Alphabet flush with fall promotion plans

Urinals, KFC buckets to tout 2000 lineup

Get ready for “Must Pee TV.”

ABC, the network that slapped its logo on cocktail napkins and bananas everywhere, is now aiming its marketing stream in the men’s room.

The Alphabet web today will take the wraps off its fall 2000 hype campaign, which once again includes a slew of off-beat marketing initiatives. Perhaps the most unusual: A male-targeted campaign for returning laffer “Norm” built around restroom urinals in New York and Los Angeles.

ABC is partnering with L.A.-based Zoom Media to install several hundred high-tech urinal billboards that will utilize CD-ROM technology to “speak” to men as they do their business.

While finishing their job, users will hear the digital voice of Norm Macdonald, who will make various toilet jokes and promote his series’ move to Friday nights at the same time.

Among Macdonald’s cracks: “Oh my God, look at the size of that thing!;” “Hey watch your shoes!” and “You’re a mover and shaker, and so am I. ‘Norm’ moves to Fridays this fall.”

Macdonald’s comments will be backed up by visual tag lines such as, “Another fine use of the color yellow.”

In recent weeks the network has integrated the “Definitely ABC” slogan throughout most of its on-air campaigns. The goal now is to spread that brand to the net’s off-air marketing initiatives.

“People know when they’re in the ABC environment,” said Alan Cohen, exec vice president of marketing, advertising and promotion. “We wanted (the marketing efforts) to mirror that sophistication and attitude.”

Cohen and partner Michael Benson, senior VP of advertising and promotion, have singled out Wednesday and Friday nights as their two main marketing priorities.

“The audience will understand when we’re done that (Friday) is an adult night of comedy,” Benson said.

Potty humor isn’t the only thing coming out of Century City. Other promo pushes this fall include:

  • A tie-in with finger-lickin’ fast food clucker KFC to promote the network’s new Friday night lineup. The Colonel will convert 7 million of its buckets and boxes from red and white to the ABC-approved yellow and black. Select KFC stores will also modify their outdoor bucket signage to also reflect the Alphabet color scheme.

  • A new deal with cellphone giant Nokia to promote ABC’s Emmy telecast and fall launch. Nokia, which produced yellow phones for the web last year, will sponsor 7 million copies of an ABC new season preview guide. The promotion will also include an Emmy-themed sweepstakes.

  • As part of what web execs have dubbed “virtual marketing,” computer users will be able to download an “ABC flying dot” that will serve as a gateway to what network promo execs call a “mini-ABC world.”

    “This allows us to create buzz in an unusual place,” said Michael Benson, senior VP of advertising and promotion. “These are very targeted efforts.”

    The dot will reside on computer desktops and alert users when their favorite ABC skein is on the air. The network will send the dot out to a database of viewers it already has on record and also use paid media to encourage other computer users to sign up for the dot.

Meanwhile, ABC Entertainment Television Group co-chairs Stu Bloomberg and Lloyd Braun dismissed concerns that TV is getting a little too real. Kicking off ABC’s portion of the semi-annual Television Critics Assn. press tour on Sunday, Bloomberg and Braun argued that the networks are still offering a balanced diet in their primetime fare.

“Stu and I don’t look at this as a reality trend,” Braun said. “In the last 14 months there have been two shows that have done extraordinarily well and surprised everybody (“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Survivor”). We don’t believe that means everyone in America is clamoring for more reality.”

Although the net has a number of reality skeins in the works — including “The Mole,” “The Runner,” “Go New York” and “The People Versus” — Braun said the net has been careful not to just jump on the reality bandwagon.”

Braun later said that “The Mole” is most likely to burrow to the surface first among the net’s reality roster.

The duo did take some time to discuss their scripted series, with Bloomberg sounding particularly enthusiastic about the creative prospects for the upcoming season of “NYPD Blue.” Creator/exec producer Steven Bochco will be taking a more hands-on role this year following the departure of longtime showrunner David Milch.

“Steven is back. This is no hype,” he said.

The net confirmed plans to air a DreamWorks Television special from exec producer Steven Spielberg on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day. Spec will focus on the combat cameramen of World War II.

Also, as a sign of the changing economic times, the net continues to discuss repurposing second runs of its series on other cable nets — similar to how it re-runs “Once and Again” on Lifetime.

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