‘Babylon 5’ works up futuristic marketing plan

Viewers are “tuning out” on commercials and marketers are worried, but Jim Moloshok, senior marketing/advertising VP at Warner Bros., has found a novel way to overcome viewer resistance to his “Babylon 5” TV promos.

Moloshok, a long-time user of the massive information network, CompuServe Information Service, is breaking ground with a grass roots interactive marketing strategy using CIS and other info networks.

Long before “Babylon 5” was a series, Moloshok watched “Babylon 5” creator and exec producer J. Michael Straczynski, another long-time sci-fi forum visitor , tune and reality-test his “Babylon 5” story concepts on-line and with other network sci-fi devotees.

What Moloshok saw in this group was an enthusiastic audience for “Babylon 5.” Some had been involved in the story via the info network since the beginning.

The two-hour “Babylon Five” pilot debuted, recalls Moloshok, “over a two-week window. One hour after end-credits, I signed on to CompuServe, went through the threads of sci-fi forum conversations and saw what people were writing back and forth about ‘Babylon Five.’ ”

Using that feedback, Moloshok gauged what the audience liked, or didn’t like about “Babylon 5.”

Inside the sci-fi forums, Moloshok also found willing adjuncts to his marketing strategy; “Babylon Five’s” sci-fi forum fans uploaded information, monitored local stations’ play of “Babylon 5” promos and reported the information to Moloshok.

Before the series began, Moloshok faxed his strategy to 160 TV stations. He sent copies of the information kit, the trading cards with instructions to upload them — free of charge — to info network sci-fi forums, local computer bulletin boards and local sci-fi clubs.

The results have been positive. “I can’t get viewers to watch a 30-second promo, but using interactive marketing techniques, they’ll spend 15 or 20 minutes playing, and learning about our show. Interactive advertising is the wave of the future. You’ve got to make it fun to get your marketing done.”

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