If TNT and TBS seem exceptionally brand-friendly, it's no coincidence. Linda Yaccarino has something to do with it.
|Linda Yaccarino, exec VP-general manager of ad sales and marketing, Turner Entertainment|
Turner Entertainment's exec VP-general manager of ad sales and marketing executed three of cable's most-watched branded-entertainment deals last year, creating environments for marketers and programming to coexist peacefully. In one case, the client even got its own show. Fall 2006 saw the TNT premiere of "Change of Plans," a five-part mini-drama featuring Chase's Freedom card. It premiered during a prime-time showing of the Tom Hanks movie "Cast Away."
That partnership was followed in December by the premiere of TBS comedies "My Boys" and "10 Items or Less," both with branded integrations on board. Match.com played a key role in the plot of "My Boys." "10 Items or Less," which takes place in a supermarket and provides abundant opportunities for brand leverage, had Kellogg's Raisin Bran and Unilever's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter as sponsors.
TBS and TNT have a history of bringing marketers into the fold with event-based programming such as "Dinner and a Movie," but Ms. Yaccarino affirms that when it comes time to orchestrate such deals, "It's always the viewer first. Once we can identify the advertiser's target and their commonality with either network's viewer, that's when we bring the advertising to the network."
The viewer comes first, but there's no denying these efforts help Turner. "The content deals Linda and her team developed recently have evolved our network brands and ad opportunities to a level all their own," says David Levy, Turner's president-ad sales and marketing.
Ms. Yaccarino, 44, has been with Turner since 1993, briefly leaving in 2000. She returned when a unique opportunity presented itself to launch "ER" simultaneously on cable and syndication.
Up next for Ms. Yaccarino is the highly anticipated third season of TNT's top-rated drama "The Closer," which will air commercial-free courtesy of sponsor Toyota for the third consecutive season. There are new comedies "The Bill Engvall Show," "House of Payne" and "The Frank Show" -- each will launch with branded partners by yearend. There's also "Bitcoms," a series of mini-sodes to air during TBS' prime-time comedy lineup. In the segments, comedians will perform 60 to 90 seconds worth of stand-up, sometimes even about specific products.
It's a lot in the pipeline, but Ms. Yaccarino is looking forward to the challenge. "I've worked at a couple of different networks and have had an incredible group of smart, innovative people at this company," she says, adding that "working with entertainment networks, there's never a boring day."
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