Entertainment Marketers of the Year

Vince Manze and John Miller

By Published on .

Two NBC executives displayed extraordinary abilities this season, helping to create the breakout freshman show of the year, "Heroes." The veteran marketing duo of Vince Manze and John Miller, the team behind the Thursday-night phenomenon "Must See TV," helped sow the seeds of this sci-fi-style thriller well before it aired.
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Previewed show to fantasy fans and coined the best buzz phrase of the TV season, 'Save the cheerleader, save the world.'
Photo: Paul Drinkwater

The NBC team premiered the show for sci-fi enthusiasts at Comic-Con International and let the influencers work their magic. Then the two executed a four-way partnership that involved Nissan USA giving away 3-D cards at Regal Cinemas, which could be exchanged for free access to the NBC show via iTunes.

"There was a real creative renaissance that came in," says Mr. Miller, chief marketing officer of NBC Universal. "Early on, we decided we had an objective: It was ordinary people with extraordinary abilities."

Messrs. Manze and Miller created websites and worked with some of the 60 fan sites that popped up before "Heroes" made its debut. Before the show premiered, NBC had notched 350 million impressions at Yahoo alone for users viewing teasers.

Not 'superpower'
Mr. Manze, former president of NBC Agency and now president of NBC program planning, scheduling and strategy, says, "The danger of a show like this is that it's a comic book. Well, we didn't need a comic book; we needed a big show. We had to make sure the tone was serious but exciting and emotional, and to give it a movie-quality 'wow' factor." Messrs. Manze and Miller steered away from terms such as "superpower" and settled on something that became part of U.S. vernacular: "Save the cheerleader, save the world." The phrase is derived from the show.

When Mr. Manze's teenage daughter watched the show one night, she heard the cheerleader phrase and simply said, "Awesome." He knew then it would be part of the campaign to bring back viewers after a six-week hiatus.

Another element of the campaign for "Heroes" was a video that appeared on YouTube and Break.com; it featured ordinary people doing silly things. The "Zeroes" video spread like wildfire.

Will "Heroes" be the next "Friends" franchise for NBC -- the last show for which the duo were honored by Advertising Age? Maybe the time- traveling star of the show, Hiro, will be able to let us know.

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