$30 million tie-in: ABC, McD's team up to launch fall season

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In launching perhaps its most crucial TV season in recent years, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC Television Network is pulling out all stops by partnering with McDonald's Corp. for a sweeping marketing effort to launch its "ABC Happy Hour" programming block.

"We have had fall launch partners before, but nothing that includes this many shows," said Dan Longest, senior VP-integrated marketing and promotion for ABC. "The fall launch is as critical as any ABC has done in recent memory."

The deal is separate from the fast-feeder's 10-year corporate alliance with ABC parent Walt Disney Co. and involves four on-air promotions hyping a sweepstakes trivia contest printed on McDonald's tray liners; it does not bring any new ad dollars to ABC. However, the air time devoted to the promotion is valued at $30 million by executives close to the network.

McDonald's ad agency, Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett Co., Chicago, is working with ABC's in-house agency on the promotional spots.

ABC, which saw its overall ratings fall 20% last year, is in desperate need of off-air promotion to get its new shows launched following a weak summer, where it averaged less than a Nielsen Media Research 2.0 rating among adults 18-49. That means fewer viewers are seeing promotions for its fall shows, leading the network to try and find new outlets to get its message across.

"[McDonald's] penetration of the marketplace is just massive," said Mr. Longest. "We felt that this new approach of `Happy Hour' was a perfect fit with their branding and their customers coming in the door."

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