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May 25, 2004
Case Study

Reality Marketing Story Part I: Upstart Interactive Agency Lands Big Fish TV Client

SUMMARY: Yes, we're starting a new kind of Case Study here at MarketingSherpa. You'll be taken behind-the-scenes to hear how an interactive campaign is put together, and how it succeeds or fails, as the agency is actually conducting it.

For our first episode of "Reality Marketing", hear how a new agency landed a completely unexpected client, legendary TV producers Merv & Andy Adelson whose credits include The Waltons and Max Headroom respectively:
By Contributing Editor Anna Murray

It's Saturday night and the cell phone rings. Jeanniey Mullen's big new client.

"Jeanniey, for the shoot. We need 3 props. We need them to be designed and we need them by Thursday. Oh, and they need to be things we can merchandise later. Okay."


Mullen, an online marketer, doesn't know a thing about offline prop design. But, her agency's just been hired to handle everything from logo design to ecommerce for a new direct-to-DVD video series called JammX Kids, and she's determined to succeed at the gig.

"I mean, we've never designed props before," she says. "But we had the drawings.

"There was this watch thing that these kids use to contact the Master Groove at headquarters. And then there's this thing called a Freeze Squeeze that the JammX kids can use to freeze adults if they don't want them to hear what they're saying. And then there are these goggles that shoot lights."

"We were really lucky," she says, "because we found items similar to the designer's drawings in the marketplace. Just stuff you could buy at the store. And now we have merchandising deals with those vendors. Phew!"

Jeanniey Mullen's reality marketing experience began a week earlier with a phone call from Merv Adelson, Lorimar Co-founder and former Time Warner Vice Chairman.

"He said, 'We're gonna produce this DVD and we want you to sell a minimum of 75,000 of them. I need a proposal by Friday."

Adelson's TV producing credits include such classics as Dallas, The Waltons, and Eight is Enough. His son Andy was producer of Max Headroom. And now, they've formed a new production company called Lightforce Entertainment.

Their idea is to revolutionize the way programming is sold. "We're going to do with family entertainment for the DVD market, what Lorimar did with one-hour dramas for broadcast television," explains Merv Adelson. That is provide high quality programs for an underserved market (in this case tweens, kids aged 9-13) and go direct to DVD.

"By integrating the global reach of the Internet, we also intend to take an innovative approach to the business of direct-to-DVD distribution," says Andy.

And Jeanniey Mullen's new agency won the account.

Mullen began in customer service for JCPenny, spent a stint as an email go-to-gal at Grey Direct. Then she moved to Avalon Digital Marketing, the company that subsumed Mind Arrow and Radical Mail. When that venture fire-balled, she went out on her own to form The Lift Network in 2003.

From the silver-lining department, Adelson sat on the board of Avalon. So, when he needed a Net marketing expert, he invited Mullen to be among the agencies pitching for the account.

Not unlike Donald Trump's apprentices-- who came from all walks of life and had to concoct novel ways of marketing things like rickshaws -- Jeanniey found herself in charge of virtually every aspect of the launch and marketing of the Adelsons' direct-to-DVD series, including:

Logo design
Event Marketing
Direct TV advertising
Online advertising
Web design
Search marketing

... and as she discovered, selecting merchandisable props. Is she confident?

"Umm. Well. If I don't make this a success, the venture will fail -- and we absolutely won't allow that to happen." Luckily she's confident in the product itself. "When you see the DVDs, you'll see why."

"And then there was that time last week when Andy and I got into a fight."


"OK - not a fight - but a creative disagreement. There were those watches. You know, the ones we are using as props. Well, we thought it would be a great idea to do a promotion with them: Buy one DVD get a watch for X dollars. Well Andy didn't like it. He thought it was counter-intuitive and that the watch wasn't that exciting anyway."

"But then we showed up with the watches on the set and the kids went crazy. We had all the kids saying, 'Can we take the watches with us?'"

"I guess I found out I know more about props than I thought," she says.

Coming up next: We'll bring you behind-the-scenes lessons, creative samples, flops, and successes from this campaign as it unfolds in real life. You'll see results, warts and all, so kudos to Mullen, her team and her clients for their willingness to share. Stay tuned....

Click here for Part II of this ongoing series:

Note: Do you have an upcoming campaign launch that might make a good MarketingSherpa Reality Story? You must have client approval and a willingness to share details and data, even if results are unexpected. Contact to pitch your ideas. Thanks.

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