VIP: Third Season Launch
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VIP: Third Season Launch

Our first challenge was to leverage Pamela Anderson’s popularity to garner attention for the series and the supporting cast. Furthermore, we had to do so with working around Ms. Anderson’s extremely demanding schedule and limited availability.

Paul Holmes

 

The campy one hour syndicated television series “V.I.P.,” starring Pamela Anderson, originally premiered during the Fall 1998 television season.  In its debut season, the series held the title as the top-rated syndicated action-hour.  The second season witnessed a ratings decline and the series finished third among its competitors.  Columbia Tri-Star retained Rogers & Cowan at the end of season two and we immediately began research and planning for the launch of the current third season.  In a short time, our team developed and spearheaded a highly successful integrated marketing/publicity campaign at no additional cost to our client.  This campaign not only exceeded the expectations of Columbia Tri-Star Television Distribution, but also serves as a model for effective synergism between publicity, marketing and promotions.   

CHALLENGES

While Pamela Anderson alone is a huge international star and Playboy legend, the series “V.I.P.” and its supporting cast members have yet to attain the same level of celebrity.  Therefore, our first challenge was to leverage Pamela Anderson’s popularity to garner attention for the series and the supporting cast.  Furthermore, we had to do so with working around Ms. Anderson’s extremely demanding schedule and limited availability.  Another challenge was to overcome the added burden that the Olympics placed on the new Fall television season.  Specifically, we faced a situation where the premiere of most new network and syndicated shows were delayed until October, which then ran straight into November sweeps.  Even during a typical television season, entertainment editors maintain tight focus on either new shows or returning network favorites.  The same set of circumstances occurred during November sweeps. Thus, there was a marked increase in competition for media attention this past Fall season, especially when it came to generating interest in returning syndicated television series, such as “V.I.P.”   Accordingly, we had to devise a strategy that took the extraordinarily increased competitive environment into account.  Adding to this, “V.I.P.” is an extremely campy series that appeals to a limited number of entertainment reporters with a more unique sense of humor.  

RESEARCH

Upon retaining the account we conferred with Columbia Tri-Star to determine the target audiences for the series.  We confirmed that “V.I.P.’s” viewer base consists of both young men and women and that the critical target audience is men and women between the ages of 18-49.  We also thoroughly investigated past publicity efforts.   This research endeavor included studying prior clip and status reports to gauge the media’s level of interest in the series and determine the appropriate outlets to target at the start of the new season.  Early in our planning, we launched a “feeler campaign” where we reached out to traditional and unconventional media sources (print, radio, broadcast, cable and online) to explore potential opportunities for “V.I.P.”  Finally, we talked with each of the cast member’s representatives to discuss the level of interest in various types of publicity based on our talks with the press.  In the end, we pooled our research and began to construct a strategic launch campaign based on our findings.

PLANNING/STRATEGY/EXECUTION

Overall Objectives

Create a highly successful multi-tiered launch campaign to draw attention to “V.I.P.” and the supporting cast members while keeping Ms. Anderson’s time commitment to a minimum.

Build new awareness for the series in an effort to drive ratings.

Drive traffic to Columbia Tri Star’s re-designed “V.I.P” website.

Gain Ms. Anderson’s support for our campaign by creating potent opportunities to drive traffic to her new Internet project, Pam TV.

Online:  Our research yielded the fact that Ms. Anderson is one of the most widely sought after personalities on the World Wide Web.  Moreover, after investigating online media opportunities and realizing the enormous potential to reach our target audiences in large concentrated numbers, we decided to create on online publicity stunt as the centerpiece of our campaign.  Another reason for our online focus was the fact that we were keenly aware that traditional entertainment media would not have the time to devote their attention to “V.I.P.” surrounding its third season launch.  With our early planning completed by August, Rogers & Cowan got a jump on the competition and secured an arrangement with partners AOL and E! Online to host an online web broadcast in October.   Our timing assured us the ability and the guarantee that the event would receive top-level promotion.  We supplied both AOL and E! Online exclusive photos from the new season and gallery art with which they used to create their own unique “V.I.P.” exhibits for their users.  We also supplied AOL an exclusive and provocative clip of the premiere episode that we knew stood the chance of getting a lot of play on the service.  In addition to providing content to each service, we also spearheaded the effort to coordinate all the technical details and logistics that had to be accomplished in order for the web broadcast to take place from the set.

We tapped the tremendous resources within our large agency and elected to work synergistically with the Rogers & Cowan product placement division.  Our two teams explored tie-in opportunities to increase the size and level of promotion for our online campaign.  Our combined efforts resulted in an effort to create, plan and execute a Ducati Motorcycle Sweepstakes to be tied into the web broadcast.  It was perfect match since the Rogers & Cowan product placement team is in fact responsible for placing the same bikes on the series.  On behalf of Ducati, the Rogers & Cowan product placement team worked with E! Online’s marketing executives to ensure additional exposure for their donated grand prize Super Sport 900 motorcycle ($11,000+ value), which ultimately resulted in greater consumer exposure and heightened awareness for the “V.I.P,” web broadcast.

