WB wins big in Pepsi-Cola $1 bil sweeps

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The WB is betting Pepsi-Cola's "Pepsi Play for a Billion" summer promotion is a win/win, boosting ratings and driving viewers to WB's crop of new fall shows while getting Pepsi's brands in front of its key demographic.

It might also prove to be a win/win for AOL Time Warner. The network engineered the pitch for the cross-platform promotion with the PepsiCo unit late last year with the help of AOL Time Warner's Global Marketing Solutions group, its corporate parent's in-house marketing arm.

The multi-layered Pepsi program, which includes TV and radio promotion of a six-week prime-time show this summer called "Pepsi Smash," represents the first deal of its kind in which new management of the GMS brought the combined heft of AOL Time Warner's America Online, Time Inc. and Turner Broadcasting to the table.

The "Pepsi Play for a Billion" promotion, announced last week, gives 1,000 consumers the chance to determine a $1 million prizewinner; that winner will then play for a chance to win $1 billion on a live, two-hour TV show on the WB.

"The WB drove the process but it felt that the pitch would be more compelling if they were able to bring Pepsi a perspective of why it would be more valuable and more effective to execute it with the WB as part of AOL Time Warner rather than just going to market with a network," said Mike Kelly, GMS group president.

"Integration has been a buzzword but it's difficult to achieve," said Katie Lacey, Pepsi's VP-marketing for colas and media.

Neither Pepsi nor AOL Time Warner executives would comment on the value of the package which includes on-air tune-in promotion across the WB, TBS and TNT, promotion on America Online and ads in Time Inc.'s People, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated.

The program represents a shift for the GMS group, which in its early stages following the merger of America Online and Time Warner, was more intent on racking up marketer partners than crafting marketing solutions.

This time, the WB created a program to meet the marketer's objectives. "This billion-dollar promotion ... lends itself to making [the promotion] as big as possible and allows AOL Time Warner to show what it's capable of," Ms. Lacey said. Mr. Kelly called the Pepsi promo a good example of how the GMS is seguing "into more of a marketing-services and marketing-ideas group."

The infamously fractious AOL Time Warner siblings have had difficulty working together, though even that appears to be changing: "It might have been a little surprising to Pepsi that we could all work together," said Ms. Kolb.

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