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Insert CD Serve as Barker for HBO's 'Carnivale'

Though it had used inserts before, when Home Box Office wanted to promote its new original series “Carnivale,” the company raised its insert media use to a new level with a four-page insert featuring a ticket-shaped CD-ROM, which was bound into Entertainment Weekly magazine.

As a regular advertiser in Entertainment Weekly, HBO collaborated with the magazine on a mini-CD to get consumers interested in a show that is not easily described, said Courteney Monroe, vice president of advertising at HBO, New York.

“The show has many levels to its narrative, so our feeling was the best thing we could do was show people as much as possible,” she said. “It gave us the opportunity to go direct to consumer with 2 1/2 minutes of footage showcasing this program.”

The specifics of the insert, such as how many pages and the quantity, were decided by HBO along with Entertainment Weekly.

“The 'Carnivale' insert went into HBO's top five markets around the country, and the circulation was about 425,000,” said Stephen Campbell, director of print production at HBO. “It went into the magazine's double Fall Movie Preview issue of August 22/29.”

It was distributed in the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston markets. The insert went into all subscriber and complimentary copies of Entertainment Weekly in those markets, but not into newsstand issues.

No additional selects were used to determine who would receive the insert but Entertainment Weekly readers in general are a good target for HBO.

“Entertainment Weekly is read by entertainment enthusiasts, and they will be the early adopters of a program such as 'Carnivale,'” Monroe said.

HBO worked with Los Angeles advertising agency BLT & Associates to design the print portion of the insert and Shape Media, New York, on the CD. Shape Media is a full-service marketing and manufacturing company of CDs, DVDs and printed material as well as packaging and fulfillment. The firm creates custom-shaped CDs and DVDs for numerous marketing clients.

While the ticket-shaped CD insert for “Carnivale” lacks an online component that links it back to HBO's Web site and makes it trackable, Monroe said the company was counting on the “pass-along factor” and “viral effect” of the CD.

Though its success is not measurable, she said, a number of consumers are selling the ad and CDs on eBay, a good sign that people are watching it and are interested in the show. Prices range from $7 to $10.

Still, if it were a fit with the program, HBO would consider doing a trackable CD in the future, Monroe said.

The CD also caused a stir among other entertainment companies.

“The reps at Entertainment Weekly got a lot of calls from other entertainment studios about the CD and how to go about doing one,” Campbell said.

Estelle Torino, vice president of marketing at Shape Media, said it was common for Shape CDs to get a lot of attention. Marketers demand new and innovative methods of reaching consumers, she said.

As for the cost, this insert does not fall into the relatively cheap price levels of a typical magazine bind-in program.

“We're not in the practice of sharing our costs but I will say it was not cheap,” Monroe said. Total cost includes the CD, printing, insertion and the space in Entertainment Weekly.

Torino said that such CDs themselves cost from $1 each on down depending on specifics.

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