Fox’s summer promo mojo

Net takes to streets, Internet for aggressive pitch

Fox is going to be in your face for the next four months.

As the net prepares to launch the most ambitious summer programming slate in recent network TV history next month, marketing topper Roberta Mell has designed an equally aggressive marketing campaign to let viewers know Fox won’t be in repeat mode between May and September. In addition to the usual assault of on-air promos, Fox has cooked up a slew of marketing initiatives, from street team prize giveaways to elaborate co-branding campaigns with sponsors such as Best Buy and Burger King.

“Marketing has to be ubiquitous — you have to be everywhere,” Mell said. “What we wanted to try to do is reinforce the fact that we have a whole new season kicking off in June. People are so used to summer being burnoff time for the networks, we wanted to establish this is a whole new season for us.”

Teaser ads touting the Fox summer “revolution” began airing more than a month ago, with skein-specific spots starting up a few weeks later. Trailers for June laffer “Method & Red” have been airing in 1,400 theaters playing pics such as “Van Helsing,” “Troy” and “Shrek 2.”

Among other highlights of the Fox campaign:

  • Burger King will put up “Simple Life 2” posters in more than 8,000 stores. In a preplanned bit of cross-promotion, “Simple” stars Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton work at a Burger King in one episode.

  • Best Buy will hand out a new-season sampler DVD free to anyone who buys Fox TV DVDs. Fox will also be a major presence in upcoming editions of the Best Buy Sunday ad circular, which reaches more than 50 million people each week, Mell said.

  • In the top 10 markets, street teams will hand out “Method & Red” sampler DVDs outside screenings of MGM’s “Soul Plane” during the pic’s opening weekend. “We’re getting this in the hands of people who can really help us,” Mell said.

  • “The Jury” coffee carts have already started popping up outside major courthouses in the top 10 markets, handing out free coffee to people on juries.

  • An eight-page TV Guide insert promoting “The Casino” is in the works.

  • Starting Wednesday, street teams will distribute leis to sailors in New York during Fleet Week to promote “North Shore.”

  • Fox is teaming up with videogame store Electronics Boutique for a “Method & Red” contest in which winners get a trip to G-Phoria, the vidgame kudos created by the G4 game net.

Net is also betting heavily on the Internet, with ads for Fox shows literally popping up when people use services such as Yahoo! For example, when Daily Variety did a Yahoo! search for “Paris Hilton” and clicked on one of the sites listed in the search results, a box appeared touting Hilton’s “Simple Life 2.”

“You can be so targeted, especially with search engines,” Mell said. “When people are looking for information, you can’t be more targeted than that.”

Collectively, these extra initiatives aren’t cheap.

“Our budget has increased significantly,” Mell said. “Gail (Berman) and Peter (Chernin) have been supportive of all the marketing efforts. This has been a real corporate effort.”

While Fox didn’t officially announce its summer plans until last month, net has been headed in the year-round direction for almost a year. Once it became clearer which skeins would land summer greenlights, “We put a task force in place for every single one of these shows,” Mell said.

Fox is also doing something most of the Big Six have eschewed in recent years: a brand identity campaign for the net as a whole, complete with the tagline “This June, It’s a Whole New Season on Fox.”

“Ultimately, people watch shows, not networks,” Mell said. “But we thought it was important to make people aware that a new season is coming.”