CTD Plays 'Numb3rs' Game

CBS Television Distribution uses mystery-ad game to tease off-net sale of mathematical crime drama

For CBS Television Distribution, it was a real conundrum: How best to create awareness for the off-network sale of its Friday night CBS procedural Numb3rs? CTD executives decided to take an unusual tack by solving the mystery with another mystery.

A full-page ad, making no reference to the series, began by inquiring, "How good is your math?" The ad then listed Web addresses incorporating the names of 14 different cable networks—all of which were on CTD's list of networks it hoped would bid on Numb3rs repeats.

CTD president of distribution Scott Koondel says the aim of the ad was to break through the clutter of typical marketing. "People love to play games online," he says. "We wanted to build awareness of the show."

The ad, which ran exclusively in the Oct. 13 editions of B&C and sibling publication Multichannel News, made the suggestion for readers to "test your skills," adding that "numbers don't lie." No companies or television products were named.

Clicking on the URLs mentioned in the ad led to a multiple-choice trivia game with questions specific to each named network and relaying how Numb3rs is a potential match. At the end of the game, players are told the quiz is about the series and given a phone number at CTD to find out more. They also can enter to win tickets to the Grammy Awards.


By the end of the day after the ads ran, staff at each of the networks named had logged onto the sites listed, according to CTD. Hundreds of clients have since participated in the game, Koondel says: "Everyone from interns to research to presidents and general managers have logged on and learned something about the show."

The marketing ploy is step one of CTD's teaser process before formal pitching and meetings begin, according to Koondel. Show screeners have been sent to potential buyers for the program, which will have 102 episodes available for an off-net run starting next year. It is being offered as a cable sale and has a weekend broadcast syndication window.

Numb3rs is the top show in its 10 p.m. Friday time slot in total viewers, key adult demos and men, according to CTD.