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ABC, Pepsi counting on ‘Billion’ campaign

Network pacts to promote laffer lineup

Viewers will get another shot at winning $1 billion this summer — this time via ABC.

Alphabet web has pacted with Pepsi to take part in the cola company’s “Play for a Billion” campaign, which culminates with a live special hosted by Damon Wayans on Sunday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m.

ABC takes over for the WB, which took part in the promotion last year.

Michael Davies and his Diplomatic Prods., which produced the “Play for a Billion” special last year at the WB, are back onboard to oversee the event — in which randomly chosen sweepstakes and promotion winners will compete for a stab at $1 billion.

Alphabet web will use the Pepsi promotion to promote its comedy lineup under the “Summer of a Billion Laughs” banner. Pepsi displays will market the “Play for a Billion” sweepstakes and the ABC comedies over six weeks, from June 21 to July 26.

“This is the largest promotion we’ve ever done in the history of the network,” said ABC marketing senior VP Mike Benson. “We’re always looking for organic marketing opportunities, and Pepsi had a promotion they wanted to grow into something bigger and better. And we wanted to take the spirit of what they were doing and package it around the comedies.”

Benson said he also has been looking for new ways to promote ABC series off air.

“The whole idea is to get exposure off air to our shows, drive tune-in to the network and then bring excitement to the Pepsi promotion,” he said.

Besides branding the comedies as the “Summer of a Billion Laughs,” net plans to change its on-air look and packaging to reflect the promotion.

The summerlong campaign centers on specially marked Pepsi products, which will include buzzwords that users will then enter on a Web site for a shot at appearing on the “Play for a Billion” contest.

Seven people will also join the contestants by selecting “Play for a Billion” buzzwords that appear during one of the ABC comedies “According to Jim,” “8 Simple Rules,” “Less Than Perfect,” “My Wife & Kids,” “George Lopez,” “Hope & Faith” and “Life With Bonnie.”

“Pepsi has this amazing muscle to generate exposure,” said Dan Longest, senior VP of ABC’s integrated marketing/promotion department. “It’s one big synergistic event.”

Last year’s “Play for a Billion” special on the WB, hosted by Drew Carey, attracted 4.3 million viewers and awarded $1 million to West Virginia teacher Richard Bay.

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