The promotional onslaught is the result of a restructuring of a June 1999 deal between Viacom and Switchboard in which CBS acquired a 35% equity stake in the Westboro, Mass.-based company in exchange for $135 million of promotion and branding across numerous CBS media properties.
Under the restructuring, Viacom will surrender to Switchboard all of its 7.5 million common stock and roughly 1.1. million common stock warrants it holds in Switchboard. In return, Switchboard will relinquish to Viacom the remaining balance of $72.5 million in advertising credits.
Following shareholder approval of the deal, Viacom will own approximately 3% of Switchboard, a significant decline from the 40% it held back in June 1999 when the deal was announced. A CBS Corp. spokesman called the move "consistent with our Internet strategy."
Created by Garfield Group Advertising, Newtown, Pa., the national TV campaign debuts on CBS affiliated stations Sept. 3, running during a variety of programming including King of Queens, Family Law, The Late Show With David Letterman and the U.S. Open.
The amount of airtime purchased, a spokeswoman for Switchboard said, is "much heavier" than the initial amount required under terms of the Viacom/Switchboard deal. -- Lisa Sanders
Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.