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Court TV to Feature Ad Vignettes

Nov 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Court TV has been billing itself as “The Investigation Channel,” and its ad sales staff has been taking the slogan to heart to nab clients.
Next month, just before New Year’s Day, viewers of Court TV’s lineup of prime-time investigative programming will encounter vignettes featuring Linda Lo-Cal, diet detective, a sleuth dreamed up by the network’s ad sales and promotions department. In her first case, Ms. Lo-Cal tackles the case of the added holiday pounds. Advertiser Kellogg’s provides a solution with the Special K Challenge, a year-end diet that promises to help participants lose 6 pounds by eating more breakfast cereal.
“The heart of so much of what we’re doing is taking the investigations and the problem-solving [theme] to really show that every product and service advertiser is providing a solution of some sort,” said Charlie Collier, executive VP, ad sales at Court TV.
“In this case it’s Kellogg’s helping people shed weight after the holidays. And it is this brand that we’ve latched onto, the investigation and the problem solving, that we’ve been able to reach out with,” Mr. Collier said. “What Kellogg’s has done is expand its commitment to us,”
Kellogg’s spends $8 million to $12 million a year to back the Special K challenge. Andy Jung, senior director of advertising and media services, said the company is increasing its spending on cable and “Court TV, as an emerging and quality environment for our advertising, is obviously one of the recipients of those increased budgets.”
While improved ratings and younger demographics have helped Court TV boost ad revenue, advertisers are always looking for something that goes beyond 30-second spots to help them choose among networks. For Court TV, vignettes have proven successful. Last year Court TV came up with another investigator, Kris Kringle, Private Elf. Retailer Sears was the client. Sears didn’t renew this year, but America Online picked up the sponsorship. Those vignettes will run in the fourth quarter and demonstrate how these characters can become like an annuity for the network, said Evan Shapiro, senior VP, marketing, at Court TV.
The case of Linda Lo-Cal started during the upfront last May.
“We created a character that could speak to food brands,” said Mr. Shapiro. “When Kellogg’s came to us and wanted some cool ideas, we were able to put together something that was based on an idea we had but then tailor it for them specifically.”
Part of tailoring the character for Kellogg’s was a gender change-originally the detective was a man.
“They asked us to make it a woman, and we thought that was appropriate,” Mr. Shapiro said.
“Linda is a professional gal. She’s a very hip, modern-day woman. She speaks to every woman. She sits right in our demo and Special K’s demo,” Mr. Shapiro said.
That demo is slightly skewing female 18 to 49 and female 25 to 54.
The vignettes were shot with a “modern-day version of a ’40s noir pulp-fiction detective story,” Mr. Shapiro said. “Instead of Sam Spade, it’s Linda Lo-Cal. She is on another tough case for Court TV.”
“There is an organic fit between what these vignettes will look like and what the mainline equity communication challenge round the two week challenge will look like,” said Mr. Jung of Kellogg’s.
Mr. Shapiro said producing the vignettes was not a “significant” cost to Court TV. He expects the vignettes to be usable in future promotions. “We spend $1 to make $4,” he said.
The vignettes will run the last week of the year and in January. In addition to the vignettes and spots, Kellogg’s is getting program pop-ups, in which the program shrinks and a message from the sponsor appears below the show, and there will be Special K material on Court TV’s Web site.
Mr. Collier said Court TV did not charge extra for the vignettes.
“There’s a cost to doing this business. But in terms of premiums, we’re looking to build long-term relationships. It’s not like there’s one set premium that we tack on to this. We try to make a partnership that meets their goals and makes sense.”
Mr. Collier said the package was sold to Kellogg’s during the upfront ad sales period in May. “Mr. Shapiro and his team and our ad sales and have been good at trying to understand clients’ goals early and do what the upfront’s supposed to do, which is talk to them about achieving their goals throughout the year. “
Mr. Shapiro also credited Kellogg’s media buying agency, Starcom, with helping to engineer the deal. “We have a history of doing cool things with that agency,” he said.
Of course, there’s a limit to how much of this sort of thing Court TV can do.
“You don’t want to saturate your air with messages that are distracting,” Mr. Collier said. “That’s why we try to do them with the right partners and where it’s strategic. You don’t want to overtake the network; you want to complement it.”