Networks argue about the effectiveness of recent promotional campaigns

November 13, 1990|By Kenneth R. Clark | Kenneth R. Clark,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Not everyone in the media business will concede that multimillion-dollar cross-promotional campaigns, such as the ones recently completed by CBS and NBC, are worth the money spent. Both networks, however, were crowing last week over their latest efforts.

For NBC, the campaign that ended Oct. 27 consisted of a $35-million sweepstakes giveaway in conjunction with McDonald's, in which customers picked up lottery cards at the chain's restaurants and were directed to specific network programs where winning numbers were to be announced.

For CBS, it was a reprise of last year's massive merchandise-prize contest conducted with K mart.

Neither K mart nor McDonald's, which still was running a field study to determine the impact on its business, was able to supply specific figures, but George Schweitzer, senior vice president of corporate communications for CBS, said "K mart had two of their best weeks of this year in a very difficult retail environment."

ABC alone declined to play the game of corporate cross-pollination.

"Promotional schemes designed to lure viewers back to the set actually contributed to audience confusion," said ABC Entertainment President Robert Iger. "I don't think a viewer should have to go to a fast-food restaurant to find out what's on television."

Schweitzer said his competitor may feel the costs of such scorn, however.

"The ratings don't lie," Schweitzer said. "CBS won premiere week at a time when we were expected to be in third place. We saw huge increases in 'Murder, She Wrote' and 'Uncle Buck,' and 'Evening Shade' premiered to a very good number. These were all shows that were included in the promotion."

"Network share is declining, and everyone who has a marketing responsibility is trying to find ways to get people to watch television," he said. "I think [Iger's comment] misses the point by 180 degrees. The point is, if you go into a fast-food restaurant and you are barraged by notices about television shows, isn't it great that television is reaching you?

"ABC is a mass-advertising medium, and every advertiser who spends money with us is looking for added value. If you go to K mart or McDonald's and, all of a sudden, you see things about network programs, that's a home run."

John Miller, NBC's executive vice president of marketing, claimed his network's "McMillions" contest boosted audiences for targeted shows by "a couple of share points" and that the national awareness rate of the campaign was 80 percent.

McDonald's distributed 333 million game cards during th contest.

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