CW Employs Double-Image Technology to Hook Viewers on 'Ringer'

TV's Summer Promo Parade Hopes to Spark Fall Viewing Habits

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Sarah Michelle Gellar in 'Ringer'
Sarah Michelle Gellar in 'Ringer'

CW hopes its new "Ringer" series has TV watchers seeing double.

To promote the program, centered on a set of long-separated identical twins who swap identities and then must ride out the havoc that ensues, the TV network has partnered with Omnicom Group's OMD to launch two "windows" in New York and Los Angeles that allow passersby to create visual doppelgangers of themselves. A fake image then stands next to the real one being reflected in the glass.

"People can walk by this large -- well, it looks like a mirror -- and stand in front of it, and pose," explained Rick Haskins, exec VP-digital, new technologies, marketing and brand strategy, at the network, owned jointly by Time Warner and CBS Corp. "In a matter of seconds, the pose they just did appears next to the live-action you." Participants can even opt to take a video or picture of the new "twins" and have them sent to a mobile device or plugged in to a Facebook page, he said.

As the big broadcast networks prepare to launch dozens of new fall TV series, summer's end is often filled with all manner of marketing stunts that prod couch potatoes to try out the latest dramas and comedies. And while most of the promotions aim to get viewers to turn an initial view into a regular weekly habit, they also help illustrate one of the newer trends in the rapidly changing business: The promos aim to generate the sort of buzz for the programs that gets people chatting about them in digital venues, where word of mouth can entice friends and associates and -- hopefully -- build a bigger audience for the program.

"It used to be all you had t do what get a 'day and a date' message in there, and you were done," said Mr. Haskins. "Now you have to get an emotional connection with the show to the audience, because they're going to watch it when they want and how they want." To foster the type of interest in a show that will prompt people to seek it out online or watch it via streaming video requires sparking a more intense degree of interest than TV-show promos of the past, he suggested.

In recent years, TV networks have pushed TV-show marketing outside the typical lines, as anyone who can recall CBS putting messages on eggshells and deli-meat wraps in supermarkets can tell you. In 2009, NBC raised some eyebrows when it managed to place an ad for cop drama "Southland" on the front page of the Los Angeles Times -- and even managed to make the ad look much like one of the news articles that might regularly appear there.

People who interact with the new "Ringer" promotion -- now up and running on Park Avenue in New York and in Santa Monica, Calif. -- won't have to worry about CW using mobile-phone information, Mr. Haskins said. To be sure, people can opt-in to receive more information about the program, he said, but "they have to be proactive about it. We don't capture the numbers."

CW has reason to put some promotional weight behind "Ringer." The drama stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, who rose to fame playing the title character in "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," a show that proved a durable option for both the now-defunct WB and UPN networks, which were merged into CW in 2006. "Ringer" was originally developed for CBS, and CW executives have expressed the thought that the program could draw a broader audience than the legions of young women who routinely sample such fare as "Gossip Girl" or "Vampire Diaries." Such viewers often view the shows online or through other digital means, making it hard for CW to muster the traditional TV ratings on which advertisers continue to base their media-buying decisions.

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