The Biz: Edgy 'Nip/Tuck' draws advertisers

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The marketing lessons FX learned from its controversial cop show, "The Shield," are being applied to its new hit show, "Nip/Tuck," which is why the graphic series has garnered stronger ad support in its first season.

The News Corp. cable network's show, which focuses on a couple of Miami Beach plastic surgeons, has garnered impressive ratings this summer, even topping cable's other surprise summer hit, Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." After three airings, "Nip/Tuck" is earning a Nielsen Media Research 3.1 rating, 3.5 million total viewers, and 2.3 million viewers in the key adults 18-49 demographic.

FX's major marketing change was to debrief the show with all ad agency executives before its debut-something it didn't do with "The Shield." Some advertisers were caught unaware by the rough content of "The Shield" when it first aired, and abandoned it during the initial run. However, once the show got a Best Actor Emmy for Michael Chiklis, more advertisers came back and signed on for its second season.

`"The Shield' was a lesson," says Lou LaTorre, president-sales for Fox Cable Networks. "We didn't really take it around and exhibit it" to senior media agency executives such as MindShare USA's Marc Goldstein, Mediaedge:cia's Rino Scanzoni and Zenith Media's Peggy Green.


"Even though `Nip/Tuck' is not that extreme, in terms of content, we said, `Let's let every decision maker that we can get in front of see it before the fact-which we did," he said.

As a result, FX is fairly well sold for its 13-episode run that began July 22, Latorre says. It has sold 30-second spots at $20,000 a pop, which works out to about a $10 cost per thousand household viewers. "The Shield," which has maintained an average 3.1 rating for its 13 episodes from January through April, commands about $25,000 for a 30-second spot.

Pre-launch marketing of "Nip/Tuck" was aimed at a broad swath of potential viewers. "We did go after a fairly balanced media schedule," said Peter Liguori, president-CEO of FX Networks, adding that the show's print schedule included Conde Nast Publications' Vanity Fair, Time Inc.'s People and Entertainment Weekly, and TV Guide. "We bought movies in local spot buys. We went after makeover shows. We bought TLC. We went for an audience that wanted a little more spirit in their TV choice."

`tough sell'

Still, "Nip/Tuck" is not the kind of show just any national advertiser will buy. Several advertising executives worry about the graphic nature of the show-including one episode where one man looks to do his own circumcision and gets advice online. Another episode features a woman, down on all fours, having rough and verbally graphic sex with a man.

"It's a tough show and it's a tough sell," says Doug Seay, senior VP-national broadcast for Publicis Groupe's Publicis & Hal Riney. "It's questionable content for some advertisers."

Indeed, one major fast-food company, LaTorre says, has decided not to continue buying the show. But LaTorre is quick to point to other TV shows, such as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" that push the edge of hard-core content.

Another advantage the debut series has over other cable fare is that "Nip/Tuck" scores well with a wide-range of demographics. "It's not the one-demo pony where, for example, you have a show with a male skew, so therefore you have to go after men 18-49 with money," LaTorre says. "This show appeals to adult brands, female brands, male brands, so the sample opportunities are much broader than the average [cable show]. I've got six times the advertiser base."

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