IFC and Sundance School Advertisers in 'Indienomics'

Effort Aims to Showcase Media Brands as Truly Independent in Chaos-Ridden World

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- There's "Freakonomics," the rogue economic theory applied by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner to everything from legalized abortion's role in reducing crime to the socioeconomic implications of naming children.

Then there's "Indienomics," IFC and Sundance Channel's theory for calming consumer-related chaos through relevant marketing, with an accompanying website that features an animated (literally) presentation from the networks' research chief, Daniel Marcu.

Acura sponsors IFC's 'Sunday's Best' movie series.
Acura sponsors IFC's 'Sunday's Best' movie series.
It's also a catch-all pitch to advertisers as to why IFC and Sundance are considered to be the only two independent media brands, just in time for this year's TV upfront ad-buying season. Evan Shapiro, president of IFC and Sundance Channel, said Indienomics was born out of research for the networks' first shared upfront since parent company Rainbow Media acquired Sundance in May 2008, and the larger, grandiose discoveries about the world and the economy that developed throughout the process.

'Supremacy of the open source'
"We're creating one business model out of two great, iconic brands. There's a lot of chaos in the world, but there's more focus on the individual vs. the corporation. It's a supremacy of the open source," he said.

The Indienomics individual is also defined as "independently wealthy," a label Mr. Marcu set out to qualify through a custom study with OTX Research that pitted the spending habits of IFC and Sundance viewers against their five closest competitors. Among other findings, IFC viewers have spent the most on luxury autos in the last three years ($47,500 vs. Sci Fi's $38,741) and Sundance Channel fans spent more on premium liquor ($58 vs. BBC America's $40).

Having a premium audience has allowed both networks to command a premium for custom sponsorships, because each has cable-affiliate agreements that forbid 30-second spots from airing on either network. Instead, each has been offering up its own production and marketing teams to help advertisers such as Infiniti (Sundance's "Spectacle: Elvis Costello"), Acura (IFC's "Sunday's Best" movie series) and Grey Goose (Sundance's "Iconoclasts") create branded content that complements each networks' programming block.

Unique audience
In a stronger economy, marketers were more flexible to experiment with branded entertainment on nontraditional cable networks with relatively small distribution. As of December 2008, IFC was available to 48.9 million subscribers and brought in $127.5 million in sponsorship and affiliate fee revenue, to Sundance's 30.8 million subscribers and $104.4 million, according to SNL Kagan. While both grew at a 10% annual clip, their value is an even bigger investment of time and money for marketers that are looking for more efficiencies for their marketing budgets, which is why many are slashing experimental ad budgets left and right elsewhere.

Subaru will act as the green-minded series' integrated auto sponsor for Sundance's 'Eco Trip' with eco-adventurer David de Rothschild.
Subaru will act as the green-minded series' integrated auto sponsor for Sundance's 'Eco Trip' with eco-adventurer David de Rothschild. Credit: Sundance
IFC and Sundance are "never gonna be a mass-reach buy, but they do deliver a very unique, specific audience with a lot of influencers," said Dave Campanelli, VP-national director of TV for independent media-buying agency Horizon Media, which partnered with IFC for custom vignettes sponsored by client Geico.

That's why some sponsors, such as Subaru, are signing up for an even larger stake in the success of shows such as "Eco Trip: The Real Cost of Living," premiering April 21 on Sundance. The automaker will act as the green-minded series' integrated auto sponsor, as well as a presenting sponsor of its own short-form series, "Traction for Life," featuring profiles of environmentalists and activists. Subaru's chief marketing officer, Tim Mahoney, said "Eco Trip" was a "perfect fit" for the automaker because of its "emphasis on the outdoors and the environment."

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