Cable's Big May Pitch: Integration

Marketers and Agencies Want Multiplatform Deals, but Can Networks Deliver?

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NEW YORK ( -- How do you build buzz in a seemingly lifeless upfront market? And, more importantly, how do you get on marketers' increasingly short lists of must-buy cable networks? Emphasize your best -- and most precious -- assets: plum integrations.
Hank Close
Hank Close

Everybody's asking for them. Clients want to deliver a deeper message across a consistent media property and media agencies are under pressure to prove they can think beyond spots and dots and deliver the digital goods.

"Ideas will guide the money," said Elizabeth Herbst-Brady. "Price is important but it's more about who's got the ideas."

But not everyone can do the big integration deals. While they're becoming more and more common, they're still in limited supply thanks to the sheer manpower required to pull them off on both the seller and buyer side.

"There's a little bit of scarcity just because of the number of clients interested in these conversations," said Hank Close, exec VP-ad sales for MTV Networks Music and Comedy group.

Integrated programs are especially important this year as advertisers continue the trend of buying fewer cable networks -- but spending more money at each. Any extra idea a network can offer could prove to be its ticket to the dance.

A commodity MTV Networks is making multiplatform the central part of its upfront pitch this year, highlighting several recent integrated deals it's done as the right way to do integrations. In fact, the group, which includes MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike and TV Land, among others, has begun to form a team coined Client Solutions that will look for integrated opportunities across the group's channels, much like a mini Viacom Plus.

"There hasn't been an upfront meeting I've had in the past three months that hasn't brought up multiplatform," said Sue Danaher, exec VP ad sales at MTV Networks Kids and Family. And, Mr. Close adds, talking to clients about integrated deals "gets you outside of an upfront-price discussion."

"With the plethora of cable networks, to some degree it's become more of a commodity than they'd like," said Andy Donchin, exec VP-director of national broadcast at Carat. "With clients consolidating the list of cable networks they buy, we're looking for reasons and a rationale to buy what we buy."

One of clients' common upfront fears is locking down dollars that might be best spent on an integrated offer that comes up later in the year. In the past this desire for flexibility has led to money shifting out of the upfront and into the scatter market. Sellers hope that by offering the big cross-platform deal in the upfront, they can nail down some of those funds.

Andy Jung, senior director-advertising and marketing at Kellogg, echoed Mr. Donchin's point of view at Ad Age's Upfront Conversation when he suggested marketers seek opportunities with a "head," a programming tent pole with a mass audience that acts as a hook for the "tail" of the buy -- all the smaller slices of audience that accrue in digital media that advertisers can use to extend and personalize their TV dollars.

MTV has upped the integration in recent years under John Shea, exec VP-integrated marketing. One of its biggest assets, he said, has been its tent pole-the Video Music Awards. Last year a deal with Saturn put its Sky Roadster on the red carpet, in a music video and on MTV Overdrive. The VMA's drove a record 450,000 unique visitors to MTV will typically do seven or eight category-exclusive integrated deals around the VMA's -- and they're almost sold, including the car sponsorship which will again go to General Motors. Ms. Danaher's group uses its Kids Choice Awards in much the same way.

But it's not just the giant network groups that have figured out integration can pay off. Rainbow Media, whose networks include AMC, WE: Women's Entertainment, Fuse and IFC, is leveraging its sibling assets at Cablevision to offer a limited group of advertisers enhanced TV opportunities with a national cable network buy.

For example, advertisers who buy a national flight on AMC could also get a dedicated VOD channel in Cablevision's wealthy New Jersey/Long Island footprint.
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