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It sounds like a concept for a typical sitcom about mismatched partners coming together in a winning way:

Christine Hampton was a free-lance designer for ad agencies. Nigel Smart was a music industry executive. About six months ago, they met, a brainstorm erupted, a novel business idea precipitated and a prayer was offered to the heavens that some inspired marketer would take a chance on them.

Well, dreams can come true in Hollywood, or at least in North Hollywood, where their brainchild, Media Entertainment, is based.

Their concept is called the Media Entertainment Compact Disc, a compilation of new music packaged in a glossy, full-color, ad-supported mini-magazine. MECD was conceived as a three-legged cross-promotional vehicle serving a corporate sponsor, advertisers and the music industry, all seeking to reach the same demographic.

In the case of Bally's Total Fitness, Media Entertainment's first client, it's the 18-to-34 demographic.

"Absolutely, it's a risky proposition to deal with a new company offering a new idea," said Richard Hirsch, Bally's director of national promotions. "But this is a great idea, and Christine and Nigel know their stuff."

`Platform for record industry'

"With MECD, we've developed a new and much-needed promotional platform for the record industry. Other than radio, there's no other avenue for them to promote new artists," Mr. Smart said. "Simultaneously, we've developed a highly targeted media vehicle for advertisers."

Bally's MECD promotion is slated for a late October-early November launch. Buena Vista Home Video has bought ad space in the magazine and will promote its new Elle MacPherson fitness video. And a number of record labels, including Arista, Geffen and Warner Bros., will use the CD to plug both new and old acts, from Monica to the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

Bally's, the largest operator of fitness clubs in the U.S., will offer the MECD as a reward for new customers. Bally's hopes to net 200,000 new members for its 330 clubs during the two-week promotion. Bally's will support with in-store merchandising and possibly 15-second tags to existing TV spots from Hal Riney & Partners Heartland, Chicago.

Sponsor controls content

Bally's, which recently brought all its different health and fitness clubs under the Bally's Total Fitness brand name, has complete control over the content, including the advertisers in the magazine and the songs on the CD.

"The CD has new music and new artists. We're a new company with a new name. We thought it was a good match to promote our brand," Mr. Hirsch said.

The 60-page magazine includes fitness tips and a Bally's advertorial, as well as info about the artists on the CD. MECD, which gets ad revenue, is negotiating with a number of advertisers, including Bally's marketing partners Coca-Cola Co., Jenny Craig International and Reebok International, as well as Nike. Look for a number of advertisers to offer coupons through the MECD.

A page ad costs $14,020. The inside covers are $16,035 and the back cover, $16,050. The closing date is in mid-October.

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