'Who' Breakthrough

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You've heard of picture in picture. VH1's upcoming salute to British rock stalwarts The Who will be introducing a commercial-in-arena concept.

As part of integrated advertising packages sold to a half-dozen sponsors for its VH1 Rock Honors: The Who, VH1, with an eye toward podbusting, will test a new concept that aims to bring the “in-the-arena” feel of a live performance to audiences watching at home.

As VH1 tapes the July 12 concert from UCLA's Pauley Pavilion — also featuring Pearl Jam, Incubus, Flaming Lips and Tenacious D paying performance tribute to The Who — commercials will play on the on-stage video screen during the show's seven national ad breaks.

What viewers will see at home on July 17 at 9 p.m., when a taped version of the concert event airs on VH1, VH1 Classic and MHD, are the spots from the video screen, framed by scenes from the venue, including stage set-ups, backstage footage and between-set audience activity.

“The best way to describe it is viewers are going to see the commercials as if they were in Pauley Pavilion,” VH1 executive vice president and general manager Tom Calderone said. “Our cameras are going to zero in on the big screen in the venue, with the commercials running and all the other activities going on. It's going to be 'spot in spot.' ”

Taco Bell, Garnier Fructis, Sprint, Soyjoy, Subaru and Rhapsody are key advertisers for the event, which was also supported, beginning July 12, by a host of related programming, such as the Tommy film by Ken Russell, Classic Albums: Who's Next and documentary Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who on VH1 Classic, leading up to Rock Honors debut Thursday night.

Integrated campaign elements are manifesting in the form of attached billboards to interstitials in which musicians talk about being fans or how they — like Coldplay — were influenced by The Who.

“The über message is to make the integrated initiatives natural,” Calderone said. “Our ad-sales team has done a good job of making them seamless, as not to hit the viewer over the head with them.”

Rhapsody will have a custom in-show graphic driving viewers to download playlists and content from the artists performing on stage.

Soyjoy secured a pair of 30-second “Inspired by Rock” vignettes. The first showcases the VH1 Save The Music effort as one of the charities sharing the show's proceeds. The second spot highlights how performers at the show have been inspired by rock music.

Garnier Fructis is the exclusive green-room sponsor and will gain exposure with two on-air “throws” during the show. The hair care brand also is sponsoring a sweepstakes on vh1.com.

The network's online arm will also show select performances from the concert leading up to and following the on-air premiere at Rock.VH1.com, including Who numbers that won't be on the telecast.

“Not only can you watch the show again on VH1.com, but there's going to be stuff that wasn't on TV,” said Calderone.

VH1 is pulling out plenty of firepower to help “sell out” The Who's Rock Honors to viewers. In addition to the integrated spots and promos its own air, Rock Honors is being supported by local radio spots in the top 12 markets, plus national schedules on Sirius Satellite Radio, National Public Ration, ESPN's coverage of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities and Westwood One.

Print ads have been placed in Entertainment Weekly, Guitar World, Rolling Stone, Spin Magazine, Sports Illustrated and Newsweek.

Banner ads are in play on various Web sites tied to Rolling Stone, Pandora, Yahoo, Billboard, with customer units appearing on Filter.com and NoGoodTV.com.

Outdoor media extends to ads on New York City bus shelters and newsstands and the Jumbotron on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

VH1 has also tapped Wal-Mart Checkout Network in 24 markets and the Arena Media Networks — Diamond Vision modules, as well as screens in restrooms — at five MLB ballparks: New York's Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and U.S. Cellular and Wrigley Field in Chicago.