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CNN Pitches Sponsors Seeking Younger Viewers

Cable-news outlet uses new ayem show, travel series to pick up ads

When it comes to advertising, CNN isn’t exactly acting its age.

The Time Warner news cabler has often relied on marketers whose primary consumer base skews somewhat older (that’s why advertisers buy news offerings based on their ability to reach audiences between 25 and 54, rather than the 18-to-49 standard that holds for entertainment programs). But in recent months, the network has been holding itself up as a place where drinkers of soda and craft beer and aficionados of autos with youthful appeal have begun to congregate.

New programs launching on CNN are “more diverse, covering an array of topics that reflect the diversity of our audience, while also appealing to more people,” said Greg D’Alba, president of ad sales for CNN as well as the digital properties of its parent, Turner. “It has opened up new opportunities for us.”

The cable-news outlet is set to launch “New Day,” a new morning-TV program, on Monday, June 17, with anchors Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira who CNN President Jeff Zucker has described as being “generationally, a different team.” Meantime, it has been fleshing out its schedule with docu-series and documentary films, including “Parts Unknown” featuring Anthony Bourdain. On June 23, CNN is set to launch “Inside Man,” a docu-series starring filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and “Crimes of the Century,” a look back at major transgressions produced by “Thelma & Louise” helmer Ridley Scott. A slate of documentary films has also started to emerge. The new programming arrives just months into the early tenure of former NBCU topper Jeff Zucker, who is now president of CNN Worldwide.

With this sort of stuff on its air, D’Alba said, CNN has made a play to advertisers who have not been on its schedule before as well as to sponsors who don’t make CNN a frequent home.

Case in point? The documentary “Girl Rising,” about young women attempting to break barriers standing in the way of an education, is slated to air on CNN June 16. The subject matter drew ad dollars from Procter & Gamble’s Always feminine-hygeine products. Procter has advertised on CNN before, but this product had not, according to D’Alba. Likewise, MillerCoors has used the Bourdain program –centered on travel and food – to promote Leinenkugal, a craft wheat beer. The advertiser had not appeared on CNN in some time, D’Alba said.

“We are looking for more travel-related revenue. We are looking for more automotive, especially younger-skewing automotive, as well as the beverage categories,” D’Alba said.

CNN’s advertising base has been on the staid side. The network can be the sort of place advertisers gravitate toward when they have something serious to say, owing to the education levels of a TV viewer interested in news events (CNN’s Sunday-morning programs are often a place for corporate advocacy spots and issue-oriented blurbs). And it can also be a haven for direct-response advertisers, who typically pay less in exchange for being more flexible about where their ads appear. According to Kantar Media, CNN’s top sponsors in 2012 and 2011 were Nutrisystem, General Motors and United Healthcare. Only the diet advertiser increased its spending with CNN year over year, according to Kantar.

In certain cases, CNN is benefitting from a particular advertiser’s goal. Coca-Cola has in recent months started buying ad time on news programming, including Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNBC, Bloomberg and CNN. The beverage maker has been running commercials discussing how consumers can make better physical and nutritional choices while still drinking soda and other Coca-Cola products. Some Coca-Cola ads are slated to run during “New Day,” D’Alba said.

The network is putting some focus on screens other than the TV. CNN is hoping extensions to digital and social media will prove more alluring to potential sponsors. Executives at the network describe a growing emphasis not only on CNN’s flagship TV business, but also on digital outlets that may be the first place certain audiences turn for news and information. In talks, CNN has begun to portray itself as a “content companion for younger audiences” who may click to the network’s website when breaking news occurs, said D’Alba.

One “New Day” sponsor, Allstate, is buying both TV and digital inventory around the program. On TV, Allstate will sponsor a recurring “New Day” segment called “5 Things You Need To Know,” complete with a video “billboard” telling viewers the insurance company is the sponsor and a first-in-ad-break placement for its commercial. At CNN.com, Allstate will get a place in a “morning bar” underneath the masthead, where it will appear after the TV segment. Users will get to see the “five things” mentioned on “New Day” – but also a sixth element that will actually be content from Allstate.

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