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Campaign of Distinction: Dancing With the Stars

Jun 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment


When Michael Benson and Marla Provencio, co-executive VPs of marketing at ABC, first saw “Dancing With the Stars,” they loved it—in a kitschy kind of way.

“When we first launched it, [the campaign] was a little over-the-top, more like ‘Strictly Ballroom,’ kind of tongue-in-cheek,” said Ms. Provencio. “But as we moved on, we changed that. We didn’t want people to laugh at it as much as just embrace and enjoy it. It’s truly a cool, fun, sexy show.”

Watching people—celebrities or not—learn to dance and fail spectacularly or succeed beautifully initially built some buzz as a “what will they think of next” kind of show. What no one—except perhaps ABC President of Entertainment Steve McPherson—factored in was just how much fun the show would be.

“The dancers are having fun, the judges are having fun, the hosts and the audiences are having fun,” said Mr. Benson. “When our marketing took that angle last year, the show and marketing really gelled, especially at the end of the season.”

Since music is a huge element in “Dancing With the Stars,” it drove the on-air and online promos. “We used AC/DC, we used disco, music you wouldn’t have thought of,” said Mr. Benson. “There was definitely a very irreverent, wry, fun attitude to the copy, along with a certain kind of fast cutting style that showed the sexy moves, and some of the crazy, off-the-wall comments the judges made. We strung them together as a package and put them on YouTube and ABC.com so people could experience the fun parts of the show.”

“There were three components to the show: being sexy, surprising and a competitive aspect,” said Ms. Provencio. “The competition is more of a thrill ride. We want the viewers to get invested in these dancers.” To that end, they created a successful fantasy dance-team game on ABC.com, similar to ESPN’s fantasy football.

“It became an important part not only of our marketing to get people more connected with the show, but also the experience of the show,” said Mr. Benson. “That’s where the lines between what is marketing and what is content are blurring a little bit. It could be considered marketing, but it will live online and become content that people can enjoy and share, which creates a tighter bond between the viewers and the show itself.”

Mr. Benson and Ms. Provencio also got the stars dancing in the streets in New York City. Dancers dressed in gold lame “star” outfits, with partners in a gown or tux, danced across Sixth Avenue, at Grand Central Station or in Times Square. “We love to do things like that because it grabbed people’s attention in a fun way,” Mr. Benson said.

“Our job has become a 3-D chess game,” he added. “You really have to think about the messages you’re creating, where you’re placing them and how you use each medium to take full advantage of how the audiences use them.”

Marla Provencio
Title: Executive VP, marketing, ABC
How long in position: 4 years
Year of birth: 1956
Place of birth: Riverside, Calif.
Who knew? Ms. Provencio is a great interior decorator.
Michael Benson
Title:
Executive VP, marketing, ABC
How long in position: 4 years
Year of birth: 1962
Place of birth: Minneapolis
Who knew? Mr. Benson did his first triathlon in September in Malibu.

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