Promo-Minded Showtime Taps Burnett Ad Agency

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Looking to broaden its marketing perspective, Showtime Networks Inc. early this month started working with an outside ad agency, Chicago-based Leo Burnett USA.

Showtime will continue to produce most of its creative work in-house, through its New York ad agency, the Red Group, said network executive vice president of creative and marketing Len Fogge. But Burnett brings Showtime an outside point of view.

"It's more about strategic partnership than strategic planning," Fogge said of Burnett's role. "We like our agency people to really be a part of our team."

Showtime started the search for a new agency in June, and spoke to six different shops, most based in New York. The premium programmer also selected Burnett's sister company, Starcom USA, to handle media-buying duties.

Burnett took over the Showtime account on Oct. 1.

Looking ahead, Showtime wants to "continue to be on the cutting edge of marketing our brand and our products," Fogge said.

Along with the "No Limits" positioning campaign, Showtime plans to do more series-based marketing later this year. One focus is the new seriesQueer Folk, which debuts in December.

Showtime will also partner with cable affiliates and several Viacom Inc. sister companies to help promote the new Paramount Pictures/Nickelodeon Movies theatrical filmRugrats in Paris-The Movie.

The programmer ran a similar co-branding campaign for the 1998 theatrical release ofThe Rugrats Movie, Showtime senior vice president of marketing Gina Goldberg said. "The family of Viacom looks to each other for a multitude of cross-promotional activities."

Showtime will air interstitial programming on the making ofRugrats in Paristhroughout the fourth quarter. The network's Web site (www.sho.com) will link to theRugrats in Parissite.

Rugrats in Pariswill air on Showtime sometime after its stint in theaters, but Goldberg would not say when.

Participating cable affiliates can mail potential customers a colorful Showtime flyer that opens up into a freeRugrats in Paris-The Movieposter. Subscribers who go on to sign up for the channel are also eligible for a free CD featuring songs from the film.

The promotion helps highlight Showtime's slate of original family programming that's suitable for all ages, Goldberg said.

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