A Multiplatform Plan for ‘America!’

Oct 31, 2005  •  Post A Comment

In the new world of multiplatform TV, it’s the bigger picture that counts, not just the small screen.

The latest example is the package Turner Broadcasting put together to sell sponsorships in its “Earth to America!” comedy event on TBS.

Turner has attracted blue-chip marketers including American Express, Sierra Mist, Verizon Wireless and Wendy’s with an advertising offer that includes comedy content distributed via video-on-demand, broadband video, micro-sites on the Internet and wireless.

The deal also includes on-site marketing, consumer sweepstakes and participation in a national print tune-in campaign.

Each of the packages, estimated in the seven-figure range, is worth about 15 percent more than a television-only sponsorship would have cost.

Ad buyers said that if Turner had come around pitching 30-second spots on a two-hour comedy special, they might not have signed up.

“If it came that way, then I would not say that was something we would do,” said Shari Cohen, co-executive director of national TV for MindShare, which buys ads for American Express. “But I think they used this as an opportunity to be forward-thinking and to extend it to multiple platforms, and that’s why we embraced it.”

“Earth to America!” will be taped Nov. 17 during the Comedy Festival at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and will run Nov. 20 on TBS. It’s headlined by entertainers including Larry David, Steve Martin, Ray Romano, Robin Williams and Bill Maher.

Some of the material that doesn’t make the two-hour special on TBS will provide original content for VOD, broadband and wireless, creating new opportunities for TBS and its sponsors.

“The broadcast and cable networks are realizing that instead of looking at programming as a place to put 30-second spots only, that there are opportunities to build bigger platforms,” said Guy McCarter, director of OMD Entertainment, which represents PepsiCo’s Sierra Mist brand.

Sponsoring a comedy festival fits in with TBS’s “Very Funny” branding, said Linda Yaccarino, executive VP and general manager of Turner Entertainment Ad Sales and Marketing.

And using multiple platforms means Turner’s advertisers are getting more than a one-time-only event, with broadband, VOD and wireless content available long after the special runs.

“One of the things they were attracted to was the continuity we were able to offer with our extensions into broadband and VOD programming,” Ms. Yaccarino said. “That is also obviously a strategic effort to intercept our consumer or viewer in a variety of places that they consume their media.”

Ms. Yaccarino declined to say Turner’s price for the packages. The cost difference between the multiplatform deals and spots that would run just on television was “significant,” she said.

Ms. Cohen said it’s hard to break out how much of the cost of the package went to buying media other than television, but she estimated it to be in the vicinity of 10 to 15 percent.

“I think what you’re looking at is money earmarked for television that is going to these other platforms, so you’re stealing some money away to the other platforms,” she said.

Different sponsorship packages were designed for each client, which was a painstaking process, Ms. Yaccarino said.

The on-air sponsors will have sponsor tags and advertising on VOD content carried on Time Warner Cable and broadband content available through TBS.com. Before the show airs, the VOD and broadband will feature stand-up from the Aspen Comedy Festival, which ran on TBS, to promote the special.

Verizon Wireless will put stand-up comedy video from the Aspen Festival on its V Cast service promoting the show.

Sierra Mist will run a “Laugh Your Way to Vegas Sweepstakes” through TBS.com and SierraMist.com. TBS has also created ads for Sierra Mist featuring the soft drink’s comedy troupe the Mist-Takes.

Wendy’s will run a contest for aspiring comedians, called the “Stand-Up for Good Taste Comedy Challenge.” The finalists will face off at the Comedy Festival and the winner will appear on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”