Networks pull out the stops to get good starts

Near-naked stars in provocative ads, video clips placed in magazines, online equivalents of chain letters — fall TV marketing campaigns have grown wilder as networks fight to get viewers to sample their wares in an increasingly crowded market place.

Fox has put a major push — tours, tweets, online games, screenings and Comic-Con — behind their lead horse in the fall race: “Glee.”

” ‘Glee’ has had the most unusual, innovative, out-of-the-box ideas going for it,” says Fox exec veep of marketing and communications Joe Earley. “We launched in May, then (had) four months of promotion before the (fall) debut. ”

Earley and others say this is the year of social media, where getting online chatter equals a shot at getting sampled.

“The No. 1 thing that drives viewers to programs is on-air (promotion), but the second is word of mouth,” ABC exec veep of marketing Michael Benson says. “You need to do something to get people talking.”

Benson says just a few years ago TV marketers created on-air promos, bought print ads and called it a campaign.

“Now, we’ve got to get people buzzing to drive them to a show,” Benson adds. “You do community screenings, you show it at Comic-Con if it’s appropriate, you present at TCA (the Television Critics Assn. press tour). It’s all about getting it in front of the right people, who will then start blogging and tweeting about it.”

And NBC may have discovered the right doorway. Through a partnership with Facebook, selected viewers predisposed to the Peacock can watch new comedy “Community” — but only if they send invitations to five of their friends to watch as well.

“We’re making the consumer work for us,” says NBC entertainment marketing prexy Adam Stotsky. “You can’t buy better advertising. It’s vital to our core message to utilize all platforms. Whether we’re getting 140-character tweets or blogs or a full feature in Vanity Fair, it all works to get the word out.”

The CW knows its entrance needs to be dramatic. The network blasted out its WTF — in this case it means Watch This Fall — campaign with steamy ads. That, CW marketing and brand strategy prexy Rick Haskins says, results in the core audience chatting online about the new shows.

“We like to refer to it as ‘smartly provocative,’ ” Haskins says. “We market loud because we’re a smaller network. The OMFG campaign put us on the map with an attitude and vernacular our audience, which has grown up in the digital age, can relate to.”

George Schweitzer, president of CBS Marketing Group, says putting the product out on the Internet is great, but you need a gimmick to get folks there. When he saw the technology for inserting video clips into magazines, he jumped on it. The clips are being placed inside Entertainment Weekly for subscribers in New York and Los Angeles.

“There’s no better way to get people to sample your product than showing a video,” Schweitzer says, adding that viewers then know what to search for online. “You have to figure out a way to get them to that point.

“Our job is to make the case that spending an hour or three with our programming is the best, most fulfilling entertainment choice out there. But first, you’ve got to get people to see what you have.”

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