Marketing ‘Megan’

Aug 28, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Getting the daytime audience to better know new talk show host Megan Mullally is a three-phase process, said Betsy Bergman, VP of marketing for NBC Universal Television Distribution. NBC Universal’s first phase of promoting its new syndicated series “The Megan Mullally Show” started in May, and aimed to differentiate Ms. Mullally from Karen, the character she played on “Will & Grace.” It was followed by a campaign this summer to introduce the host as an everyday person. The third phase, which starts Aug. 28, reveals how the show will look.

Getting the word out about any new syndicated show is a tall order in today’s marketplace, but capitalizing on Ms. Mullally’s strengths as a performer and recognizability makes introducing her to the potential audience a bit easier, Ms. Bergman said.

“We have this incredible talent,” she said of Ms. Mullally. “She’s this icon of prime time, and now she’s moving to daytime.”

The May phase of launching NBC Universal’s talk show “The Megan Mullally Show” coincided with the final episodes of the Emmy-winning NBC sitcom “Will & Grace.”

The pending finale brought added media attention to Ms. Mullally, who took time in interviews discussing the end of “Will & Grace” to promote her transition to daytime talk.

“We thought, ‘Let’s dovetail the publicity NBC was getting from the finale,'” Ms. Bergman said.

NBC Universal used the finale itself to promote the new talker in 45 markets where “Megan” is cleared to appear on NBC affiliates or on NBC-owned and -operated stations. In those markets NBCU premiered the on-air promo “Happy Together,” which had Ms. Mullally interacting with her character, Karen Walker, as a way of saying goodbye to her and moving on to the next phase of her life: talk show host.

The first phase of the NBCU marketing campaign also emphasized “head on” that Ms. Mullally is a different person from her widely recognized character Karen, Ms. Bergman explained. That move could prove to be crucial for the talker, since viewers who tune in expecting to see “The Karen Walker Show” might be disappointed to find out Ms. Mullally is not that person.

“These are two different people,” Ms. Bergman said, noting that another early promo poked fun at the idea of Karen trying to get her own talk show. “Karen is this fantastic, iconic character, but it’s just one facet of [Megan’s] personality.”

Showing Megan as Megan

Phase two of NBC Universal’s campaign, which ran in June, July and the beginning of August, featured numerous on-air promos designed to show Ms. Mullally as an “everyday person,” Ms. Bergman said. “She shops online, watches ‘American Idol,’ wears jeans and jackets.”

The spots also played up Ms. Mullally’s comedic side, with spots that featured her grappling with a snake brought by a guest, engaging with actors wearing animal costumes and touting a football stadium-size “Megan” sign that apparently can be seen from space.

The second phase of marketing coincided with a blitz of press events in local markets that were tied to the individual station airing the show. In Chicago, for instance, Ms. Mullally was on hand as a host for the Gay Games in July, an event that was co-sponsored by “Megan” station WMAQ-TV.

In San Francisco, Ms. Mullally’s hosting of the GLAAD Media Awards in June had a tie-in with KNTV-TV.

And in a move designed to introduce her show to the advertising and marketing communities, Ms. Mullally made a cameo appearance on stage at Promax, where she jokingly jostled with The NBC Agency’s top executive, John Miller, to keynote the event and belt out show tunes.

Promotion has also meant “capitalizing on assets within the NBC Universal family,” Ms. Bergman said, noting that sister program “Access Hollywood” featured an interview with Ms. Mullally that broke the news that Will Farrell would be her show’s first guest.

The show’s Web site, Meganshow.com—a platform of growing importance for any TV series—will be housed within the female-targeted iVillage.com online environment, one of NBC Universal’s more recent digital acquisitions.

“It is such a unique opportunity,” Ms. Bergman said of working with iVillage. “They are the same audience. It made perfect sense.”

Launching Phase Three

This week marks the debut of the third wave of marketing, which comprises promos featuring Ms. Mullally on her set and interacting with a studio audience.

“Now that we are in the studio, we have test shows in the can,” she said, noting that the best moments are being culled for promos. “You get the flavor of the show itself. That’s really going to carry you through [the premiere date] Sept. 18.”

Ms. Mullally is also making use of both her comedic sensibility and her relationship with top talent in a series of promos designed specifically for markets where her show will appear on stations that also carry Warner Bros.’ talker “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Last week Ms. DeGeneres and Ms. Mullally, who know each other personally, filmed spots together encouraging viewers to watch both shows.

“They run back to back in so many markets, it made sense to provide stations with a combo spot,” Ms. Bergman said.

Once September hits, NBC Universal will roll out a “robust online buy” that will feature video embedded within ads on numerous Web sites to go along with print buys and a mall coverage campaign in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Add to that a behind-the-scenes profile that will appear on all United Airlines flights in September and an in-flight NBC package for October that will be hosted by Ms. Mullally.

No matter what the platform, the promotion campaign has always returned to two simple elements to encapsulate Ms. Mullally, Ms. Bergman said.

“She’s very funny, and she’s an everyday person,” she said. “We wanted to introduce those two elements of her personality. Once you see her, you’re going to love her.”

VIDEO: ‘Megan’ On-Air Promotions