Fox Wants 'Touch' PointsAround the World

High-profile new drama offers template for worldwide sponsorships and series launches
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The March 22 launch of Fox’s much-anticipated new drama, Touch, will be crucial for the network’s ratings. And it will also be a prominent test case of just how far advertising buys and promotions can be successfully globalized.

Tied into the premiere, News Corp.’s integrated sales unit, Fox One, has put together a global deal with Unilever that will see the world’s second-largest advertiser sponsor the launch of Touch during the week of March 19 in more than 100 countries around the world, both on outside international broadcasters and on the Fox International channels.

“This is an unprecedented deal that will cover Europe, Asia, Latin America and the U.S.,” says Luis Di Como, senior VP of global media at Unilever.

Unilever will also sponsor a massive global social campaign that Di Como calls “unprecedented” and a high-profile media tour that will take series star Kiefer Sutherland to London, Berlin, Madrid, Moscow and New York.

On March 18—a date that figures prominently in the series’ pilot episode—Sutherland, series creator Tim Kring and other Touch talent will join together on a New York stage for a Q&A. A satellite feed will carry the event to other markets around the world, where participants in these international markets will be able to ask questions.

“It is much bigger than anything we’ve done,” notes Jean Rossi, president of Fox One and executive VP of sales for Fox Broadcasting Co.

Rossi and others involved in the project acknowledge the complexity of such efforts—discussions leading to the Unilever sponsorship began in March 2011. But they also believe it will be the beginning of more globe-spanning deals.

“We are very excited about the fact that based on the Unilever deal, we now have a template that we can take out and show clients that we have the ability to successfully do these kinds of programs on this kind of scale,” says Claudine Lilien, senior VP of Fox One.

Such discussions could also come up during the domestic-focused 2012 upfronts. “It gives us a lot of credibility going forward to be able to sit in front of [chief marketing officers] and say we are prepared to do this when you are ready to do it,” Rossi says.

How often such deals can be put together is open to question, however. Compared to the many potential sponsors available in individual markets, there is a much smaller pool of companies capable of replicating the Unilever deal.

Many products also have different brand names in different markets—the Unilever deodorant involved in the Touch campaign goes by the name of Degree in the U.S., Sure in the U.K. and Rexona in other markets.

Coordinating the global launch of a show like Touch also requires enormous cooperation with the studio’s Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution international sales arm.

To replicate it, studios would need to dub shows into many different languages on a very tight schedule and convince broadcasters to air the show in the limited time frame needed for a global marketing campaign. Although Touch has been sold in more than 160 countries, the global campaign covers a smaller 100-plus footprint.

Even so, several factors are making such efforts more attractive. Big advertisers and agencies are increasingly looking to improve their marketing efficiency by coordinating their campaigns globally, and studios are looking to synchronize the global launches of TV shows, much as they already do with feature films to reduce piracy and maximize their marketing efforts.

With American programing in high demand, these shows can be widely sold to major broadcasters. Facing relatively sluggish TV ad spend and tight promotional budgets, these broadcasters might welcome the promotional support and new ad revenue.

Many studios have also launched international channels, which can be used to help coordinate some deals. Fox’s international channels, for example, provided a footprint of 64 countries where Touch and the Unilever campaign could air.

To capitalize on those trends, Fox One is planning meetings in Los Angeles and possibly New York with major advertisers and a number of executives at various News Corp. properties. “Our intention is to let people know that we are the most global media company out there, just by virtue of the breadth of assets we have around the world,” Rossi says.

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