Forget Barney, John Taylor from Knoxville, Tenn., wanted an Ellen DeGeneres-themed party-complete with Ellen-adorned hats, games and table settings-for his fourth birthday. Why? As John told Ms. DeGeneres when she called him during her show, the reason was pretty simple: "Because I like you."
It's clear that an ever-growing segment of the daytime TV audience feels the same way.
Now in its second season, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" is broadcast in 95% of the country. Considering the way Ms. DeGeneres' last go-around in the public eye ended, the marketing team had some explaining to do. Led by Howard Borim, 44, senior VP-marketing/creative director of Telepictures Productions, a division of Warner Bros., the plan was to teach America that she was funny and accessible to everyday people, especially the target audience of women 25-54.
Ms. Degeneres was right there with them: "The message I wanted to get out was we were making a daytime talk show that, above everything else, was going to be funny," she says.
In May 2003, Mr. Borim's team filmed Ms. DeGeneres chatting up people at an Ikea, a New Jersey supermarket and on the streets of New York City.
New spots went out every two weeks; 75 spots ran over a few months. "The local stations were so important in this process," says Mr. Borim, whose past career credits include helping to launch "Frasier," and promoting other NBC hits "Seinfeld" and "Friends." The on-air promos for the talk show also ran on basic cable to "bring audiences back" to daytime syndicated shows, says Jim Paratore, president, Telepictures Productions, and exec VP, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.
Other events that bolstered Ms. DeGeneres' image leading up to the launch were a successful comedy tour; her HBO comedy special, "Here & Now"; a publicity blitz; and a little family-friendly movie called "Finding Nemo," starring Ms. Degeneres as the voice of Dory. Ms. Degeneres kept the buzz going through the year via on-air promotions, such as daily giveaways with brands spanning Kodak, Procter & Gamble Co. and video renter Netflix.
"This experience has been one of the best examples of how successful it can be when the show and the marketing team work together and pool resources," Mr. Borim, 44, says.