Starting early next week, labels touting the network's new prime-time lineup are expected to appear on packaging and containers available at supermarket deli counters. So your half pound of sliced honey ham could bear a label that tells you to be sure to tune in for CBS shows such as "Viva Laughlin," "Cane" or "Two and a Half Men."
'We like supermarkets'
"We do like the supermarkets as a place" to promote programs, said George Schweitzer, president, CBS Marketing Group. "We get people when they are least expecting messages about entertainment, but they are very receptive to them."
The promotion involves the printing and distribution of millions of coupons and labels to thousands of grocery stores nationwide, including Safeway, Albertsons and Price Chopper, among others. CBS said 70% of shoppers frequent the deli, meat and seafood section of their supermarkets, which means its food labels will have the potential to snare attention.
CBS's airwaves are filled by big-spending marketers such as Procter & Gamble, General Motors and Johnson & Johnson. But CBS and other TV networks are just like those marketers in that they, too, have a product to sell: TV programs that cost millions of dollars to produce. And just as those advertisers have been considering ways to hawk their goods other than traditional TV ads, so too have the TV guys.
Indeed, CBS's walk through the supermarket aisles represents the most recent example of how big broadcast networks are putting more marketing dollars into nontraditional outlets to get the word out. For decades, networks were largely content to run promos on their own airwaves. But with TV audiences eroding and more people consuming TV shows through digital means, networks have to cast farther afield.
"We want to build awareness and we want to reach people. We reach them most effectively on air, but we don't reach them all that way," said Mr. Schweitzer. "Media is fragmenting so much, and we are trying to pull it all together."
Another example surfaced earlier this week, when CBS unveiled a print ad for its new drama "Cane" that looked like a promotion for "Duque" rum. The libation is fictional, appearing only on "Cane," which stars Jimmy Smits and focuses on a large Cuban-American family running a successful rum and sugar business in South Florida. But the taste, thanks to a peel-and-link ad, was real: a lime-flavored rum mojito, sans alcohol, calories and sugar. The ad appeared in the Sept. 7 issue of Rolling Stone, and has drawn notice from other networks.
CBS has other reasons for making a play for the supermarket. The network yesterday announced it had purchased SignStorey, a company that distributes programming and advertising to retail stores, for $71.5 million in cash, and would rename it "CBS Outernet" upon the expected closing of the deal in the fourth quarter of 2007. SignStorey plasma screens are available at grocery chains nationwide, including Albertsons, Price Chopper, Pathmark and Bi-Lo, and are strategically located at deli counters and/or in the produce sections of supermarkets. The deal helps CBS run pieces of its programming and promotions in stores while people shop, and also can bring advertisers along for the ride.
One advantage to the CBS labels: They're portable. People will put the show labels "right into your refrigerator and right on your counter every time you open that deli package," said Mr. Schweitzer. People "are going to see Charlie Sheen and who knows who else." He said CBS's entire prime-time programming slate -- from new shows such as "Kid Nation" to returning programs such as "CSI" -- would get the deli treatment.