Consultants help streamline campaigns

While many television networks are hush hush about their campaigns, behind-the-scenes the Emmy chase is going strong.

Starting as early as December, the marketers have been busy strategizing on how to get their clients noticed by the voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

On the broadcast side, the new skeins hoping to attract interest include NBC’s “Boomtown,” CBS’ “Without a Trace,” NBC’s “American Dreams” and the WB’s “Everwood,” just to name a few.

For the cable networks — fielding new series that include HBO’s “The Wire” and FX’s “Lucky” — it can be an uphill battle.

Even a critically acclaimed show such as “The Shield” is seen by only 3 million viewers a week vs. the watching a drama on a broadcast network. So making sure their shows are viewed by voters in a 500-channel universe is extremely important and challenging to campaigners. Often, studios turn to consultants for an extra boost.

FX had never participated in an Emmy campaign until last year, when it brought in Richard Licata, exec VP, and Jonah Borris, director, of Rogers and Cowan’s Television & Digital Entertainment division to help promote “The Shield.”

“While it’s always a collaborative effort between us and the network marketing team, we offer a fresh pair of eyes and perspective,” says Licata.

As HBO’s head of publicity for 14 years, Licata was instrumental in arranging screenings and other types of campaigns to increase the profile of the pay cabler. He and Borris are very selective about which shows they agree to promote.

The skein was the first basic cable drama to earn nominations for direction, Clark Johnson; writing, Shawn Ryan; and outstanding lead actor, Michael Chiklis, who took home the kudo.

“We serve the voters in that we help educate them about what’s out there as well as differentiate the product. We also serve the networks and producers who can’t stop production and their regular schedule to focus only on these campaigns,” Licata says.

This year, the duo will tubthump for “The Shield,” Fox’s “Mad TV,” “Everwood,” NBC’s “Meet My Folks,” USA’s “Monk,” James Woods as Rudy Giuliani in “Rudy,” and Sci Fi Channel miniseries “Taken” and “Children of Dune.”

They won’t discuss campaign specifics due to the potential backlash and prefer to let performances speak for themselves. As one network exec says, “You can create one of the best campaigns in history but you can’t put garbage in a Tiffany box.”

It could be argued that Chiklis would have won the Emmy for lead actor in a drama with or without a campaign supporting him. Maybe, but Emmy voters have a tendency of going back to the tried and true and the campaign, at the least, put Chiklis’ name into the mix.

As one TV critic says, the Emmys can be like a political campaign where the incumbent has a huge advantage. So whether its dovetailing with previous awards and publicity or helping decide which episodes to submit, a campaign — first and foremost — has to get the word out on new programs and/or performances.

And then there’s the creative arts community, which appreciates any publicity it can get.

“There’s so much focus on program nominations, and while that’s obviously important, there needs to be a spotlight on those individual achievements in the creative arts categories,” says Todd Binkley, who worked as director of awards at Discovery Networks and spent seven years in the awards department at the TV Acad. “It’s about seeing all of the potential a program offers.”

At Discovery, Binkley helped the marketing team land noms in the craft categories for programs such as “Walking With Dinosaurs,” which ended up winning three Emmys in 2000. “When you send out an entry in the makeup and hair category, for example, those members of the Academy also vote on other categories, too. This double-dipping can maximize your mailing,” he explains.

“The key is to make programming available to members in as many ways as you can.”

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