Food Show Chefs Whet Brand Appetite

Talent is key ingredient for lifestyle programming

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The thing about lifestyle programming
is that viewers get very attached. They get attached
to the shows. They get attached to the
network. And they get attached to the personalities.

Advertisers are the same way. Take Food Network,
part of Scripps Networks, which has built its business
on Food, HGTV and its other lifestyle brands.

“Advertisers come to us. They know we know how
to speak to our audience best,” says Karen Grinthal,
senior VP, national ad sales, food category, for Scripps
Networks Interactive.

“The idea of the [Food Network] brand now is that
it is really ubiquitous in people’s lives. And that’s part
of why advertisers like to do specialty marketing with
us, because they get the reach of an entertainment
brand and they get the focus of a vertical. And that’s
really unusual,” Grinthal adds.

What’s also unusual is the way personalities have
been a part of the Food Network brand. “I’ve been
here for almost 16 years and we did that from the
very beginning, when Emeril [Lagasse] was the only
known personality and we had 20 million homes and
we were doing specialty custom production,” Grinthal
says. “It was a lot less sophisticated, but it was definitely there.”

In this year’s upfront, Food Network will be emphasizing
Chef Wanted, a series in which a restaurant
searches for the person with the recipe for its success.
Kohl’s is already a sponsor, but the network wants to
raise its profile among advertisers and other potential
promotional partners.

Chef Wanted
is hosted by Anne Burrell, who might
be poised to be not only a TV star but a marketing
diva. She would be following in the footsteps of current
Food Network chefs Robert Irvine, a spokesman
for Lexus and Sysco; Alex Guarnaschelli, who has a
deal with Fisher Nuts; and Sandra Lee, who works
with Diageo. Other Food Network personalities have merchandising deals, including Giada De Laurentiis,
Paula Deen and Lagasse. These stars have a connection
to the network that sticks by even as individual
shows come and go.

Burrell started on TV as Mario Batali’s sous chef
in Food Network’s Iron Chef. She also cohosts Food’s
Worst Cooks in America, where she has adopted a tough
but compassionate demeanor.

“She cares very deeply about what she does,” Grinthal
says of Burrell. “She’s been a line cook in a restaurant.
She’s been an executive chef, and she understands in
a deep and personal way how stressful that job is and
what it takes to do it right. Anne is interesting because
she’s really tough on the outside, but she’s really soft in
the inside because she has so much emotion invested.
And that’s what’s so relatable about her.”

And that gives Burrell the potential to have a role in
the marketing of Food Network ad clients.

0318 Upfront Central Food Network Chart

While discussions with clients can lead to talent
involvement, sometimes the clients seek out the network’s
hosts on their own. And when they make a
deal, it is separate from any media buy.

“We often bring opportunities to talent. But when
it comes to the actual negotiations, that is not our
realm,” says Grinthal, who wishes talent was on her
rate card.

“We try to put together what the breadth and scope
of a relationship is as it pertains to us and them with
the advertisers. And so our marketing team works
closely and our PR team works closely with an agent
to make sure we’re all in synch,” Grinthal says. “We
don’t own the talent. We own the show. In the beginning
stages of their career, we have obviously more
say. We have approval. But the more senior they get,
the more latitude they have.”

For example, Rachael Ray has a two-year deal
promoting S.C. Johnson products. “We did a whole
Scripps-wide deal with S.C. Johnson, so we create
custom content featuring [Ray]. But the deal with
the company, that’s her deal,” says Grinthal. “But it
wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t sat down together
with a broad concept with S.C. Johnson and
then they said, ‘Now we want talent in, and we want
Rachael.’ We can’t offer that. That is their negotiation.”

But it pays to keep the programmer involved for marketers
doing business with Food Network talent. “Target
is a very big partner of ours, and they have a line
of cookware and food with Giada De Laurentiis,” says
Grinthal. “So we sit down and we say, ‘You have this investment
with Giada, you have a great investment with
us. We have all these assets. How do we make them
all work hardest for you?’ And that’s the approach.”

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