How Gardenburger Grew Its Media Buy With a Niche Network

Ovation TV Airs Mini-Stories as Brand Backs an Urban Garden

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- How does Gardenburger's garden grow? Consumers can find out for themselves in a new marketing campaign running on Ovation TV. Sixty-second interstitials airing on the niche cable station detail the planning and planting of the first Gardenburger-sponsored edible urban garden in New York.

The edible urban garden follows the branding strategy of the Kellogg-owned Gardenburger, which has declared its commitment to community gardens.
The edible urban garden follows the branding strategy of the Kellogg-owned Gardenburger, which has declared its commitment to community gardens.
Designed by Fritz Haeg, a well-known landscape architect and author of "Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn," the garden and the marketing behind it were hatched by Ovation TV and Gardenburger media planners at Starcom.

The campaign includes the TV interstitial mini-stories with two more planned as the garden grows and is harvested, plus websites, social-media destinations and print advertorials in gardening and organic food magazines.

"I think this resonates loudly because it's so unique," said Debra Cuffaro, Ovation's VP-advertising sales. "I can't imagine another cable network planting a garden with their clients."

The garden follows the branding strategy of the Kellogg-owned Gardenburger, which offers frozen lines of veggie burgers, garden "steaks" and other vegetarian dishes, such as Breaded Chik'n. The brand has declared a commitment to community gardens; it began awarding money to help communities build local gardens earlier this year. Nonprofits applied through May for grants of up to $10,000, and winners will be notified in August.

The idea is also appropriate for the economic and eco-friendly times. "Gardens are on everybody's minds now," Ms. Cuffaro said.

Why Ovation is a good fit
Mr. Haeg's high-profile artist status (his work was in the 2008 Whitney Biennial) and the green theme of the program fit with Ovation TV's audience.

Ovation viewers belong to art associations and attend concerts and visit museums often, and are both early adopters and green-minded consumers, said Liz Janneman, Ovation's senior VP-advertising sales. Ovation watchers are also well-educated, high-wage earners (average household income is more than $94,000) who are much more likely than others to be an owner, partner or president-CEO in their occupation, according to Experian Simmons research for the channel.

Making the most of niche cable

If you want something, ask. The benefits of smaller channels, especially in the programs they originate, are the control and flexibility they have. Brand integration and advertising formats are generally open for discussion.

Match your audience to their audience. It's pretty difficult to pinpoint art-loving single dads on network TV, but niche cable channels can dial up specific demographics by show.

Take advantage of all integration possibilities. Don't just stop at TV; remember to look at websites, social media, outdoor, public relations and event opportunities the channel might offer or be able to arrange.

Remember that good ideas can come from anywhere.

Of course, it is still a niche channel, although a growing one. Its audience will reach 37 million by the end of the year, executives said. That's less than half of the people who watched the Super Bowl last year, but more than six times Ovation's first-year audience of 5 million in 2007. Revenue is also up -- tripling in 2008 from 2007 and projecting a 50% growth in upfront advertising commitments from marketers this year, Ms. Janneman said.

"The value proposition is the customization and the integration," Ms. Janneman said. Ms. Cuffaro added, "This is not about [gross ratings points] or spots and dots. ... For [the price of] one average prime-time commercial, you can get an entire customized program scheduled."

Marrying niche with nice
Other advertisers agree. Geico, Boeing, Acura, Morgan Stanley, Walmart, Target, MetLife and all the major movie studios have run custom programs with Ovation that range from specialized content in and around a program to co-sponsored on-the-ground cultural events.

Subaru's custom program with Ovation came out of a planning brief asking for ways to tell its environmental story, which includes its zero-waste auto factory in Lafayette, Indiana, called Subaru of Indiana Automotive. Ovation pitched an idea to Subaru's agency, Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis, and struck a deal with Subaru to include it in an original special, "Brilliant Green," which aired earlier this year. Subaru negotiated the rights to that 7.5 minutes of content and now uses it at some dealerships, trade shows and internally to show what the plant does.

"The upside is they're building programs from the ground up and so there is more flexibility on input," said Neil Goodspeed, group media director at Carmichael Lynch. He added: "It's a good fit for our target. You know we're still a niche brand. In this case, marrying a niche brand with a niche cable channel is not a bad thing."

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