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June 07, 2006: Post, TV Guide and The Donald

Kraft embarked on a multi-media campaign that included print, channel/IPG and online ads and activities to promote a new product being launched on "The Apprentice."

An innovative multi-platform marketing campaign spearheaded by TV Guide helped launch Post Cereals' newest product, Grape-Nuts Trail Mix Crunch Cereal, on an episode of NBC-TV's "The Apprentice."

The campaign, which debuted on March 20 and was dubbed "It's Crunch Time in the Boardroom," complemented one of the tasks assigned on the popular network show by Donald Trump to the participants-- design billboards that would launch the new face of the cereal. Post executives determined the winning team, judging the teams based on originality, brand image and overall campaigns.

Kraft Foods (the world's second-largest food and beverage company with 2005 net revenues of more than $34 billion), which owns Post, wanted to tout the new cereal as one the entire family can enjoy-- it's described, for instance, has having a "lighter crunch, combined with naturally sweet raisins, crunch oat clusters, toasted almonds, and fiber sticks and a touch of honey."

According to TV Guide Publisher Peter Haeffner, the campaign took about four months from conceptualization to the airing on March 20. (TV Guide declined to disclose what the campaign cost.)

"The key objective was to create an innovative way to showcase 'The Apprentice' integration and heighten awareness for both the show and Grape-Nuts Trail Mix Crunch Cereal," says Haeffner. "The contextually relevant content got one of the highest ratings for the show (now ending its fifth season)."

TV Guide worked closely with a marketing team from Kraft Foods and AIM Productions, an Astoria, NY-based product placement promotional company. AIM Productions served as the liaison between NBC and Kraft Foods and put the deal together. Kraft then approached TV Guide and asked how they could get people to watch the show and notice their new cereal.

The solution was a three-front media rollout-- print, channel/IPG and online execution. The print portion of the campaign ran first with the magazine marketing team taking the lead. TV Guide initially created a one-half spread ad, co-branded for Post and "The Apprentice." Haeffner says the ad, which featured a head and shoulder mug shot of Trump and basic programming information on the show on one side, and a photo of the new cereal box and some promotional copy on the other, helped anchor the Monday primetime grid on the episode air date. Post also promoted the cereal, along with their programming affiliation, at point-of-decision.

Two weeks before air date, the online campaign started. TV (which gets about 3.5 million visitors per month) created and ran co-branded ad units and included homepage takeovers. "Matchmaker," a customized "Concentration"-like online memory game, was unveiled that used Grape-Nuts product shots and photos from the show. Haeffner added that Post also sponsored a home page poll that was themed for the show, which ran the day after the episode aired.

The third aspect of the campaign were co-branded, in-grid banner units that promoted the integration on the episode air date. These included channel grid banners and IPG (interactive program guide) graphic panels.

This isn't the first time TV Guide has done this type of multi-platform program. Two years ago TV Guide created a number of print and online promotions to help promote Milanos, a popular Pepperidge Farm cookie that was also a personal favorite of Kelsey Grammer, star of "Frasier." The promotions, ranging from gatefold units to straight pages featuring trivia about "Frasier," the characters and the episode's storyline, and additional trivia quizzes online, were integrated into the show-- as was, of course, the cookie itself.

"What has made these campaigns stand out is their ability to drive viewership and constantly reinforce the products' message in concert with the shows," says Haeffner.

Haeffner adds that the Post multi-platform program was well received by Kraft and that TV Guide anticipates doing similar types of campaigns in the future.

Neal Leavitt is president of Fallbrook, CA-based Leavitt Communications, an international marketing communications company with affiliates in Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, and the United Kingdom.

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