By Sharon Donovan -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/20/2004 8:00:00 PM
Executive vice president, marketing
Vice president, advertising & creative services
If you wanted to attract an audience for your upcoming season, where would you go? Last season, George Schweitzer invited Blockbuster's 93 million customers to his preview party. That makes sense. CBS parent Viacom owns Blockbuster, but, more important, 70% of the U.S. population lives within a 10-minute drive of one of its 5,500 stores.
The "Sneak Peek" promotion, which will be repeated this year, involved distributing free DVDs at Blockbuster stores to show off new series on the CBS schedule. But other programming perks were included: a CSI: Miami music video from The Who and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of CSI. The really lucky customer in last year's CBS sweepstakes won a GMC, which sponsored the DVD promotion to launch its Envoy sport utility vehicle. This three-pronged promotion is typical Schweitzer fare.
"Fish where the fishes are," theorizes Schweitzer, CBS executive vice president of marketing. "It's so hard to get the consumer's attention, you have to go first to the folks who will be there for you. They are the ones who make a show a hit, not the ones who say 'I never watch TV.'"
This year's Sneak Peak with Blockbuster will be a variation on a theme. Not all the pieces are in place yet, but the idea is the same: getting viewers interested in the new season in a novel way and using a sister company to help, with in-store signage and direct mail.
A CBS veteran who has spent all but one year of his 33-year career at the network, Schweitzer runs a tight little ship. "We know how to get things done," he says.
One thing they've gotten done can be seen in CBS tie-ins with Coke and Saturn, which marry the product to the program in imaginative promotional ways. "I've always said our job is a business of contact and impact," he says. "Contact via the media you choose, and impact, the creative message that must give the viewer a reason to watch."
Schweitzer has three basic items on his perennial to-do list: ratings, revenues, and relationships. And those ever-crucial relationships extend to those built in-house. The essential element of team spirit trickles down from the top, he says, adding that, at CBS, it starts with Leslie Moonves, recently named co-COO of Viacom, whom Schweitzer characterizes as "a great leader and a showman who believes in supporting marketing."
Another key player is Ileene Mittleman, vice president of advertising and creative services, who has imprinted her brand-shaping expertise on projects ranging from The Late Show With David Letterman and The Late, Late Show With Craig Kilborn to the network's affiliates.
"In all the years of doing this, I've found one sure thing," Schweitzer says. "The audience is smart. They have opinions about TV; they can smell the good stuff and the bad stuff."
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