Weekly Cable TV Show's Content Created by Ad Agency

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The deal: In an effort to compete in New York's crowded banking market, The Bank of New York has moved into branded entertainment, sponsoring a local cable TV show, Cool in Your Code, and a branded section in the free morning daily Metro New York.

The result: The concept has enabled the bank to target a demographic that its traditional media plan hadn’t successfully reached before. After one season, talks are now under way to expand Cool in Your Code to other cities in the region.

The Bank of New York currently sponsors Cool in Your Code, a local cable TV program that runs
Hank Wasiak, a former vice chairman at McCann Erickson, is now Concept Farm's 'wisdom farmer.' He set up the 'Cool in Your Code' deal.

weekly during a 12-week season on two New York City-operated channels on the Time Warner cable system. Created and produced by the bank’s agency of record, The Concept Farm, each of the series’ eight segments per season show viewers different cultural, shopping and eating possibilities in a specific neighborhood -- or Zip Code, hence the "code" in the show's title.

The sponsorship includes opening and closing shots for each episode, and two 30-second spots whenever the show airs as well as a feature in a branded segment dubbed "Cash Code," an exploration of how to spend $100 using a Bank of New York debit card in various New York neighborhoods.

"This helps us reach a demographic our traditional media plan hadn't been able to target," said Len Blaifeder, vice president and director of advertising and direct marketing for Bank of New York. "And it is such a natural fit: We are the bank for New Yorkers and have been for generations. It would be insulting if any other bank were to sponsor the show."

(Alexander Hamilton founded The Bank of New York in 1784, as the first bank in the City of New York.)

Benefits for bank

Cool in Your Code benefits Bank of New York in several ways. For one thing, with a media budget of only $5 million, TV historically has been too expensive for the institution.

Traditionally, "our media mix is heavily print weighted," Mr. Blaifeder said. But because younger audiences are less loyal than older ones to traditional print, he listened when New York-based Concept Farm brought the possibility of sponsoring Cool in Your Code to him earlier this year.

Hank Wasiak, a former vice chairman at Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson and Concept Farm's so-called wisdom farmer, approached New York City's municipal TV station about creating a show back in 2003. Hoping to develop the agency's expertise in creating episodic TV shows, he pitched several concepts, including Cool in Your Code, and got an enthusiastic response for the latter.

"We are trying to be a postcard to New York City," said Trevor Scotland, director of business development for NYC-TV. "We want to show people who live here and come to visit everything that is cool about New York. We were really interested in a vehicle that allowed us to serve the outer boroughs. It made sense for us."

Agency paid production costs

Initially, the agency paid all of its production costs (Mr. Wasiak estimated the agency's investment at about $200,000) -- costs now covered by sponsors.
Hank Wasiak, a former vice chairman at McCann Erickson, is now Concept Farm's 'wisdom farmer.' He set up the 'Cool in Your Code' deal.

According to Mr. Scotland, NYC-TV has the potential to reach 8 million households throughout the metropolitan area. "We are hitting in the local market on a good day what VH1 hits. It is probably a 0.1 in terms of Nielsen."

The Cool in Your Code concept has recently expanded to include print.

Each Tuesday, Bank of New York sponsors Metro New York’s "Style" page, whose editorial is written and edited by Concept Farm. The content is gleaned from footage taken to create Cool in Your Code.

"Cool in Your Code is great for our target audience," said Per Mikael Jensen, Metro New York's editor and publisher. "If readers like it in print, then they'll like it on TV. Hopefully our page will generate more viewers for the show, and similarly, on Tuesday nights, something might be said that will direct more readers to the page" the next morning, he said.

The first branded Metro page debuted July 12 with a focus on Harlem. "This is a way to cross-promote to get more attention," Mr. Jensen said. "Some stories are more suitable for TV, others better for print."

Expansion to Boston and Philadelphia

Concept Farm is now considering introducing the Cool in Your Code concept to Boston and Philadelphia, where Metro also has newspapers and municipal cable channels exist.

Mr. Blaifeder said he's "very pleased with the results" after one season as the show's sponsor and the bank has signed on for another season. "It's still a relatively small part of our total budget," he said.

But measuring the show's impact outside of Bank of New York's entire campaign is thus far impossible.

"Like a lot of retailers, we are more successful at evaluating an entire campaign as opposed to individual components,” Mr. Blaifeder said. “We've heard good feedback from customers and employees."
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