Fox Hopes Candy Man Can Sweeten Sales Plans

Net Brings In Nestlé Vet In Effort to Increase Its TV-Marketing Savvy

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Brian Owens isn't your typical TV executive. Prior to his arrival at News Corp.'s Fox in December, he worked at Nestlé for 11 years, devising marketing programs for Raisinets and Nestlé Crunch. Now he'll try to take what he's learned selling candy and apply it to "The Simpsons" and "The Moment of Truth."
Brian Owens, Fox's VP-marketing strategy and analytics
Brian Owens, Fox's VP-marketing strategy and analytics

His hire reflects a growing acknowledgement among broadcast networks that they need to move beyond tried-and-tested promos, such as in-network trailers, and become sophisticated marketers. "Ultimately we are producing a product, and we need consumers to want to consume our product," said Joe Earley, who was named exec VP-marketing and communications of Fox Broadcasting in August and will be Mr. Owens' boss.

With audiences fragmenting, that task has grown more difficult. While Fox still believes running a promotion on its own air remains one of the best ways to get the word out about its programs, Mr. Earley said, the network also is looking at word-of-mouth and public relations. And Fox understands that different groups of people have different reasons for watching specific shows -- a particular actor in a show aimed at men might have some appeal for women, for example.

Sophisticated efforts
Enter Mr. Owens, who is Fox's VP-marketing strategy and analytics, a new position. His mandate is to use consumer research and insight to coordinate marketing efforts around Fox TV properties. His arrival is a signal of sorts that TV networks are growing more sophisticated in the ways they target and reach viewers. As a marketer, he said, he is accustomed to having to "leverage consumer insight and consumer research and really try to inject that into everything we're doing."

Take his efforts at Nestlé, for example. In 2001, Mr. Owens supervised a program that made Shaquille O'Neal the spokesman for Nestlé Crunch, the better to target men between 18 and 34. He also was involved in a decision to add caramel to the Crunch bar, an example of "how you could take that brand and bring new users to the franchise," he said.

Mr. Earley and Mr. Owens certainly have competition. For the past two seasons, CBS has moved into such venues as supermarkets, putting messages about its programs on deli wrappers. ABC has launched online games to help drive involvement with its "Lost." Mr. Owens will help Fox figure out what audience to target, where and when, said Mr. Earley -- a much-needed skill in an increasingly confusing media landscape.

Fox, Verizon Team for 'Terminator'

It's no secret that sci-fi fans and "Terminator" movie buffs are a prime audience for Fox's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," set to make its debut Jan. 13. But Fox believes the sci-fi drama has the potential to reach a broader base and is partnering with an advertiser to get the word out.
Fans can film an action scene as part of show promo.
Fans can film an action scene as part of show promo.

Between Jan. 9 and Jan. 30, buses sponsored by Verizon Wireless and branded with the Fox program's name will visit top markets, ranging from New York and Los Angeles to San Diego and Charlotte, N.C. Fans can board and "Get Terminated" by filming an action scene opposite a Terminator in front of a green screen; send the completed video clip to an e-mail address and/or a Verizon Wireless phone; and then share it with others.

In the case of "Terminator," said Jean Rossi, exec VP-sales for Fox Broadcasting Co., "we are hoping to reach not just that 'Terminator' fan but the broader audience," since the show has lots of character development. "What we do is attempt to build a marketing program that will appeal to a broad audience as well as deliver to the more niche audience, the 'Terminator' fan base. We need to target both groups in order to maximize our reach," said Sonia Borris, senior VP-marketing and operations at Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Marketing. Warner Brothers produces the program.

The wide-ranging partnership also includes a "red carpet" premiere event hosted Jan. 9 by both Verizon Wireless and Fox; exclusive access for Verizon Wireless V Cast subscribers to sneak peeks and episode recaps of the show, as well as behind-the-scenes vignettes and a mobile game based on the program; a Verizon Wireless-branded microsite within Fox.com; and "hybrid" on-air commercials that promote both the marketer and the show.
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