NBC Springs Into Action

May 3, 2009  •  Post A Comment

NBC will begin promoting its fall series May 4, a full five months before most shows are expected to premiere and two weeks before its rivals even unveil their picks for the 2009-10 season.
The network’s hype machine will kick off at 9 a.m. EDT Monday, just as the first Madison Avenue types are being briefed on the network’s plans for next season at what NBC calls its “Infront” presentation. Even as NBC sales executives are making their pitch to buyers, the network’s marketing team will begin the consumer campaign, flooding the Internet with video clips, photos and behind-the-scenes footage from NBC’s new series.
The buzz will move on-air later this month, with trailers for new shows running during the season finales of NBC shows. And a full-court press for the new Jay Leno primetime program is already well under way, and will only intensify over the summer.
Adam Stotsky, president of marketing for NBC Entertainment, said networks can no longer wait to begin the process of educating consumers about their shows.
The reason: If broadcasters don’t spark the buzz, others will—and not always in a manner to the networks’ liking.
“We learned with the successful launch of ‘Heroes’ that every piece of information posted or leaked or chatted about becomes part of the campaign,” he said. “Our fundamental strategy is to control that information from the get-go. If we don’t do it, the consumer will do it on our behalf—sometimes accurately, sometimes not. So we have to shape the message we want to advocate.”
Mr. Stotsky is not the only executive getting an early start on fall hype. ABC last week aired five-second spots teasing “Flash Forward,” a sci-fi drama that hasn’t even officially been ordered to series. And Fox has spent the last month heavily promoting its new musical comedy “Glee,” which will air only once this month before coming back this fall.
NBC also is trying to take maximum advantage of its so-called “infront” strategy. Rather than staying close to the network herd and announcing its new schedule with a splashy presentation during the traditional upfront week, NBC last year decided to unveil its fall agenda more than a month before its rivals.
This year, NBC isn’t jumping the gun quite as dramatically: Upfront week begins May 18, two weeks after NBC’s infront. However, with no writers strike delaying production, NBC this year will have the advantage of being able to show off finished pilots and trailers for its new product.
“It was important that we be able to show projects not only to advertisers but also to consumers,” said John Miller, chief marketing officer for NBC Universal. “It shows that we’re proud of the material and have confidence in it.”
NBC plans to show off its new programming in several ways:
—The same trailers advertisers see in New York will be available to both professional media sites and the general public via NBC.com.
—NBC will make that video content, as well as featurettes and behind-the-scenes footage, “widgetable,” as Mr. Miller put it. “People can drag the video from our site and put it on their blogs or their Facebook page,” he said.
—To ensure more consumers see NBC’s infront video assets, NBC has arranged for search engine advertising that will lead surfers to NBC.com. If a viewer hears about an NBC comedy such as “Charlotte Payne” on “Access Hollywood,” for example, then looks up the show’s title via Google, an ad will pop up letting them know more information is available at NBC.com.
“The majority of our (promotional) activity is going to happen digitally,” Mr. Stotsky said. “So we’ll go out and buy tools to get people to that content.”
—Look for social networking sites to play a key role in NBC’s promotions right from the start. NBC might create official Facebook pages for series, while writers pretending to be characters from new shows could pop up on Twitter over the summer to begin talking about their fictional lives (something Fox is planning for “Glee”).
If Twitter had been around when “Heroes” was launching, for example, “You’d have a character use it to say, ‘I just discovered I could fly’ or ‘I can stop time,’” Mr. Miller said.
Still, Mr. Stotsky said NBC doesn’t plan a generic approach to social networking marketing.
“It’s not enough to just be on Facebook or Twitter,” he said. “It has to come from organic aspects of the show and the fundamentals of the franchise.”
Added Mr. Miller: “There’s a different way to sell ‘Parenthood’ than ‘Day One.’”
NBC’s infront approach also gives the network a chance to double-dip in terms of building consumer awareness of its new product. That’s because, in addition to this week’s pickup announcements, the network will try to crash the upfront-week party by revealing its actual fall schedule around the same time as the other networks.
“We get two hits,” Mr. Miller said, referring to the news coverage generated by scheduling decisions.
The move toward earlier marketing of shows also has resulted in changes to how networks interact with producers.
“It’s not a one-way conversation anymore,” Mr. Stotsky said, noting that network marketing departments used to create campaigns in isolation. Now, “We engage our creative partners from the get-go,” he said.
Indeed, marketing executives need producers from shows to help create the deep Internet content that’s now a must for most campaigns, from Twitter pages to on-set blogs. Some producers aren’t even waiting for the network to get involved.
Jesse Alexander, who’s producing the NBC sci-fi-tinged pilot “Day One,” has been chronicling the process of making his show via his Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/globalcouch). He has revealed tidbits about production and posted pictures from the set.
“Because he was involved in ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lost,’ he understands how the Internet and social networks spread the word about shows,” Mr. Miller said. “As much as we want to control things, he can create a little buzz of his own.”
Mr. Stotsky said the new reality is that marketing for shows now has to begin at the moment of conception if networks want to control viewer perceptions.
“The campaigns now begin the minute we do a deal with a creator or make a script order,” he said. “Every piece of information that leaks out becomes a part of the show’s identity. We have to have a proactive strategy.”



  2. If only they spent as much effort making good shows.

  3. TO the critic that panned Medium’s ratings Monday, why weren’t the total viewers for both halves of the show displayed. Part two did a 2.5 in the demo almost tying castle without the aid of a DWTS lead in. This is a blatant attempt to knock the air out of the NBC drama which beat Southland and Parks and Recreation and is likely the strongest show they could have put in the timeslot.

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