GEORGE SCHWEITZER LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN

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On the wall of his office on the 34th floor of Black Rock, CBS Exec VP-Marketing & Communications George Schweitzer keeps a framed copy of a print ad for "Late Show With David Letterman."

The ad thanks affiliates for supporting the program's launch and features remarks Mr. Letterman made on the debut of his late-night talk show on CBS.

"I'd like to thank the good folks at CBS for taking the low-key approach to promoting my show," Mr. Letterman said. "The Gulf War didn't get this kind of coverage."

"He paid us the ultimate compliment by skewering us in his opening show," says Mr. Schweitzer, 43, a two-time honoree of Advertising Age's Marketing 100 (he first appeared in 1992 for CBS' fall-season promotions).

Mr. Letterman wasn't alone in skewering CBS and Mr. Schweitzer for what appeared to be a case of marketing overkill but in the end helped establish the show as the king of late-night programming.

"There's no question that the campaign was a blitz," Mr. Schweitzer says. "But the idea was to keep it fresh. We wanted to show as many different executions of Dave's brand of comedy as we could."

Equally important, he says, was a strategy to link Mr. Letterman with CBS. And Mr. Letterman, who wrote the spots with his "Late Show" staff, took every comic opportunity to do just that. In one, he referred to CBS' "eye" logo as "kinda creepy."

"It was a huge come-from-behind situation," Mr. Schweitzer says. "Everyone forgets that Jay Leno and NBC were a juggernaut. `The Tonight Show' was an institution."

CBS originally sold the show to advertisers with less than a 4 rating guarantee but it's been averaging about a 6 rating.

"It's funny that people look back on the success of David Letterman as a no-brainer," Mr. Schweitzer says. "They forget that this wasn't an automatic."

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