Turner Broadcasting's TNT cable network, seeking to establish a clearer brand identity, has hired Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, for a branding campaign estimated at $80 million.
The assignment is a radical departure for the 79.7 million-subscriber cable network, which customarily hires smaller boutique entertainment shops on a project basis or handles creative in-house. The goal, according to an executive familiar with the plan: To give TNT an "outside perspective" on how to build the brand.
DETAILS CLOSELY GUARDED
Since much of the new campaign will be on TNT's own airwaves, rather than paid media, executives caution that the budget figure is a rough estimate at best. In addition, the branding assignment will include media besides TV advertising. Creative details and break date are being closely guarded.
Scot Safon, senior VP-marketing at TNT, wouldn't confirm the pending campaign, saying only, "We have had conversations with Goodby about doing a creative assignment for us."
The effort marks TNT's first consumer brand campaign, although the network has projected an identity in business-to-business media, billing itself as "the best movie studio on television.'' TNT also programs NBA basketball, reruns of shows such at "ER" and "Lois and Clark," and original movies. This year, TNT has been airing its first original series, "Bull," an hour drama about Wall Street investment bankers.
In today's cluttered entertainment environment, TNT's diverse programming lineup can be confusing for viewers, ad execs said, noting a distinct brand profile could help it stand out. "It's always tough when you have these general interest networks," said Chris Geraci, senior VP-national broadcast at BBDO Worldwide, New York, "because they don't have one particular endemic programming. Are they about movies? Sports? Viewers don't have a clear picture."
Until recently, TNT's primetime Nielsen rating had been in the 2 to 2.5 range. In the last year and a half it has been under this level. TNT posted a 1.5 average primetime rating in November, placing it in eighth position among all cable networks. That rating was down from 1.7 in November 1999.
TNT's sibling network, TBS Superstation, started up a brand campaign in April, called "It's a Guy Thing." TBS used its own in-house marketing staff for that effort.
Earlier this year, Fox hired Goodby for a similar assignment, but the effort did not materialize due to a change in personnel at the client. For Goodby, the win caps a year in which billings increased by 15% to $770 million. Other wins include the $50 million account of Loudcloud, an Internet infrastructure company, and $40 million in business for Hotwire.com. The latter effort is being postponed until early 2001.
DEVIATING FROM COURSE
Networks rarely sign up big creative shops to secure major brand campaigns. Perhaps the biggest one in recent years was for ABC, which three years ago started up a major brand assignment splashing its yellow-colored "We Love TV" ads over print and TV. That push, handled by TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, was valued at $70 million.
But some ad execs question how effective the ABC campaign has been. "I don't think [its] branding thing was effective," said Brad Adgate, senior VP-audience research at Horizon Media, New York. "It's very hard for a network to brand itself. They are just too big."
Copyright December 2000, Crain Communications Inc.