In a big sendoff of its heavyweight sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” CBS is embarking on the most comprehensive and expensive marketing effort ever for one of its series finales.
“Raymond’s” multimillion-dollar marketing campaign centers around viewers voting online for their all-time favorite episodes, which will be aired in March. Network spots for the promotion were scheduled to start airing Sunday, Feb. 13, during the Grammy Awards telecast.
Five episodes receiving the most votes will be broadcast on CBS in consecutive weeks, beginning Feb. 28 and culminating with the overall fan favorite March 28.
This season only 16 episodes of the series were produced. Including the finale, five episodes remain to be broadcast. The half-hour finale is scheduled to air May 16 at 9 p.m., preceded by a one-hour retrospective.
CBS will tout the last few episodes of “Raymond” with a number of special promos featuring reminiscences from CBS celebrities. In addition, an overall master promo spot will be produced conveying a family-oriented theme focusing on the Barone family of “Raymond,” according to George Schweitzer, president of the CBS Marketing Group.
“A lot of families are planning to come together and celebrate one last time-and we kind of took that family spirit for the whole promotion,” Mr. Schweitzer said “It will be heavily promoted; it will be everywhere. This is the biggest series sendoff we’ve done.”
Unlike other episodic promos, Mr. Schweitzer said, no video from the finale will be used in any marketing materials for “Raymond.” “It will be a tease campaign,” he said. Finale promos will be blanketed across CBS prime-time, daytime, sports and news programs.
CBS is also working on producing tie-in programming with sister networks TV Land, Nick at Nite and Comedy Central that could include stand-up material by “Raymond” star Ray Romano.
CBS will combine its marketing efforts with sister cable networks such as VH1 and CMT, with Infinity radio stations and with the Westwood One network.
“Everybody Loves Raymond Moments,” hosted by Doris Roberts, will air on “CBS Eye on American,” the 90-minute in-flight program on American Airlines. CBS will also buy media in print, radio and the Internet.
CBS has sent out a promotional package to its affiliates to help them customize local “Raymond” marketing efforts. Video clips of great “Raymond” moments are included, as is a tie-in marketing guide resembling a Barone family photo album.
The marketing materials offer ideas for contests, such as an “Everybody Loves a Mother- and Daughter-in-Law Cook-Off,” which plays off the ongoing “Raymond” cooking battle between characters Debra Barone (Patricia Heaton) and mother-in-law Marie Barone (Ms. Roberts).
“Stations are going to have viewing parties and will do special events with radio stations,” Mr. Schweitzer said.
In May the “Raymond” finale will benefit from running much of its promo creative during CBS’s special “Elvis” four-hour miniseries, which will air before the “Raymond” finale.
Soon after the upfront last spring, CBS sold out 30-second commercial time in the “Raymond” finale to the tune of $1.3 million per spot-less than the “Friends” finale price of a year ago, which topped $2 million per 30-second spot. Advertising time in the one-hour “Raymond” retrospective airing before the finale has been sold for some $700,000 to $800,000 a spot, according to media executives.
According to TelevisionWeek’s sister publication Advertising Age, a regular-season 30-second commercial in the show was priced at $315,000 during last year’s upfront advertising market, which places it among the top 10 prime-time network shows.
As part of the big marketing effort, Mr. Schweitzer said, the cast will be doing a number of appearances on national TV news shows as well as being heavily interviewed by the consumer press.