UPN Tries to Generate Buzz - And an Opt-In Database

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The United Paramount Network, the television arm of Paramount Pictures, Los Angeles, launched a campaign this week for its new claymation show, "Gary and Mike," starring "virgin Gary and smart-ass Mike, two slackers just cruising around with not much to do."

The show previewed Jan. 11 and officially made its debut on UPN-owned stations across the United States on Jan. 12.

The campaign, launched in conjunction with Los Angeles-based customer acquisition network L90 Inc., uses all the tricks in the online direct marketing book - viral marketing, ad targeting, e-mail and sweepstakes. In addition, L90 created a "Gary and Mike" microsite to help UPN promote its new show, targeted at the all-important 18-34 male demographic.

The microsite, at www.L90dm.com/GaryAndMike, features downloadable video clips from the show and makes extensive use of Flash animation. It also includes a sweepstakes page where users can enter to win a weekend trip to Las Vegas. The page contains a viral component that urges registrants to "tell five friends" by using RadicalMail technology.

Not only does UPN expect to create buzz around its new TV show, it also hopes to create an opt-in database that it can utilize for other promotions.

"The Internet is a powerful platform to build stronger and deeper relationships with current and potential UPN viewers," Adam Ware, UPN's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "Not only will we generate a buzz around 'Gary and Mike,' but we will walk away with a valuable database of opt-in users who we can target in the future."

UPN is using L90's ad serving and tracking technology, adMonitor. L90 said the technology was developed to serve and track ad campaigns that go beyond standard Internet banner ads, such as pop-ups, microsites, sweepstakes, opt-ins, rich media and streaming audio and video. AdMonitor is part of L90's ProfiTools suite of products and services for serving, tracking and marketing.

Mark Smelzer, L90's vice president of entertainment, said the microsite for "Gary and Mike" reflects the attitude of the show - irreverent. He noted that one of the unusual aspects of the campaign is that UPN is not using an existing list to target advertising for the show. The network is hoping the viral marketing aspect of the sweepstakes and the downloadable videos will help it build a new list.

"We're not using a list in this campaign," he said. "Initially, we used banners and pop-up ads. We created a funny banner with Gary and Mike's voices in it. We were able to really capture the personality of the show."

He said the sweepstakes portion of the campaign is two-tiered and includes a viral marketing component. When users registered to win the free trip, they had the opportunity to send the registration form to five friends. They would earn additional entries for each person referred to the micro-site's registration page. Those referred receive an e-mail containing a 30-second streaming video of a "Gary and Mike" clip, in addition to an entry form.

"It gets people to pay attention," Smelzer said. "The video can be passed along virally. Once the user has referred their friends, they receive an HTML e-mail with a small streaming player that plays funny clips from the show."

He noted that the show was promoted on a number of Web sites in L90's network of 350 sites, particularly on its sports and entertainment channels. The company also targeted ads to www.icebox.com, a Web site that creates original entertainment programming.

"We ran pop-ups on targeted channels," he said. "We also used site-specific placement on Icebox.com to target 18 to 34 years olds."

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