How much will it cost to get people to watch “Lucky 7?” For ABC, the answer is at least $100,000.
The network is launching a sweepstakes to get people interested in sampling the freshman drama about seven gas-station employees who strike it rich in the lottery. As the debut episode unspools Sept. 24, seven numbered balls will appear in the lower third of the screen. The winner will be disclosed — from among fans who have entered the contest online — after the premiere airs on the West Coast, said Marla Provencio, chief marketing officer at ABC.
Provencio and her team, like other net marketing execs, are devising dozens of ideas to introduce new series and convince the public not only to sample them but to stick around. She also needs to draw viewers to Tuesday sitcom “The Goldbergs”; launch a spinoff of “Once Upon a Time”; and, of course, drum up attention for “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” a priority for ABC’s parent company. “We’re totally exhausted,” Provencio said.
Fall is when TV networks adopt the tactics of Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive. No matter that the DVR and video-on-demand make programs available long after they air, networks still need ratings. To generate viewership, they test out kooky gimmicks, get the word out on Twitter and place billboards in strategic places. And of course, they blast promos all over their air.
Here are a few of our favorite marketing endeavors this season:
GO FOR THE GUT: CBS will mount a 2½-week takeover of Irvine, Calif.-based frozen-yogurt chain Yogurtland to tubthump a number of its shows. Between Sept. 13-30, the eatery will offer flavors based on CBS programs — think “Sheldon’s Bazinga Blueberry” to celebrate “The Big Bang Theory” and “We Are Man-go” to draw attention to frosh sitcom “We Are Men.” The Eye is no stranger to stomach-rumbling: In the past, it has put promotional messages on eggshells, deli-meat wrappers and supermarket freezer doors. Not to be outdone, the CW will run fake ads for a fictional “blood cleanse,” a parody of the popular “juice cleanse,” to highlight its “Vampire Diaries” spinoff “The Originals.”
XBOX MARKS THE SPOT: When a network is trying to reach young people, it must tap the venues they frequent. So the CW is using an Xbox game that touts “The Tomorrow People,” which features kids with unique abilities, including telekinesis. In the game, “You can move things across the screen without touching the screen,” explained Rick Haskins, the net’s exec veep of marketing and digital programs.
GET OFF THE COUCH: Some of the best TV promos don’t involve a screen of any kind but take place in venues where potential viewers might travel. To drum up word for “Sleepy Hollow,” a mystery-drama featuring Ichabod Crane risen from the dead, Fox staged a screening of the show’s pilot at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in L.A. for more than 2,000 fans, and had Fox a liates on hand to cover it. CBS is screening ad-agency comedy “The Crazy Ones” at colleges that have TV and advertising departments, including Ithaca College and Boston U. Students can offer ideas to promote the show; best pitch wins a summer internship with CBS’ marketing squad.
OLD FAITHFUL: Despite the emerging theory that audiences can sometimes be more easily found via social media or with outdoor advertising than through TV, there’s something to be said for sticking with what works. CBS baked in extra inventory during ad breaks on summer hit “Under the Dome” to showcase its new series, said George Schweitzer, CBS’ marketing prexy. The new drama “Hostages” got an extra-long 60-second promo that ran during the Eye’s summer hit.
“Social media is very effective,” said Schweitzer. “But it really fits when the show is on the air and after people have seen (it).”