Advertising Without Commercials a Hit for Turner

Apr 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Turner Broadcasting has made a series of deals with marketers that go beyond 30-second spots.

Many of their original shows, notably hit “The Closer,” launch with few or no commercials thanks to sponsorship and cross-promotion deals. Other promotional arrangements include product placement and online presences.

When TBS launched its original scripted comedy “My Boys” last year, Match.com was a sponsor for the first 11 episodes. The dating site was featured in a couple of episodes in the show, built around the relationships — or lack thereof — of the lead female character. The deal included promoting Match.com along with “My Boys” in tune-in ads and billboard ads on the “My Boys” Web site.

“When you have the right partner and you make the commitment to co-brand or co-market events together, things just kind of happen naturally,” said Linda Yaccarino, executive VP for advertising sales and marketing at Turner Entertainment.

The deal worked well enough. “My Boys” drew solid ratings and Match.com was discussing coming back next for season two.

But Match.com won’t be the show’s key sponsor when it returns for the nine-episode second part of the season in July, due to timing issues. “Our second set of episodes doesn’t fit in Match’s flight,” she said. “But for the official second season, we are in very positive talks.”

Instead, the sponsor will be the restaurant chain Chili’s.

“We have some pretty unique and quite funny program integrations scheduled,” Ms. Yaccarino said. “But most importantly, the Chili’s exposure with ‘My Boys’ really is their interest in the broadband experiences of the viewer. We had great, great success with the broadband popularity of ‘My Boys,’ so we really customized that and have blown it out for Chili’s.”

Ms. Yaccarino said Turner spends a considerable amount of time before the upfront talking with clients to set up multipart deals like these.

“Where it all starts — and it might sound simple, but it really starts there for our three networks — is how do our brands and the viewers we serve up 24 hours a day meet or intersect or look very much like our clients’ consumer,” she said. “So once we know that, there’s obviously a tremendous opportunity with our branded networks.”

Conversations with advertisers look to match the brand promise of the Turner networks — TNT, TBS and Court TV — with the client’s marketing needs, which manifest themselves in many different ways, she said.

“With programs, and I mean programs whether they are long-form, short-form or marketing partnerships, we develop from there. It could be a ground-breaking series like ‘Saving Grace’ with Holly Hunter. and an advertiser wants to get uniquely associated with that. Or it could be our new ‘bit-coms,'” brief segments featuring comedians who tell jokes revolving around the sponsor’s brand’s marketing position.

“It’s an incredibly unique way to marry the strength of the ‘Very Funny’ positioning for TBS with the actual positioning of a client’s product. It is done in the TBS-esque fashion because it’s really funny, but it really serves the client’s messaging and touch points in a really fantastic way.”