CBS will promote "Novel Adventures" across its interactive platforms as well as in prime time on the CBS TV network. Each of the eight episodes will be presented exclusively for the first 48 hours on CBS.com, TheInsider.com and TV.com, then roll across the CBS Audience Network as well as on iTunes.
Aiming for engagement
The online series is the brainchild of writer, producer and director Jonathan Prince, who previously worked with GM on "The Cleaner" for cable TV's A&E, which was sponsored by GMC, and "Cane" on CBS, sponsored by Chevrolet, said GM's Dino Bernacchi, director-branded entertainment. GM told Mr. Prince it wanted for Saturn "something a little bit more interactive and engaging and something that really activated the social-networking side," Mr. Bernacchi said.
Saturn's agency is Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, Los Angeles, though Saturn said the deal was brokered in-house.
"It is not advertising," said Mr. Bernacchi, adding the deal wasn't part of its upfront negotiations. The format allows prospects "to experience our brand and is an attractive way to get consumers to engage with our products," he said.
A different Saturn model is integrated into each episode. Actress Ashley Williams plays Lizzie, the wife of a Saturn retailer, so she is able to get a new Saturn vehicle every week for the club's adventures. The other main actresses are Daphne Zuniga, Paola Turbay and Jolie Jenkins.
Visitors to cbs.com can jump to cbs.com/noveladventures, where they can opt in for more content, blog about the episodes, buy the books featured in the series or share the series with friends and families.
Struggling in downturn
In the past few years, Saturn has launched a slew of new models, but it has struggled to significantly boost vehicle sales. Last year, the brand did see a slight bump compared to the prior year -- with sales rising to 226,375 units -- but in the first nine months of 2008 its sales are off by 15% to 158,721 units. Of course, this is the industry's worst year in recent history.
Saturn has been driving into less traditional media, as GM shifted nearly 20% of its total budget into digital within the past three years. As a result its measured spending tally has declined. Saturn spent $136 million in measured media in the first half of 2008, some $7 million less than the same period a year ago, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
In another unusual outreach to women, the Saturn brand backed 1,000 house parties around the U.S. Oct. 17, said Susan Walton, manager-digital and customer-relationship management at Saturn. The marketer was surprised that more than 10,000 applicants raised their hands within the first 24 hours the invite was posted on houseparty.com to host the Saturn parties at their homes. The "girls night out" affair was tied to the premiere of TLC's new cable TV show "Real Simple. Real Life" and part of a media buy with Real Simple magazine, Ms. Walton said.
In the spring, the marketer launched its own social-networking site, IMSaturn.com, which in the first three weeks exceeded its projection of 1,000 members in the first six months.