Turner Inks Pacts With Garnier, Audi

Apr 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Just call Linda Yaccarino the real-life closer at Turner.

As executive VP of Turner Entertainment Sales and marketing, Ms. Yaccarino has recently closed two multimillion-dollar deals for Turner networks that include marketing elements that extend beyond 30-second spots.

In one deal, Audi returns as the sponsor of a commercial-free second-season premiere of TNT’s hit original series “The Closer.”

In the second deal, hair care marketer Garnier, a sponsor of “Sex and the City,” will be involved in a multimedia marketing effort that will sell hair color and promote the show on TBS and for a new complete series boxed set from HBO Home Video.

As Ms. Yaccarino prepared for Turner’s upfront presentation this week to advertisers and buyers in New York, she said her job has changed.

“It’s not about those good old days of selling our :30s. It’s really about now selling our clients inventory and their products. So when we can convince a client that we can strategically move product off their shelves or out of their showroom, then selling our inventory happens quite naturally,” she said.

Much of her team’s time is spent talking about Turner’s marketing capabilities and creating “strategic partnerships that actually elevate both our brands, the networks’ brands and the marketer’s brand to a whole other place,” she said.

With the networks moving into original programs, Ms. Yaccarino said, these might be the new good old days. “The key indicator for our strategic promotion and how successful they are internally as a client is that we have a near 100 percent renewal rate [with advertiser clients],” she said.

This year’s deal with Audi could be worth as much as $10 million, though neither Turner nor Audi would discuss spending levels.

It will be much bigger and much more complex than the series premiere Audi sponsored last season, when “The Closer” was greenlighted after the upfront.

“We didn’t really have a lot of time to put any type of strategic partnerships together,” Ms. Yaccarino said.

According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, Audi spent about $8 million on television during the second half of last year, with about $800,000 on commercials on TNT. Since Audi’s sponsorship of the premiere of “The Closer” didn’t include ads, it was probably underreported.

“For season two, we were able to have some really productive conversations with the Audi clients about how to get attached with ‘The Closer’ in every step of the season’s lifecycle,” Ms. Yaccarino said.

Stephen Berkov, director of marketing for Audi of America, said that like Kyra Sedgwick’s character in “The Closer,” the Audi brand is about doing things in unconventional ways and getting superior results.

That’s one reason why the company likes the idea of a commercial-free broadcast.

“Knowing how valuable time is and the degree to which people don’t like to be shouted at with advertising, I think it’s a nice understatement to say Audi supports that program without interruption,” Mr. Berkov said.

Mr. Berkov said research showed that the program worked last season, but research isn’t everything.

“You don’t always know how it’s going to turn out, and marketers have become a bit risk-averse,” he said. Instead of having all the metrics, “You need to say we know 80 percent is exactly what we need to do and the other 20 percent is gut. That’s the way people end up taking risks. … In order to push the envelope, you have to do that.”

In addition to being the sponsor of the commercial-free premiere episode June 12, Audi will advertise in episodes two through 13 of the series. The car maker will also have product integration.

“Some important characters will be driving an Audi,” Ms. Yaccarino said. “There will be placements that play a high-profile role in some of the episodes.”

Audi will also be involved in on-air, online and print promotion of the show. TNT will create an online microsite at TNT.com for “The Closer,” where Audi will be present. TNT is also creating exclusive original “Closer”-related video to appear on AOL, which like Turner is part of Time Warner. The AOL “Closer” bits will include trailers, behind-the-scenes footage and additional scenes. Audi might sponsor that material too.

AOL will also be integrated into the series, along with Kahlua To Go and Nestle’s Lean Cuisine.

Parker, Garnier a Good Fit

The stage for the TBS deal was set because “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker is a spokesperson for Garnier, making the program a good advertising fit.

In last year’s upfront Garnier bought a multimillion-dollar schedule on TBS, then spent months working with the network on a promotion around the network’s off-HBO syndicated run of “Sex and the City.”

“That’s what’s so great about this. The media buy is a good deal either way and it makes sense for the brands,” said Kris Magel, senior VP and account director for national broadcast at ZenithOptimedia.

Mr. Magel said Garnier didn’t pay extra for the promotion.

“Because it’s a partnership, because everybody’s bringing something to the table, there’s incremental cost on everybody’s part, but there’s no exchange of money,” he said. “Everyone’s got skin in the game.”

The promotion involves packing a mini-DVD of deleted scenes from “Sex and the City” on packages of Garnier Nutrisse, which will also have a $20 coupon toward the purchase of the complete series boxed set, available at HBO.com.

In a competitive, price-driven category, the DVD offer is “absolutely something that makes Garnier stand out on the shelves,” Mr. Magel said.

The promotion will be supported by print and in-store advertising running in May and an online sweepstakes featuring a trip to New York as the top prize. All of the marketing materials carry the three brands: Garnier, TBS and Time Warner-owned HBO. Garnier products will also be used during the May 13 episode of “Movie and a Makeover.”

Mr. Magel seemed pleased that Ms. Yaccarino and her marketing squad were able to close this case. “TBS was incredible. They managed the entire creative process,” he said.