Integration Front and Center as Alternate Revenue Source

Sep 15, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC Family cable network is finally getting into the family act-that of the integrated marketing and product integration deals with advertisers for which its parent company is known.
Some two years after Walt Disney bought the network, which was known as Fox Family, and after some key senior-level executive changes, the network, over the past six months, has done significant marketing deals with Sears Roebuck & Co., McDonald’s Corp., KFC and a number of theatrical movie titles.
“It’s sort of an opportunity for us to get different kinds of money that we ordinarily wouldn’t get now that we have this audience watching our channel,” said Laura Nathanson, executive VP of ABC Family Sales.
Most of these deals are targeted to the network’s core prime-time women 18 to 34 demographic. Secondarily, the network looks for teens from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with fare such as “The Brendan Leonard Show,” a show entirely produced and edited by a 19-year-old.
For “Tying the Knot: The Wedding of Melissa Joan Hart,” a look at TV star Ms. Hart’s real-life nuptials, ABC Family had Sears sponsor the bachelor party for the groom, Mark Wilkerson. He is partial to power tools and registered at Sears for its Craftsman line. Also in the program, the happy couple registers for gifts at other stores and stops by a McDonald’s for a quick snack. Both product placement deals were tied into upfront advertising deals, Ms. Nathanson said.
It’s not just production integration deals, but other programming elements as well. The network has worked with movie studios to produce one-minute vignettes called “Set Spy.” So far it has produced vignettes for Walt Disney Co.’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” New Line Cinema’s “How to Deal” and Dimension Films’ “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over.”
For the second season of “My Life as a Sitcom,” the host, Joe Mozian, who is one of the stars from the first season, can be seen driving around the country casting real people for a sitcom.
“We pitched this to clients as a great way to organically integrate into a show,” said Karen Williams, VP of advertising sales and marketing for ABC Family.
KFC signed in the first season and has come on for a second year. The network is also close to signing an automotive manufacturer. In addition to advertisers’ upfront media buys that are attached to these deals, Ms. Williams said, “With both partners we are looking to extend the marketing off-air.”
Though ABC Family has many possibilities to do product integration deals, it’s being careful not to clutter up its airwaves. “We don’t want the channel to look like a race car,” Ms. Nathanson said.
That philosophy is evidenced by the tactic Michael Davies took with ABC Family’s new reality dating show, “Perfect Match: New York.” Mr. Davies, who also shepherded ABC Network’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” had ABC Family executives wait until the show’s second season so he could properly examine where product integration deals would work.
ABC Family even incorporated “difficult” products into its programming. It recently took Veet, a European-based company that produces a hot wax hair-removal product, and put it into a summer movie, “This Time Around.” The main character, who works at a public relations firm, did a product presentation of the hot wax product as part of the story line.
“My instinct was, “Aren’t all cable networks trying to do this?” Ms. Nathanson said, concerning products that may be a hard fit. “But from the clients we spoke to, networks are not trying to do this.”
ABC Family, like many other cable networks, scored major upfront advertising business this season, boosting its roster of national advertisers by 32 clients to now top 100 marketers overall, Ms. Nathanson said. Additionally, the network grabbed hefty 18 percent increases in costs-per-thousand-viewers, she said.