In what may be a model for the future, General Electric Co. is backing a new weekly business series called "The First and the Best," airing on NBC throughout the world starting this month.
"The business decisionmaker is our target audience for our corporate image advertising," said Jim Harman, manager corporate advertising of General Electric Co. in Fairfield, Conn. "The ability to target [them] worldwide and the programming concept were the two driving forces [for GE]. We liked the idea of communicating with business executives around the world from a single source."
Each half-hour program in the 39-week series will feature interviews with two CEOs discussing global strategies and management styles. The first interviewees were Sumner Redstone, CEO of media group Viacom, and Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin travel and entertainment company.
In a package put together by GE's international agency BBDO Worldwide, New York, GE will fill half of the 30-minute program's 10 minutes of commercial airtime. Ads include :15 billboards and :5 bumpers leading in and out of each of the program's two segments. The bumpers include a GE logo, visuals and a voice-over with the longtime GE slogan "We bring good things to life."
The program will air on NBC and CNBC in Europe and Asia in English and on Canal de Noticias in Latin America in Spanish.
A similar programming partnership deal is believed to be in the works with IBM Corp., working with Ogilvy & Mather, for a series about computers on NBC channels around the world.
GIVING CLIENTS MORE
"We've gone to clients and asked what can we do that's more than just running advertising?" said Steve Carter, New York-based exec VP-advertising sales, NBC Cable and International. "The image of satellite TV is of a niche network, [but] we feel we reach a leading-edge audience."
The GE deal was first discussed a year ago during negotiations between GE and NBC, inspired by GE's existing sponsorships of Sunday news programs on NBC and other channels. NBC has the advantage of being owned by GE, but doesn't consider that advertising "an entitlement," Mr. Carter said.
"The trend is being driven by the U.S. multinationals," said Eric Scheck, VP-international media at BBDO. He heads a new unit created to develop international programming partnerships.
"I've done half a dozen presentations [to marketers] about what international advertising and these networks are about," he said. "And the networks are putting more marketing power behind their sales organizations."