Promos prove primo for outside shop Yes

Emmy season runs year-round for some dogged PR pros. Not only does every major network employ one or more full-time Emmy-specific marketing gurus, many retain outside agencies to help conceive and run campaigns.

One such operation is Yes Design Group. Founded by Lori Posner and Tim Gleason in 1999, the seven-person company tripled its Emmy business this year.

In fact, Yes — which specializes in elaborate packaging for DVD and VHS screeners sent to TV Academy voters — touted this year a pre-nom client list that included CBS, WB, UPN and the USA Network. For USA, Yes created a campaign theme built on the faces of the cable channel’s key original series characters — including Tony Shalhoub from “Monk” and Conchita Campbell from “The 4400.” Shalhoub received a comedy actor mention; “4400” was tapped for miniseries.

Jean Guerin, VP of communications at USA, hired Yes during a time of marketing transition earlier this year. Inhouse creatives were focused on drawing up the net’s new branding, which includes the tagline, “Characters welcome.” Yes made life easier by implementing a campaign that fit in with the new initiatives.

“We met them in February and discussed what might be a good way to hint (at the new campaign),” Guerin says. “We were looking to lean into the new brand without showing it off prematurely.”

Guerin also worked with Yes at the Sci-Fi Channel in 2002. Back then, she asked the agency to create an attention-grabbing mailer. Sci-Fi ended up sending out its screeners in a flashy orb to 11,000 TV Acad members. The goal: To stimulate interest in minis “Children of Dune” and the Steven Spielberg-produced “Taken.” The latter snagged an outstanding miniseries trophy. The orbs showed up on eBay.

“(Even) if it doesn’t get Emmy nominations, I think the packaging around that time of the year is a magnificent branding tool for a show,” says Richard Licata, VP of corporate communications at Showtime.

Licata — whose Emmy campaign for “Huff” this year helped generate seven noms — has successfully worked with Yes on several occasions. When he was at Rogers & Cowan in 2002, Licata hired Posner to help market FX’s “The Shield,” for which Michael Chiklis received an actor trophy — and cemented FX as an original programming force in primetime.

Licata, his associate Jonah Borris, and Posner collaborated on a black DVD mailer box with working lights. Slide the box door open, the lights would come on and reveal the screener inside, packaged in a standard black Amaray-style DVD case. The box included the tagline, “Television in a new light.”

“I don’t think there’s any way in terms of mailers we’re ever going to top that,” says John Solberg says, VP of publicity for FX. The electric campaign, he adds, celebrated the then-under-the-radar channel’s talent as much as it aimed for the long-shot win.

These days, Yes sends out more Emmy mailers than ever, but more subtlety goes in, especially once a network’s image is firmly established.

When Yes marketed “CSI” this Emmy season, for example, the firm aimed to assign a classy identity to each branch of the franchise. “Miami” got warm colors that evoked Florida. The flagship series was presented in a mysterious box that opened to reveal a single strip of crime-scene tape around the DVD.

“More and more, it’s been simplified,” Guerin says of the prenom mailer practice. “People used to send out big cans and canisters. Now, it’s about making it simple for people to watch. The pomp and circumstance and the fun stuff are great to make your mark, but once you’re known, clean is probably a nicer way to go.”

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