Gone From Home Push: Clear Channel jumps into the upfront fray

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Clear Channel worldwide is looking to participate in the upfront with its first annual Gone From Home presentations in New York May 12, the same week as the broadcast TV networks trot out their 2003-04 wares to media buyers.

Clear Channel Worldwide President-Chief Operating Officer Mark Mays "has envisioned us participating in this [upfront buying] forum for a couple of years," said Don Howe, president of Clear Channel Advantage. The country's largest radio station operator wants to cut upfront deals across its four Gone From Home divisions: the radio division; the live division, which includes music, theatricals, and motorsports; the outdoor division; and the interactive division.

Clear Channel already captures 20% of all radio advertising dollars and is now gunning for a share of advertisers' TV and print budgets.

"Most major companies, with a few exceptions, dedicate 70% to 90% of their budgets to TV and print," said Lori Wellinghoff, senior VP, Clear Channel Advantage, a cross-platform unit launched in January. "But the more you look at research, the gone-from-home space is certainly larger and more proximate to purchasing decisions and has greater importance than people ever knew.

"Before they commit all that money [to the networks], we wanted to give the advertisers and their agencies something to think about."

no comment

Executives from all six broadcast TV networks either declined comment or were not available for comment.

The event will take place at the Clear Channel-owned Ford Theater in Times Square, and Ms. Wellinghoff is expecting around 1,600 attendees. "The network upfronts tend to be packed with a lot of buyers and planners. Ours will have senior execs from every silo including creative, account management, strategic planning, and media," she said.

Radio personality Rick Dees will emcee. Appearances will also be made by the cast of "The Producers" and Rush Limbaugh, among others.

"Clear Channel is positioning itself to take advantage of the current buzz around Madison + Vine as brands partner with both music and live events to create branded moments for consumers," said Laura Caraccioli-Davis, VP-Director SMG Entertainment, Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group. "It also doesn't hurt to position themselves as a marketing alternative to the broadcast networks."

What could work in Clear Channel's favor is the projection of a torrid $9 billion TV upfront and currently drum-tight TV marketplace. "I'm sure Clear Channel is going to lay it on pretty thick that they're an attractive option to the networks, who are already negotiating in the press for 20% increases," said a second TV buyer who asked not to be identified.

Clear Channel, meanwhile, has already cut a sweeping deal with Tommy Hilfiger USA to sponsor Tommy Jeans Stages featuring local bands in ten of its outdoor venues. The package involves advertising worth approximately $25,000 per market, including on-site brand signage, promotions and sampling at each concert venue, local radio, TV and print.

local tie-ins

Hilfiger also plans to tie in with local retailers in each market for sweepstakes, ticket giveaways, in-store appearances by the bands and other promotional efforts.

The effort aims directly at Tommy Jeans' key demographic of 17- and 18-year-olds, said Stacy Rosenthal, senior director-retail promotions and special events. Hilfiger, which has sponsored tours by the Rolling Stones and Britney Spears, has found local "grass-roots" efforts are effective in reaching that audience, she said.

contributing: mercedes m. cardona

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