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Turner Network Television’s 'Into The West’

7/21/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

Winner 2006: Top of the Mark

When Turner Network Television set about to promote its 12-hour INTO THE WEST miniseries last summer, the objective wasn’t novel: Create a marketing campaign to gain as many viewers as possible. The challenge was to do it in a way that would gain untraditional viewers to westerns and get as many people to watch up front so they could sustain the ratings throughout a six-week period.

TNT did have a trump card. The series was produced by Steven Spielberg. But Spielberg wasn’t directly involved with the project and wasn’t going to be available to promote the miniseries. So TNT senior vice president of entertainment marketing Tom Carr and vice president and creative director Matt Bunting had to think outside the box when it came to advancing the series.

INTO THE WEST ran three nights a week for six weeks last summer; and although it was a Western, which TNT has done well with in the past when it comes to ratings and awareness, the storyline was broader than “cowboys and Indians,” Carr said. “We needed to make consumers connect with the story and we knew they would connect to it differently,” Bunting said.

TNT ran a series of promotional spots with the younger cast members in their street clothes talking about the series and how it can be related to issues happening today,” Carr said. The spots ran on The WB, Fox and other networks that attract younger viewers. Ads focusing on history and the truths surrounding the story of the West were run on the news networks and in magazines such as Time.

TNT also created spots featuring singer Sarah McLaughlin, who wrote and performed the music for the series. The ads played up the romance aspect of the storyline to appeal to female viewers, Bunting said.

TNT offered local market and cable affiliate screenings of the series and showed the series at a number of Native American events, rodeos and historical sites. The network worked with Best Buy Stores during the showing of the series, as well as afterward, to drive DVD sales. “It was a great way to extend the campaign,” Carr said.

TNT invited local radio DJs on a promotional junket to Jackson Hole, Wyo., to promote the series. “We introduced them to the cast and the show,” he said. “The cast was wonderful, but they weren’t well-known. So it was an opportunity for the DJs to connect with them and it was very successful.”

All that work paid off. The premiere of INTO THE WEST was the No. 1 watched show on TV that night. Over 81 million households watched the series over the six-week period. Moreover, Spielberg was so happy with the efforts and results that he is bringing other projects to the network, Carr said.

“This campaign was certainly a challenge for TNT,” said Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing president and CEO Char Beales. “It centered on a 12-hour block of programming around a topic that is a hard sell for the 18-25 crowd particularly. They had some assets too, that they used to their advantage. The execution was brilliant and it brought in 81 million viewers. This campaign exemplifies the best of the best.”