The controversial media behemoth—recently under fire for its activist role in favor of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—will also look to stir things up on Monday, May 12 when the company will hold its first annual "gone-from-home" upfront in New York during the same week as the broadcast networks trot out their 2003-04 wares in their annual dog-and-ponies.
"Most major companies, with a few exceptions, dedicate 70%-90% of their budgets to TV and print, but the more you look at research, the gone-from-home space is certainly larger and more proximate to purchasing decisions and has greater importance than people ever knew," said Lori Wellinghoff, senior VP of Clear Channel Advantage, the cross-platform unit that was launched in January. "So before they commit all that money [to the networks], we wanted to give the advertisers and their agencies something to think about that they may have not thought about."
"Mark Mays [Clear Channel Worldwide President and chief operating officer] has envisioned us participating in this forum for a couple of years," said Don Howe, Clear Channel Advantage president. Howe and Wellinghoff said the formation of Clear Channel Advantage in New York became the appropriate mechanism to do so.
"Clear Channel is positioning itself to take advantage of the current buzz around Madison + Vine as brands partner with both music and live events to create branded moments for consumers," said Laura Caraccioli-Davis, VP-Director SMG Entertainment, Starcom MediaVest Group. "It also doesn't hurt to position themselves as a marketing alternative to the broadcast networks."
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Another prominent media buyer, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said, "I'm sure Clear Channel is going to lay it on pretty thick that they're an attractive option to the networks, who are already negotiating in the press for 20% increases."
Clear Channel Advantage was formed to more efficiently and effectively harness the collective power of the four "gone-from-home" divisions: the radio division; the live division, which includes music, theatricals, and motorsports; the outdoor division; and the interactive division.
Clear Channel's event will take place at the Clear Channel-owned Ford Theater in Times Square, which has been the home to the long-running Broadway show "42nd Street." Wellinghoff says she's expecting around 1,600 attendees. "The network upfronts tend to be packed with a lot of buyers and planners. Ours will have senior execs from every silo including creative, account management, strategic planning, and media," she said.
Radio personality Rick Dees will serve as emcee and appearances will be made by the cast of "The Producers" and Rush Limbaugh, among others.