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FX, Geographic Offering Fresh Ad Tie-In Ideas

Apr 26, 2004  •  Post A Comment

In addition to its original programming, FX is pitching some original advertising ideas to media buyers to attract more upfront spending.
Bruce Lefkowitz, executive VP of entertainment sales, Fox Cable Networks Group, said one of the new packages is a “launch night” that turns over the network to a marketer that is introducing a new product. The advertiser gets specially designed bumpers and opportunities to run long-form commercials during prime time.
Another is “Thursday Night Previews,” which reserves the first commercial space on Thursday nights for a movie studio to run a full theatrical trailer.
“Our strategy is to put us on people’s minds earlier than we normally would have been,” Mr. Lefkowitz said. Similar packages will be available on National Geographic Channel, which is also distributed and sold by the Fox Cable Networks Group.
Last year, FX got early deals from ad agencies because of a package it put together involving product integration on its “DVD on TV” movie package.
According to Mr. Lefkowitz, the agencies said, “`We’re doing Turner, maybe we should do these guys too.’ I was amazed.”
And this year Fox is trying new things, because the competition among cable networks to offer the most advertiser-friendly packages is becoming intense.
With “launch night,” “All of the on-air graphics that night are dedicated to the advertiser,” Mr. Lefkowitz said. Depending on what business the advertiser is in, the graphic would be different. For an automaker, the “wipe” could be a car going across the screen. It could just as easily be a credit card swipe, or it’s a cellphone opening or the cursor on a computer.
“The offshoot of that is running long-form commercials,” he added. “Do you want something that’s not your traditional 30-second spot? We’ll run that. We’ll showcase it. “
Mr. Lefkowitz said he has personally done 15 presentations, and “In every single one, the pencils were writing on that.” Media buyers, he said, have inquired about how many spots they have to run to qualify for “launch night” treatment.
But he said pricing won’t be set by how many spots an advertiser wants to run on a single night. “They’re going to be leveraged for multimillion-dollar commitments,” he said. “So frankly I don’t care if over the six hours on Thursday, March 15, you run 12 units or 18. That’s not it. It’s the 3 million bucks you’re going to give me for the year.”
To prop up demand, FX and National Geographic will each have no more than two launch nights per month.
Advertisers may be interested, but so far there are no firm orders. That doesn’t worry Mr. Lefkowitz. “Even if we sell none of these, it moves us up on the radar,” he said.
Another idea Mr. Lefkowitz is floating is “Thursday Night Preview,” a franchise for the movie community. USA Network recently ran the trailer for “Dawn of the Dead.” “I thought it was genius,” he said.
Subject to Negotiation
Pricing that spot isn’t as simple as multiplying the network’s 30-second rate by the length of the trailer. “A discount [for volume] or premium is subject to negotiation based on the overall commitment,” Mr. Lefkowitz said. “You could argue you should pay us a lot more because we’re going to almost make it content.”
Of course, FX is also placing advertisers’ products in its original series, including the upcoming “Rescue Me.” “We’re really active in this category because we think that we can give people one more reason to buy FX,” he said.
Fox Cable is also looking to sell ads of unusual lengths and to make deals to have one advertiser sponsor a show so that it can run commercial free.
“That’s five or six things that we’re doing that we think are pretty unique,” Mr. Lefkowitz said. That could help distinguish those networks in a marketplace. “If we can become a destination because `those guys are creative, smart and doing new and interesting things,’ then we can be a big winner in this year’s marketplace.”