At first glance, Baseball Network looked like a grand slam. The unprecedented joint venture of ABC, NBC and Major League Baseball was going to restore the value of network TV baseball coverage.
But in its first season up at bat, the venture literally struck out-a victim of the baseball players' strike.
Integrating traditional ad buys with a variety of marketing elements controlled by MLB-sponsorships, licensing and promotional opportunities-the network had hoped to attract more marketing budgets than CBS had under its previous baseball rights deal. By midsummer, the network appeared to have made inroads with major marketers such as General Motors Corp.
Then the players and owners pulled the plug on the season, throwing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of baseball ad revenues up in the air.
Fox TV's deals
What do you do if, after a decade of trying to launch a new TV network to compete with the Big 3, you still find yourself stuck at the bottom of the prime-time ratings and going downward fast?
If you're News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, you dig deep into your pocket and spend $2.1 billion to improve the situation.
In two bold strokes, Mr. Murdoch restructured the TV playing field, allowing his fledgling Fox network to compete in the big leagues. First, Fox outbid CBS with an improbable $1.6 billion agreement to carry the NFL's National Football Conference games for the next four years. Then, he invested $500 million in New World Communications Group, shifting Fox to more powerful affiliate stations.
Broadcast Row is still trying to recover from the repercussions of the one-two punch, the second of which sparked a veritable domino effect of network affiliation switches and network/station group alliances.
The move left the Big 3-particularly CBS, which had eight station affiliates raided in the deal-scrambling. All have since cut their own new powerful station-group alliances, including CBS' deal with Group W Broadcasting, and the final effect is still unclear.
In the new TV season, Fox's prime-time ratings are up about 7%, which at least one rival network executive attributed to the station upgrades.
In the end, it was "Harry and Louise" scoring a technical knockout of the White House. With about $14 million in advertising money behind them, the couple became friendly faces to Americans who espoused concern about President Clinton's ill-fated universal health coverage plan.
In the wake of the "Harry and Louise" ads, from Health Insurance Association of America and Goddard-Claussen/First Tuesday, there was another $35 million or so spent on advocacy advertising on the issue, both pro and con, before Congress finally decided to shelve anyhealthcare program.
This was the year of the Internet. The global network of computer networks caught the attention-and the dollars-of dozens of media companies and marketers. The potential audience of millions of computer-literate, upscale consumers was, it seemed, too good to pass up, especially when compared with the belated and overhyped interactive TV tests reaching a few thousand homes.
Garnering the most attention was the World Wide Web, an area of the Internet that supports graphics and allows users to move among sometimes unrelated documents. Marketers such as Volvo, MCI and Sega opened web sites, as did CMP Publications, Time Inc., Wired and other media properties.
Not everything is perfect on the Net. Marketers who push products too hard run the risk of being "flamed" by irate Internet users.
Many observers said the 1994 political campaign was characterized by the worst advertising in history. The electorate was angry, and so were the pol ads.
With the 435 congressional seats up for bid and a record number of Senate seats open because of retirements, there was an unprecedented opportunity for negative advertising-and no one missed the opportunity.
As a result of the expansiveness of negative ads, the general ad industry is weighing a code of ethics for political advertising, and a U.S. congressman is seriously considering the prospects of legislation aimed at making sure political ads tell the truth.
Bring on 1996.
The Clinton administration may not have succeeded with healthcare reform efforts, but it did help speed up a parallel movement: the consolidation of pharmaceutical companies. A series of mergers, acquisitions and alliances swept the industry, reshaping the drug market for the new era where managed healthcare is the name of the game, and profits harder to come by.
Among the major companies to join forces are American Home Products and American Cyanamid; Eli Lilly & Co. and McKesson Corp.'s PCS Health Systems; SmithKline Beecham and Diversified Pharmaceutical Services; and Roche Holdings and Syntex.
The Simpson chase
Where were you when O.J. Simp-son fled from justice in a white Ford Bronco? Like most, you were probably in front of your TV set, fixated on the gridiron great's drive along Interstate 405 followed by the LAPD, and stunned by the most improbable true-crime story of the year.
Before June 12, O.J. Simpson was an American sports hero, a Hollywood entertainer and network TV sports journalist. On June 12, Mr. Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were found murdered outside her Brentwood, Calif., home. When police suspected Mr. Simpson, he took to the highways and then gave up, all in front of a national TV viewing audience.
The fallout: Longtime sponsor Hertz severed its ties to Mr. Simpson and marketers questioned the wisdom of using celebrities as spokesmen, and a lucrative industry-O.J. Simpson wares-got hot. And the trial won't even begin until next year.
It was the TV spectacle you hated to love, a prime-time soap opera populated by sexy heroes and despicable villains, motivated by patriotic passion and ruthless ambition. A season of Fox's "Melrose Place"? No, the Winter Olympics. The February broadcast on CBS averaged a 27.6 rating and 41 share-highest in history-and turned into Hard Copy on Ice thanks to the most compelling storyline on TV since "Who Shot J.R.?": Who clubbed Nancy Kerrigan? Everyone suspected rival figure skater Tonya Harding for the January attack on Ms. Kerrigan. And eventually, several associates close to Ms. Harding admitted to planning the crime.
Ms. Kerrigan went on to win the silver medal and endorsement deals from Mattel, Revlon and The Walt Disney Co. Ms. Harding headed for Hollywood to explore B-movie and pro wrestling opportunities. And Oksana Baiul, Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen, Tommy Moe, Picabo Street and David Letterman's mom became household names. At least for 15 minutes.
It had the mud, the crowds and the cutting-edge music to tie it to its predecessor, but Woodstock '94 differed from the 1969 festival in at least one crucial regard: marketing.
Pepsi-Cola Co. signed on as lead sponsor, and spent $5 million; Haagen-Dazs, The Wiz and others spent about $1 million each to be associated with the concert held in Saugerties, N.Y.
T-shirts were hawked (MTV Networks even launched its "The Goods" home shopping show with Woodstock '94-related merchandise), product posters were plastered on the concert grounds and Pepsi ran groovy TV spots via BBDO Worldwide, New York, to link its product with the Woodstock spirit.
Today's young concertgoers-mostly savvy about marketing and used to the growing sponsor presence in the entertainment industry-were nonplused by the corporate bent. Concert organizers were very happy not to repeat the first festival's economic results; the same folks did both. Woodstock '69 cost about $3 million and took 15 years to make a profit; Woodstock '94 cost about $30 million and made money for its organizers before it had even begun.
The first-ever U.S. hosting of the world's biggest sporting event was by most measurements a success. About 3.5 million people attended the 52 World Cup games at nine sites, for an average of about 60,000, with most games sellouts. Spectator violence, predicted by many, failed to materialize.
As an advertising/marketing event, it also scored well. The total worldwide TV audience for the tournament was estimated at 30 billion to 33 billion. U.S. marketers were pleased, if not ecstatic, with the results of their sponsorship tie-ins. Among the sponsors: MasterCard International.