two years ago. Today, 54 percent of the deals ESPN closes over $1 million involve more than one medium, compared with 15 percent two years ago. “We are big believers that you have to do these programs to activate the sports fan, the consumer. If you do it right, the fan will get involved with you and the advertiser,” Mr. Erhardt said.
ESPN worked with the Heinz Bagel Bites brand last year as the sponsor of its Winter X Games. Bagel Bites wanted to reposition its product from moms to tweens.
ESPN and The Marketing Arm, the Dallas-based sports consultancy division of Omnicom Group, formulated a package consisting of sponsorships for both the winter and summer X Games and for alternative sports pioneer Tony Hawk’s Skate Park Tour, on-site hospitality and marketing at the games, and television, print and Web advertising. Together, these efforts helped boost Bagel Bites’ sales by about 21 percent to 26 percent for the first quarter of 2001, said Tim Staples, director of integration for The Marketing Arm. This type of marketing has gained traction during the past few years, Mr. Staples said. “The reason why it’s better is you send a completely consistent message across these platforms and it’s an affinity program. Consumers make the association between sports and the brand. That’s how you move the needle,” he said.
E! has also made it a priority to develop a thematic advertising approach to its properties, including its Web site and its new network, Style. “If you’re looking to reach young, upscale adults, you can make a nice integrated buy on E!, E! Online and Style and reach those individuals. It’s a different touchpoint, a different experience. With that fractionalization you want to make sure you reach your target audience,” Mr. Cassaro said.
WE: Women’s Entertainment has employed integrated marketing since its relaunch last year with an exclusive partnership with Johnson & Johnson, its sole advertiser. In addition to traditional commercial spots for brands like Motrin and Aveeno, the network produced 25 health vignettes sponsored by different Johnson & Johnson products. For instance, a vignette on skin care was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson’s anti-aging cream Roc.
An episode of Colin Cowie’s “Everyday Elegance” last year that focused on baby showers featured Johnson & Johnson baby care products in an “appropriate and subtle way” said Heidi Diamond, executive vice president of AMC Networks, which owns WE. “Money has to work that much harder [in today’s economy]. It’s not just about reaching someone with a 30-second spot anymore. It’s immersing the viewer within the DNA of the brand,” she said.
Comcast plans to introduce its new video games-themed network G4 in early April, with multiple-platform marketing in place from the launch. The network has deals pending for on-air spots, Web site ads, interstitials and product placements, said Dale Hopkins, senior vice president, distribution and sales.
“We want to embed some of these messages in our programs. You can’t just do spots anymore,” she said.
The 30-second spot is becoming less effective and is under pressure from personal video recorders and video-on-demand, said Mike Goodman, senior analyst with the Yankee Group. Advertising needs to evolve to include such elements as product placement and promotion, he said.
Cross-platform marketing requires a lot of coordination, said Brad Westerman, vice president, national ad sales, for A&E Television Networks. A&E is in the process of finalizing a package that will involve about a dozen players, including four or five departments within A&E and three or four departments at a few different advertising agencies. According to Mr. Westerman, it’s worth the extra legwork. “The message is reinforced across different media, so it’s more impactful,” he said.