FOX-O-RAMA LOOKS BACK TO THE FUTURE

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Time Warner may have its high tech Full Service Network, but Fox and Southland Corp. have Fox-O-Rama, the latest entrant into the world of interactive TV programming.

Unlike the digital approach of Time Warner and its superhighway counterparts, Fox-O-Rama is a decidedly low tech version of interactivity, making up in campy good fun what it lacks in sophisticated gadgetry.

For one week during the May ratings sweeps, Fox will integrate interactive elements into prime-time programming through old standbys such as scratch-and-sniff cards and 3-D glasses.

Southland's 6,000-store 7-Eleven chain is the official sponsor of the event and will distribute special Fox-O-Rama interactive kits, promoted through heavy point-of-purchase display.

The weeklong programming stunt is expected to include several of Fox's most popular series, including "Married ... With Children," "Martin" and "Living Single," as well as the world premiere of its Monday movie "Nerds in Love."

Just how the interactive elements will be included is not clear, but Fox clearly is playing it tongue in cheek.

Southland sees the promotion as part of an overall effort to reposition the convenience store chain as a fun, lifestyle brand.

Its new ad campaign "Comedians" from J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, takes a lighter approach.

And the chain is in the process of introducing several other new business concepts, including new products and store remodeling to emphasize the fun of going to a 7-Eleven, said Tonya Gross, national promotions manager of Southland.

"We see Fox-O-Rama as a great opportunity to be on the forefront of the interactive buzzword in a way that is fun," Ms. Gross said. "It's going to be something that is upbeat and fun, which is something we are looking to portray our stores as."

Southland's promotion agency, Promotional Resources Group, New York, is handling the project.

While Southland doesn't plan to air any interactive commercials during the event, Fox executives hope to encourage other advertisers to participate in interactive advertising using the wacky devices, or by relying on more conventional means, such as 800-numbers.

For example, an advertiser such as FTD/Florists' Transworld Delivery Association might choose to integrate a spot featuring its service with a floral scent on the scratch-and-sniff cards, which Fox executives call "aroma-vision."

Or another advertiser may choose to air a 3-D spot that will work with the 3-D glasses.

Fox Entertainment Group President Sandy Grushow said the event is intended to poke some fun at the burgeoning high tech superhighway business but is mostly just another way for Fox to reinforce its identity with viewers as a fun and irreverent programming network.

"Those of us in the industry are far more preoccupied with the notion of the superhighway than the public at large," Mr. Grushow said. "Our primary goal is to have fun with our audience. To have a dialogue with our viewers that, frankly, no other broadcast network has ever done."

Although the goal is to have fun, Mr. Grushow said Fox does expect to learn something about interactive consumer behavior from the event.

"From our standpoint it's going to be interesting to see how the proverbial call to action works," he said. "People are going to have to leave their homes to get these Fox-O-Rama packages."

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