Doing Multiplatform Country-Style

Apr 16, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Scripps Networks, which is increasingly creating programming for specific advertisers, found a natural match when it produced a special for Unilever’s Country Crock spread for its Great American Country cable channel.
Using ingredients including singer Amy Grant, already a Country Crock spokeswoman, and the brand’s “Small Steps” slogan, Scripps was able to cook up a multiplatform marketing plan.
The package is comprised of a special that premieres April 24 on GAC; a short-form interstitial miniseries that will air on both GAC and Food Network; and a Web site that will donate meals to the needy through the Second Harvest hunger relief organization.
Scripps, once reluctant to mix brands into programming, has been slowly letting clients get involved in its content. Its networks, which attract viewers with very specific interests, are in especially high demand among marketers with products in those categories.
“The demand for ideas and platforms has exploded with Scripps in the last six months,” said Jon Steinlauf, senior VP for ad sales at Scripps.
“Advertisers who only see us as a price-based provider of commercial time are becoming fewer and fewer,” he added. “We see ourselves moving out of the day-to-day commodity market and into more of an ideas-based market.”
With GAC, Scripps’ sales team keeps an eye out for advertisers who already have an investment with country music. In this case, Country Crock had a relationship with Ms. Grant.
At the same time, Country Crock was looking for ways to use media in new and nontraditional ways to launch its new product with Omega-Plus oils, said Anne-Michele Harrington, brand manager for Country Crock.
“Scripps offered a really great fit between our consumer demographics and the demographics of their core channels,” Ms. Harrington said. “This is the first time we’ve sponsored a show this actively.”
The 30-minute special, which will air multiple times over the next two months on GAC, feature country stars at home or on the road talking about small changes they can make to take better care of themselves and their families.
In addition to Ms. Grant, the special features the band Little Big Town. Two members of the band are new moms, and they talk about parenting infants while on the tour bus.
Also featured is Tricia Yearwood and her husband, Garth Brooks. Ms. Yearwood, who is promoting a new cookbook, makes biscuits with Country Crock.
The special is “presented by” Country Crock, and the brand has billboards and numerous small integrations, such as a cookie jar in Ms. Grant’s kitchen that’s shaped like a Country Crock tub.
During the commercial breaks, the Country Crock commercials should get even more attention because of pod-busting segments Scripps calls “Short Stories,” mini-episodes that air in three parts, one in each of the show’s commercial breaks.
The “Short Story” shows Ms. Grant going to the Second Harvest food bank in Nashville, where she helps prepare a meal.
That “Short Story” also will appear on Food Network.
“One of the great things about the Scripps partnership is this program came to us not just as TV media. It also had a Web component, so they were able to take us into multiple media channels in a very compelling way,” Ms. Harrington said. “We’re also leveraging some PR tactics to get Amy out.”
Viewers are urged in the TV spots to go to the Web site YourFamilyTable.com to share the “small changes” they’re making. For each story, Country Crock contributes a meal to Second Harvest.
During a promotion last year, Country Crock donated 1.2 million meals.
Ms. Harrington declined to say how much Country Crock invested in the program.
Mr. Steinlauf said, “It’s a substantial seven-figure buy on Food Network, and within the world of Great American Country, it’s a significant buy.” There’s also a substantial commitment to Scripps Interactive to host and manage the micro-site, he added.
Production costs for both the half-hour special and the “Short Stories” were paid separately by the client, he said.
“We really thought this was a particularly unique partnership that really fit the brand’s essence,” Ms. Harrington said. While commercials can talk about a product and its benefits, “The show itself allows us to really express the core values of the brand itself and how it aligns with our consumers and the things that are important to them.”

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