Special to TelevisionWeek
One of the biggest appeals of The WB Network to advertisers is its ability to consistently deliver a very desirable target audience, 12- to 34-year-olds, most of them female. This group has purchasing power of more than $1.5 trillion annually. They are also at a period in their lives “where long-term buying patterns and preferences are developed and set,” according to a “Lifestyles of Young Adults” report by Mintel International Group, a Chicago global market research firm.
It is in this age range, The WB touts in its official ad sales pitch to marketers, that consumers make their first important decisions. Grab their attention now, and a marketer could have a customer for life.
The value of this demographic and The WB’s ability to deliver it is not lost on advertisers. Procter & Gamble is integrated into the series “What I like about You,” and Aquafina is placed on the drama “Gilmore Girls.” Cingular Wireless is used on “One Tree Hill,” and Verizon Wireless on “Smallville.”
“If you have something targeted toward teens and young women, you immediately think of The WB,” said Bill Cella, chairman and CEO of Magna Global, the media services arm of Interpublic Group, New York. “The WB has staying power with its programs. There is not a high attrition rate.”
Indeed, one of The WB’s signature shows, “7th Heaven,” is in its ninth season. Many kids who identified with the angst of pre-teen siblings Ruthie, Simon and Lucy shortly after the network’s inception have stayed with the show into and beyond their own college years, as Lucy married and got pregnant-her baby is due anytime now-and Ruthie went on her first date.
“A lot of our shows, like `7th Heaven,’ have a dual entry point. Moms and dads can watch them, and they are for teens,” said Bill Morningstar, The WB’s executive VP of media sales. “There is always a resolution handled in a positive way, and moms and dads are watching for that reason.”
The family-friendly programming adds to The WB’s advertiser appeal. The network started 10 years ago this month with eight advertisers and today has more than 200. The first upfront brought in about $30 million for the Time Warner-Tribune Broadcasting collaborative. At its peak, it is estimated to have raked in close to $800 million in upfront commitments, with the Kids’ WB! factored in, Mr. Morningstar said.
“The attractiveness of some of the characters on some of the shows has a positive rub-off on many of the brands that desire to be on that network,” said Tim Spengler, executive VP and director of national broadcast, Initiative Media, New York. “There is a halo effect to be there with your brand on their top shows. If you’re there, you must be OK.”
That’s an attitude Kmart was hoping it could benefit from when it chose The WB above other networks to help it brand its new back-to-school apparel collection, Route 66, via an integrated marketing and advertising campaign that outfitted WB actors in Kmart clothing.
“We wanted a way to get out there, break through the clutter and tell moms and teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 that Kmart had some great new clothes for them to wear back to school,” said Kmart Chief Marketing Officer Paul Guyardo. “We look to The WB for back-to-school because they can very effectively and efficiently deliver that younger audience.”
Mr. Guyardo added that in the promotion, 19 WB stars wore Route 66 apparel in Kmart print ads and commercials. “We got product placement in two episodes of each of the five participating shows, with their talent wearing our clothes in each of the two shows. And we got a `Dress Like Your Favorite Star’ promotion to win a trip to L.A. for a walk-on role in a WB show.”
P&G’s Tide brand signed on in 2004 as sponsor of The WB’s first-ever original TV movie, “Samantha: An American Girl Holiday,” and produced interstitial segments before and during the broadcast. Pepsi-Cola North America came back for a second summer season of “Pepsi Smash,” featuring live musical performances by popular artists.
“It’s about building relationships with your customers and giving them reasons to come back and do business with you,” Mr. Morningstar said.