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Wacky tie-ins are the rage

Ever since the advent of cross-promotional partnerships in 1989, networks have tried to outdo each other in their bids for viewer attention. Whether they are promoting an individual show, an entire night, or network awareness, they continue to up the creative ante, beyond simple “watch and win” sweepstakes. The results range from innovative to outright wacky, from last year’s 3-D glasses to this year’s bigscreen TVs and frequent-flier miles. Fox is actually building and giving away a life-size replica of the house from “The Simpsons.”

“We’re all fighting for the same thing: a share of viewers’ leisure time,” says George Schweitzer, executive VP, marketing and communications at CBS Television Network. “It’s all a part of trying to get noticed in a sea of everyone shouting about new programming. It’s a very competitive time of year.”

CBS has several new promotions in place, including a partnership with KFC called “Where Is Urkel?” By locating the character of Steve Urkel, who will make surprise appearances on several Friday night shows, viewers can win a trip to Los Angeles and a chance to meet the cast of “Family Matters.” Another promo, partnered with Target stores, could get your name mentioned on a CBS show as a character. And “Sneak Peek” (sponsored by Diet Coke) will give away hundreds of thousands of video previews of the new fall season, hosted by Ray Romano (“Everybody Loves Raymond”).

“It’s the closest thing to a free sample you can get in our business,” says Schweitzer, adding, “If consumers want sweepstakes, they can play Lotto. (These are) more creatively tied into our product.”

Refreshing take

CBS may be courting attention for its Friday night lineup, but Monday is the night at NBC, who joined with Ocean Spray Cranberries for a “Refreshingly Funny Monday” on Oct. 6. NBC, whose past promotions have included a chance to win 40 seconds of fame on primetime television, is now offering a chance to win the television itself: 120 televisions in 120 minutes, all GE bigscreens.

ABC-TV has other plans entirely. “We’re less interested in these one time instant hits,” says Alan Cohen, executive VP, marketing. “We’re trying to create long-term relationships programs that become platforms for us.” Focusing on brand marketing and loyalty, the network has partnered with American Airlines to create ABC AAdvantage Club, in which members can earn frequent-flier miles for watching shows. Call them frequent viewer miles!

Still, the wackiest stunt has got to be the Simpson house giveaway at Fox Broadcasting Co. Built by Kaufman & Brode in a new development named, aptly, Springfield, the lifesize replica is located just outside Las Vegas in Henderson. It has been perfectly duplicated, from the color palette to the three mouse holes inside and the grease spot in the driveway. Fully furnished, the house includes Bart’s swingset, Homer’s barbecue and the ubiquitous living-room couch.

“It’s the only home in America where you can sit in your house and watch your house on TV,” says Mark Stroman, senior VP, national promotions. “You’re basically living in a cartoon. It’s a piece of Hollywood in the middle of Las Vegas.”

Co-sponsored by Pepsi, the program involves 18 million game pieces that will be printed on 12-packs and two-liter bottles of Pepsi flavor brands (Mug root beer, orange and lemon-lime Slice, Brisk Tea, and Josta). The winner will be announced during the show’s season premiere on Sept. 21.

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