Stewart Begins 'Martha' Push

NBC U will cross-promote—carefully
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While serving up two portions of Martha Stewart this fall with The Apprentice: Martha Stewart Wednesdays on NBC and Martha weekdays in syndication, NBC Universal knows it will have to be as meticulous as Stewart herself in handling cross-promotion. Since nearly 60% of stations carrying the syndicated Martha are not NBC affiliates, don't expect a parade of Stewart's Apprentice cast-offs from the night before when the live show airs on Thursdays.

“We are looking at ways to cross-promote, but it has to be a win-win for everyone,” says Betsy Bergman, VP of marketing for NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. If a personality like famously prickly Apprentice rejectee Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth becomes a pop-culture figure of the moment, she says, “that is going to transcend any affiliate ties. But appearances can't be gratuitous. Once we get into the show airing, the need to find other means of cross-promotion is definitely on the radar screen.”

The non-NBC stations carrying the show will be watching closely. “We will definitely be looking for some input from them as to how they are going to brand the two shows,” says Steve Spendlove, general manager of KTVX Salt Lake City, an ABC affiliate that will air Martha. “Stewart certainly has experience managing several brands, but things like this are a bit of an experiment, so time will tell.”

Produced by Mark Burnett, the syndicated show premieres Sept. 12 and is cleared in more than 96% of the country. Martha will blend celebrity guest spots with such Stewart staples as advice about cooking, home décor and gardening. The promotional push begins this week at the 2005 Promax & BDA convention in New York, where Stewart is hosting a luncheon at the Marriott Marquis hotel sponsored jointly by NBC U and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO).

At the June 22 event, Stewart will screen the first round of promos for Martha. The initial campaign includes six tease spots reinforcing the live aspect of the production and showcasing the host's heretofore little-noted self-deprecatory sense of humor. A second phase of promos set for mid July will be more show-specific.

The promo effort, not surprisingly, will leverage plenty of NBC U and MSLO platforms, from Stewart's twice-a-month appearances on the Today show to retail promotions at Kmart. Plans also call for sweeps promos, including trip giveaways to see Martha in New York.

“When a show becomes a priority for so many tentacles of two companies like NBC Universal and Martha Stewart Living,” Bergman says, “it obviously becomes quite a marketing priority as well.”

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