"It's all about the outernet," said CBS Marketing President George Schweitzer, describing co-branding ventures with Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma and American Airlines, among others retailers. "Our strategy is in reaching out to people while they are in the middle of their daily routine."
Leaving no retail opportunity unturned, if you're staying in a hotel in Las Vegas, where "CSI" is set, you're likely to see promotions for the crime drama -- the MGM Grand and Cirque du Soleil are featured in upcoming episodes this season.
Elsewhere, the network has commissioned a crop artist to create a giant picture of a mushroom cloud in a Kansas field for the hourlong drama "Jericho." And it arranged to have the names of its shows written on eggs in the supermarket aisle. Elevators and even postage stamps -- legal, and distributed for free -- will be adorned with characters from "How I Met Your Mother" or "The New Adventures of Old Christine."
"Give me an hour and I'll give you 39 cents," jokes Mr. Schweitzer, who is pitched by all kinds of nutty marketing ventures, from an opportunity to sponsor the demoted planet Pluto or putting the names of shows on fishing rods.
Gushing over online
Over at NBC, it's hard to stop the marketing gurus from gushing about their online innovations with "The Office," video contests on YouTube, ad-sponsored previews on iTunes and a "My Name Is Earl" page on MySpace.
"We have many more buys in the digital arena this year," said John Miller, NBC Universal TV Group's chief marketing officer. Vince Manze, president of in-house ad shop NBC Agency, adds: "The object for anything we do is not just to sell, but to get it passed around and that's the goal of a lot of the internet things we do."
One of NBC's most promising shows, "Heroes" -- about people with special powers -- already has 60 fan websites, an astonishing number for a show that won't launch until Sept. 25. For NBC, the marketing strategy is not about hitting millions of people with the message but in recruiting a select group of advocates who will spread the word. YouTube, Yahoo and iFilm are part of NBC's media buy this year. And if consumers really want to see what NBC has in store for the new season, the network arranged for a free DVD of fall highlights to be carried by online video rental company Netflix.
Another hit for newspapers
With its attention on digital, the network cut back on newspaper and smaller-circulation TV magazines. "Those listings books are probably something that everybody is using less. The TV Week Network [which places ads in multiple newspapers' TV magazines] is not part of our buy," Mr. Miller said. But the Peacock network is still appearing in print, making sure it has ad buys in titles such as Time Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly, just as CBS does have an internet presence -- it has its own websites Innertube and Showbuzz after all.
Both broadcast networks switched media agencies in advance of the 2006-07 season in order to gain fresh insights into their viewers' media habits. CBS exchanged Carat for Initiative last spring, while NBC parted ways last year with MediaVest and hired Fallon. (Its media-buying relationship with Horizon remains.) Already, the networks' media habits have changed.
CBS is creating 90-second promos to air on cable channels Comedy Central and Spike, along with a special to air on VH-1. (CBS was once part of Viacom with the cable nets until this past January.) Mr. Schweitzer describes the cable buy as a new strategy aimed at reaching younger viewers.
NBC is now looking closely not at the network's target market, but each particular show's appeal to its particular audience. "It's all about show by show," NBC's Mr. Miller said.
Media strategy is also informed by what additional channels fall under the corporate parent -- CBS has a vibrant outdoor business; NBC Universal has invested heavily in digital, purchasing iVillage earlier this year.
Collectively, networks spend almost $500 million on marketing their fall slate, but inevitably sometimes marketing endeavors collide. Those 90,000 people that cued up NBC's preview DVD from Netflix will receive the disc in an envelope promoting the CBS show "Jericho."
CBS Real-World Marketing Tactics
If you're walking in a wheat field or into a drugstore, chances are you'll see some sort of promotion from the Eye network:
- For "Jericho" the network hired a crop artist to carve out a show logo in a field and had a town in Kansas renamed for the drama where it is set.
- A "CBS Delivers" truck will hand out free postage stamps around New York featuring "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen and other celebrities.
- The network will distribute eggs with a stamp that features slogans such as "CSI: Crack the Case."
- Bluetooth billboards will transmit clips to cellphone users passing through Grand Central Station.
- Elevators around major office buildings will feature signage for "How I Met Your Mother."
- Watercoolers in Duane Reade and Rite Aid drugstores will promote new series "Shark."
- A partnership with Sony to reach out to fans of John Mayer. The singer will appear in the season premiere of "CSI."
You're just a click of a mouse away from sampling NBC's fall offerings:
- "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" streamed on MSN.
- Full pilots of some shows streamed on AOL.
- A video featuring "The Office's" Pam and Jim will air on YouTube, and ads on the video-sharing site promote a "make your own office video" contest.
- A "My Name is Earl" page on MySpace
- Created a high-school sports video contest on social-networking site Bebo.com for "Friday Night Lights."