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By Patricia Odel - November 1, 2003

The buzz on Hollywood Boulevard was all about the young country singer who captured the wonder of a crowd that morning with her homespun ballad, Count on Me. Twelve-year-old Ashley Gearing also had a single that was climbing the country charts, and before long she became the youngest female to ever enter the Billboard country charts.

Her performance was one of 10 that day in September as marketing execs from the major labels — Buena Vista Music Group, Universal Music Group, EMI Music Marketing, Warner Music Group, BMG Entertainment and Sony Music Nashville — gathered at The L.A. Office RoadShow to present developing and established artists to a room full of big and small brands.

The brands shopped over three days for tie-ins, partnerships, product placement and a host of other entertainment marketing opportunities in music, television and film presented at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre.

On Stage
Music tie-ins have exploded over the past few years as a result of promotion-friendly artists and record companies. The $32.3 billion global industry has attracted more and more mega superstars willing to lend their voices and faces to brands. Jon Bon Jovi, for example, recently signed with Duracell batteries and began appearing in October in national 30-second TV spots. The Trusted Everywhere campaign — which debuted in 2002 — features performance footage of Bon Jovi and highlights the band's use of Duracell batteries to help power their performances. A retail campaign follows this month timed to the release of Bon Jovi's greatest hits CD, This Left Feels Right. On-pack coupons on batteries feature $3 to $5 off the CD. And on-pack coupons on the CD offer discounts on batteries. Participating retailers include Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Meijer, CVS and Kmart. A special Duracell/Bon Jovi commercial is planned for Wal-Mart in-store TV. Joint ad circulars and in-store displays support. Marketing Drive, Boston, handles.

Bon Jovi has been associated with numerous brands — in addition to purchasing a stake last month in an Arena Football League expansion team — and last fall was the featured musical artist in the National Football League's season kickoff party. The bash in Times Square also included Enrique Iglesias, Eve and Alicia Keys who performed before a crowd of 500,000.

Country singer LeeAnn Womack made her first appearance in October after being signed by ConAgra Foods to pitch Banquet Homestyle Bakes meal kits. She was honorary Grand Marshal of the Banquet 400 race in Kansas City — ConAgra's first title sponsorship of the NASCAR Winston Cup series race — and sang during the event. She'll appear in Banquet Homestyle promos, handled in-house, and TV and radio spots via Fogarty Klein Monroe, Dallas.

Despite the fact that music tie-ins remain a $1 billion industry, it's no secret that the industry is undergoing a major transition. Sales in the music industry are down about 30% and radio consolidation has made it hard for artists to be heard through radio air-play. "They're looking for alternative channels for exposure which is one reason artists are willing to lend their music in advertising," says Andrea Kinloch, VP-strategic marketing, Warner Strategic Marketing.

Country music duo Aaron Benward and Scott Reeves hosted Music Day and performed live.

Tuning In
An explosion of new television channels and programming has opened up lots of choices for brands to place products, create promotional tie-ins and develop merchandising plans. Hundreds of television options were presented at the show by 16 network and cable groups. (The press was barred from movie presentations).

Discovery Networks touted its Animal Planet network, which reaches 82 million households nationwide and its Discovery Kids programming on Saturday mornings. But it also announced the debut this month of Real Tunes, a kid's show that combines cartoons with "cool facts and content." The programming launches with a major watch and win promotion.

In August, the Home Depot was named the exclusive category sponsor of Discovery Networks Trading Spaces series shown on The Learning Network. The expanded partnership includes the renewal of its exclusive commitment to the While You Were Out series, as well as advertising across other Discovery Networks including the Discovery Channel, Discovery Home & Leisure Channel and BBC America.

As part of its partnership with TLC, Home Depot will launch a co-branded direct mail campaign with mail pieces themed to the television programming. About 100,000 pieces will mail to records on the Discovery Network database based on selects provided by Home Depot, says Jim Baginski, senior marketing manager for Discovery Networks.

The partnership runs from fourth quarter 2003 through third quarter 2004.

E! Networks this winter premiers the one-hour series Guess Who's Coming to Decorate on its Style Network. The show selects an individual from the finalist's past — old boyfriend, best friend from high school, former Little League coach — to redo a room in the finalist's home. Promos get viewers to write in to say whose home they want to decorate and why.

A recent edition to the Style Network is Style Court, an hour-long program where people haul their friends, husbands, neighbors or colleagues before Judge Henry Roth to be tried for crimes of fashion, trend misdemeanors and other style offenses. Judge Roth is likely to lay down the verdict: MAKEOVER! The cast also includes commentator Doug Llewelyn of The People's Court, and a bodacious blonde bailiff, Icelandic model and actress, Berglind Icey.

The Fine Living Network, now in 19 million homes, offers programming on making the most of life, like planning a once-in-a-lifetime African Safari. The 19-month-old network has more than 40 series in production and 52 one-hour specials. A Winter Wonderland Sweepstakes with Olympic downhill racer Peekaboo Street sends a winner and a guest to Sun Valley, ID, for a ski vacation complete with a private chef, says Robyn Miller, senior VP-marketing. The promotion started in October and ends Dec. 22. Participants sign up at Stay tuned!

If the Music Isn't Good, Channel Surf
Consumers appear to be paying attention to music in commercials, promotions and on TV shows, but the response may not be exactly what brands bargained for. In a recent survey by E-Poll and The L.A. Office, more than 1,000 consumers were asked about the promotions they have experienced and recall in the last three months. The survey found:

26% of respondents have seen product promotions or offers in movies

11% participated in a promotion or sweepstakes in the last six months

Coke and Pepsi are the most recognizable brands on the big screen

50% change channels if they don't like the music in a commercial

29% are more likely to pay attention to a music performer than a TV/movie star

7 in 10 people have purchased a CD because of songs they heard in a movie

Almost 50% have seen a recognizable brand name product on a TV show

8% said they have purchased a product specifically because of a TV promotion

About half felt product placement of TV shows can "seem fake and contrived"

In other findings, point-of-purchase discounts are rated as the top reason that men and women act on a promotion (45%). The Internet and TV rank highest in ad exposure, but the Internet falls down the list on generating attention (only 34% said they paid some/a lot of attention). And the right spokesperson is key: 34% said they did not purchase a product endorsed by a celebrity spokesperson they disliked. The study was released at The L.A. Office RoadShow held in September in Hollywood, CA.