In an increasingly crowded field, syndicators emphasized to station promotion exex at the Promax convention Monday that they were looking for ways to break through the clutter.

When Columbia TV president Barry Thurston quipped that research showed “certainly what we need is another talkshow,” he acknowledged the difficulty of finding a niche in the talkshow arena.

But Columbia is confident that by using the Fox strategy of “aging down” a traditional genre, “The Ricki Lake Show” can find an audience.

Promax, a confab of TV promotions and marketing exex, wrapped Thursday.

To appeal younger viewers, the “Ricki” promotions are built around the theme “a new generation of talk.” In order to make the show stand out from the competition, the campaign will feature Lake arriving in New York City, because “anything can happen (there) and usually does,” said Bob Cook, senior VP marketing.

The clips feature shots of the city, Lake talking to, hugging and high-fiving New Yorkers, and Gotham residents talking about the show. Some exex from smaller markets expressed concern that this New York-oriented approach may alienate viewers. (Cook said these stations can drop the spots in favor of ones in which Lake talks about her show, which the station exex found more appropriate.)

‘In the Heat’ of marketing

Meanwhile, MGM is stepping up its effort to make “In the Heat of the Night” stand out, even after the show’s successful first season offnet.

The syndicator has several untraditional spots.

In one, the ID tag is moved up into the body of the spot to create a false ending and catch viewers by surprise.

Another, which leans toward self-parody, uses a female voiceover (a rarity, especially for cop shows) talking about the character of Bubba as a heartthrob.

A third dramatically declares “Gillespie’s back” and “Bubba’s back” while the screen shows the stars facing away from camera.

Additionally, MGM is setting up a watch-and-win contest, offering a free cruise for one viewer from each market.

Warner Bros. announced plans for its Prime Time Entertainment Network and for the offnet sitcom “Family Matters.”

The PTEN workshop featured the new series “Babylon 5” even though the show does not air as a regular series until winter of 1994.

Warner Bros. is hoping that early visibility will get the show off to strong start. The spots will use indirect promotion techniques: “Space Moments” promos will look at space and a history of space exploration; “Future Thoughts” will feature quick interviews with science-fiction personalities.

Indirect approach

Warners is also taking advantage of an even more indirect approach. The company has established the show on national computer bulletin boards, allowing techno-fans to communicate with the producers and marketers directly.

For “Family Matters,” Warners is following a more traditional route with its promos, although it is also going several steps further. One indirect promotional tool will be a behind-the-scenes special made available to the stations prior to launch.

Additionally, Warners has planned a major sweepstakes with TV Guide. Viewers will have a shot at gifts, vacations and automobiles, while stations can buy ads discounted at less than 40% of the TV Guide rate card (factoring in the WB co-op plan).