It's probably no surprise that Ryan Seacrest's first outing with Civic Entertainment, the marketing services firm he owns a stake in, involves the reality show he hosts, "American Idol," and its three charter sponsors Ford Motor Co., Coca-Cola and AT&T.
Ad Age caught up with the "Idol" frontman while he was in New York today kicking off "Idol Across America," a promotion probably best described as a mic-a-thon. No doubt in hopes of building flagging ratings, the plan is to have fans and celebrities carry the show's iconic microphone from the Big Apple to Los Angeles. The 5,000 mile trek is set to go across 13 American cities on its way to the "Idol" stage in time for the top 10 live performance shows March 13.
The show's website will host an interactive map, videos and photos of the journey as well as updates posted to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Civic is hoping to showcase some of the more innovative means of passing the mic – such as skateboarding, rowing, dancing and driving (in a Ford, of course.)
Mr. Seacrest said that despite his alliance with the Fox TV show, it was not a lock for Civic, the marketing services firm in which he took a majority stake in December.
"This was not arranged before we invested in Civic," said Mr. Seacrest in an interview. "We reintroduced Civic to the folks at Fox and they came in and made a presentation – as well as other companies – and [Fox] felt this was the best opportunity."
He added: "It's hitting a couple birds with one stone –hosting 'Idol' and seeing your company involved in a big event."
As for the how the sponsors were going to be integrated, Mr. Seacrest didn't offer specifics, but there were several Fords with the "Idol Across America" parked outside Fox's New York headquarters where the announcement was held, which drew about 200 people.
In addition to fans who sign up on the website, Mr. Seacrest said there will be "local heroes and inspirational figures in local communities as well as former Idols" carrying the mic, will cross through many of their hometowns. However he said he didn't know which Idols would be participting yet.
Aging "Idol" could use some promotional excitement – its Wednesday night show this week pulled in only 10.3 million viewers, the lowest number since 2002. Moreover, the show is pulling fewer in the crucial 18-to-49 demographic most coveted by advertisers. But when asked whether the show was drawing relatively fewer ratings, he said "Relative to what?" noting that while the number might be down, "Idol" is still in a league of its own as the biggest thing on TV.