Finally, Rogers & Cowan worked in tandem with the powerful publicity machines of both AOL and E! Online to take complete advantage of the situation through a comprehensive campaign to solicit their other online, print and broadcast partners to promote the “V.I.P.” web broadcast.

Broadcast:  Although the online web broadcast and all the promotion surrounding it was the centerpiece our campaign, we also went after as much traditional broadcast media as possible.  But, in an extremely competitive environment, we knew we had to get an early jump on bookings.  Although only promoting a returning syndicated series, we leveraged Pamela’s wide appeal to secure early bookings on such shows as The Tonight Show and Regis Live!  In addition, we contacted talent bookers early on to plan for a New York media tour for the cast on premiere week.  We also secured numerous set visits from entertainment news crews prior to the busy season.  This effort was aimed at affording “V.I.P.” any advantage that might result from greater exposure than its competition.

Radio:   We wanted a major radio hit as a follow up to our online campaign leading into November sweeps.  The Radio MegaBlast in Las Vegas on the weekend of November 4th was a perfect addition to our campaign.  Through our efforts, we were able to secure hotel rooms in Las Vegas, free of cost, for four secondary cast members to spend three hours speaking with a selection of 150 of the biggest radio stations in America’s top 50 markets, all positioned under a single roof.   

Print:  Since we knew getting traditional print media attention would be challenge, we focused our efforts on a single prize, the New York Times.   This effort began months prior to Rogers & Cowan’s representation, but was never accomplished.  We made it happen and furthermore coordinated the piece to break the week of premiere.  We also banked on the fact that E! Online and AOL would be able to drum up some print hits surrounding the online chat.            

RESULTS

Online:  AOL – Throughout the course of our campaign during the month of October, “V.I.P.” was promoted on the “Welcome” screen an amazing and perhaps UNPRECEDENTED total of four different days.  According to AOL representatives, this was more coverage than Tom Cruise scored with a major studio marketing deal to promote the feature film “Mission Impossible 2.”  The AOL “Welcome” screen is the most coveted page in all cyberspace.  Generally, this front page receives anywhere from 20-80 million page views each day, assuring us that our campaign through AOL alone reached millions upon millions of people.  Additionally, “V.I.P.” also received top-level promotion throughout the AOL’s Entertainment Channel throughout October.  (See supporting documents).  For comparison value, USA Today has a circulation of 1.8 million and entertainment stories are buried inside in a section of the newspaper.  In contrast, we secured the front page of AOL!  Ultimately, a tremendous mark of successthe amount of page turns that resulted from this “V.I.P.” promotion totaled more than AOL’s coverage of the 2000 Emmy Awards. We were also able to secure links back to Columbia Tri-Star’s official “V.I.P.” site as well as to PamTV free of cost, which resulted in greatly increased traffic to each of those sites.  

E! Online – According to E! Online representatives, our advanced planning enabled the “V.I.P.” web broadcast to be one of the most successful in the history of E! Online. Although the chat took place on October 26, it will continue to receive front door promotion though the first couple of weeks of November sweeps and remain in their archives indefinitely.  Furthermore, E! Online receives an approximate average of 2 million unique page views per day.  However, the day the “V.I.P.” web broadcast was streamed, the number doubled to 4 million.  In addition, as result of a marketing deal struck between Ducati and E! Online, a special spot aired on E! Television a total of 60 times to promote the “V.I.P.” web broadcast and special Ducati giveaway.  We also secured additional publicity on E! Television to promote the chat.  (See supporting tape).   Again we also secured prominently placed links to PamTV and Columbia Tri-Star’s “V.I.P.” site at no cost to our client, which resulted in driving significant traffic to each site and was directly responsible for the successful launch of PamTV (See tracking numbers from PamTV).  E! Online’s partners, such as MSN and Netscape also came through, providing additional high profile online promotion.

Ultimately, the online component of this campaign was cost free, reached millions of potential new viewers in our target audience, and only required one hour of our cast member’s time.     

Broadcast: Despite heavy competition and a bias towards covering new and not returning television shows, we secured bookings and coverage in many top outlets including: The Tonight Show, Regis Live!, The Chris Rock Show, Total Request Live, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra!, MSNBC’s Headliners & Legends, E! Entertainment Television, among many others.

Radio:  The MegaBlast radio tour reached 100 million radio listeners for only 3 hours of our supporting cast member’s time and only cost our client airfare!

Ratings: Despite undesirable time periods and sports preemptions, “V.I.P.” scored scores of impressive local market highlights and has appeared to hold its own in the national ratings, despite an off year for syndication in general. (See supporting materials).
Print: The New York Times article was syndicated to newspapers all across the county.  We also secured listings for the highly publicized “V.I.P.” web broadcast in such prominent publications as USA Today and the TV Guide Ultimate Cable Guide.  We also secured interviews for “V.I.P.” cast members with syndicated columnists such as Marilyn Beck, among many others.

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