The Art of the Deal

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In ad-sales circles, cross-platform deals are all the rage. Another one, involving The Walt Disney Co. and Mazda North America, was announced just last week.

A week earlier, The Snapple Beverage Group cut a cross-platform deal with Viacom Inc., to the tune of $15 million. Interestingly, the deal did not include CBS, because its demos skewed too old for the hip client.

Just as interestingly, Mazda's $5 million cross-platform buy did not include any of the Disney-owned cable networks. At first blush, that might look like bad news for cable, because automotive is the largest single ad category.

Disney Channel, which just began to accept advertising, didn't make the cut. Nor did the newly acquired and renamed ABC Family. And ESPN did not get a nickel of Mazda's ad budget in this buy.

But ABC national TV sales vice president Cathy Egan said that's largely because Disney Channel was not accepting ads when the deal was first put together last fall. And ABC Family wasn't ready to rock and roll back then — in fact, it was still Fox Family Channel. And because Mazda was targeting mothers with children aged 6 to 11, ESPN did not make sense.

The Mazda deal also has a lot of local-market elements, given the nature of its business — which is to spend the bucks where its dealerships are located.

The good news for cable is that Mazda isn't just relying on one big cross-platform media buy from one media giant like Disney to sell its new minivan.

According to John Lisko, senior vice president and media director at Doner Advertising, Mazda's agency, the automaker will also buy a national overlay that includes schedules on Lifetime Television, USA Network, the Turner Broadcasting System Inc. networks and A&E Network.

Nonetheless, cross-platform deals are beginning to worry programmers that are not owned by huge conglomerates like Disney, Viacom or AOL Time Warner Inc. With ad-sales now at their lowest point in decades, some worry that advertisers are more in the driver's seat than ever, and will use these platform deals to get ad units for dirt-cheap prices.

Doner's Lisko acknowledges that Mazda took a price break, but driving a bargain was not the main objective in this complicated buy. The automaker wants to target moms with young kids and get them into local car dealerships. Its deal with Disney crossed many platforms.

Disney Online created a mini Web site for the client — mazdasweeps.com — which offers visitors a chance to test drive the new minivan and win one.

There's also a print component to the buy, using Disney's FamilyFun
magazine. ABC's television stations got in it, too, and so did its radio stations. Via radio, Mazda will promote more than 100 local events at its dealerships across the country.

It sure sounds like Mazda is getting a big pop for its $5 million deal with Disney — and is benefiting from this giant company's ability to use its numerous media outlets to target and reach specific audience segments.

Those are tall marching orders that require months of planning to pull off. In the case of the cross-platform deals we've seen so far, that means company divisions must work together, rather than act as independent silos looking out for only their own bottom lines.

So welcome to the new world of ad sales and the new art of the deal. And expect more of the same from the media giants, who are cobbling together these complicated buys across their various outlets to keep their own wheels of commerce oiled.

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