Verizon ties in with WB

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Test Man, meet the Man of Steel.

Verizon Wireless' ubiquitous brand icon gets double billing with Clark Kent in a multi-layered marketing program aimed at drawing teen and young adults to the WB network's new season of "Smallville."

The campaign, which will spread from on-air and print to online, has the creative muscle of the drama's writing team behind it, unlike most such promotional programs, typically engineered and executed by the partners' sales and marketing departments. Verizon's agency Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe, New York, was not involved.

"We wanted something that didn't feel like a sponsorship slapped onto a show," said Suzanne Kolb, the network's exec VP-marketing. "The goal is to feel organic and not come across as a commercial endorsement."

Test Man will appear in a series of 30-second spots that trace the wily activity of a vigilante loose in Metropolis, a "Smallville" setting. Fans of the show, which hops from Tuesday at 9 p.m. to Wednesday at 8 p.m. this season, will recognize the ski-masked man as Clark Kent. The show ended on a cliffhanger last spring, with the young Superman heading to Metropolis with his all-powerful red kryptonite ring. The spots will run on other WB shows as well as other cable channels.

Verizon has put Test Man into some well-known WB show settings in the past, like the "Dawson's Creek" rowboat, for quick-cut interstitials. But this is its most integrated promotion with a show, whose bull's-eye demographic of 16-to-24-year-olds are among the most voracious cellphone buyers.

The spots invite Verizon customers to take part in the promotion and get text messages with "Smallville" trivia, pictures, polls and updates. A sweepstakes tied to the Oct. 1 premiere will give away a trip to the set in Vancouver and Verizon merchandise.

The alliance between show and brand will last through fourth quarter, with Test Man appearing in pre-show vignettes in familiar "Smallville" locations like the Kent's farm. The deal also includes product placement in the drama, which has used various cellphones in the past but will be exclusive with Verizon this year.

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