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Jun 21, 2002
How To

Lifetime Television Network's Adam Lewinson on How to Create Marketing Partnerships with Hollywood

SUMMARY: From the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to Stuart Little, Adam Lewinson is the man in Hollywood who helps marketers figure out the ropes when it comes to promotions, sweeps, video partnerships and other types of marketing tie-ins. Now you can get his tips and advice by clicking below  (BTW: This interview is fun to read even if you do not work for a household name-brand that might end up in a movie tie-in someday.)
Interested in doing a marketing partnership or promotional tie-in with a Hollywood movie of TV show?

As Director of West Coast Promotion for Lifetime Television Network, Adam Lewinson has created on-air promotions for such films as “What Women Want,” “Bridget Jones's Diary,” “Unfaithful,” “Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and “Pearl Harbor.”

Plus, he creates “Lifetime Movie Network Goes Hollywood,” a monthly segment featuring celebrity interviews. In the past, he promoted major movies for Sony Pictures Entertainment and Disney Home Video.

He is the perfect person to ask for advice on dealing with Hollywood.

QUESTION: You have worked with a fair amount of movie studios and even for one at one time. What advice do you have regarding partnering with Hollywood?

LEWINSON: If it’s a movie, read the script and make sure the entertainment property is on brand. Make sure there is no objectionable material and you know what kind of talent participation to expect.

I’ve seen it work incredibly well and poorly. Right now, Mike Myers is doing Pepsi commercials in his Austin Powers apparel with Britney Spears. Here is good example of talent getting behind a promotion.

We did one at Columbia with the “Zorro” movie and Ford. Catherine Zeta-Jones agreed, but Antonio Banderas did not. We still made it work, but you should know that talent deals can be very tricky and challenging, and a brand needs to know if you are buying off of the brand or getting talent involved.

There is no such thing as a sure thing; go with a brand that has the best chance of resonating. A notable franchise is a good bet.

Also, make sure the brand equity you are borrowing in your promotion is going to hit your business objective. At Columbia, we did a deal with Radio Shack for the “Stuart Little” movie. Radio Shack wanted to target moms and kids. The ad campaign worked very well, and [Radio Shack] also sold radio-controlled cars.

There are partners that look to do promotions with us for our brand, while others look for a show. We have a new show in production called “For The People.” It’s a one-hour drama about female district attorneys, starring Lea Thompson. Advertisers are already asking about talent involvement, brand equity and the story line matching their brand. This is what needs to happen.

QUESTION: How should marketers measure the success of such promotions?

LEWINSON: Sometimes criteria can be very structured. We can look at ratings, hits on a Web page, an increase in sales. If it is a feature film, look at the weekend box office. After you get those box office numbers, you can [see] if a promotion feels right.

If you can’t do a creative execution for a promotion, don’t do it.

We have had a promo running for eight months at the Disney MGM theme park. Its “Dressed to Thrill” exhibit is a museum exhibit with costumes from some of the great actresses of all time. We tied in our show “Intimate Portrait” with that. We have a kiosk that talks about the exhibit, and it gives a promo of show. We cannot judge how people react to this, but we can look at the foot traffic. It’s more of a gut feeling. We know it is a brand fit, and we love the creative. It’s perfect for all involved.

QUESTION: You do a fair amount of contests and sweepstakes. What are some best practices as well as what to avoid about creating them?

LEWINSON: Everyone has to be on brand and on target. It has to be fun and engaging, whether it ties in with programming or not. Make sure the prizes are engaging enough for someone to enter; they should relate to the brand as well. Try to make them turnkey.

Creative is incredibly important. Know what the exposure is going to be. Is it going to be organic? Will the consumer have time to see your brand? I’ve seen some where the advertiser has tiny exposure, and it’s more about the prizes.

Recently I did a sweepstakes with two partners, and I was very up front with everyone that we should not use a second partner unless it was an organic fit. It wasn’t until we were in the editing room that we figured how to do the second company’s messaging. Instead of just taking their money, we took time to develop a creative solution and the second partner loved the response it got. You should always be careful to deliver on what you do.

QUESTION: Which contest or sweepstakes has been the most successful in recent history? What did you use to measure its success?

LEWINSON: We did a huge promo for the “What Women Want” movie. We gave away $50,000 of “empowerment” money. We didn’t market it as just cash, but cash with purpose.

The messaging was that [the winners] could take money and start a business or go back to school. We thought that was positive messaging. We received tremendous Web traffic for that one. At the time it was one of the most successful sweepstakes in our history. We promoted on the air and online. We also had Mel Gibson in the spot, and I believe that helped.

We also did a significant promotion for the new “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” movie. The movie is a perfect brand for us and the prize is fun; we gave away four tickets to the red- carpet premiere. At the sweepstakes website, you got more information on the movie, too. Lifetime gives women access to Hollywood, and we fulfilled a brand promise. I can’t reveal the exact numbers on that but I can say hundreds of thousands entered. We do our best to keep these kinds of promotions simple.

QUESTION: When you do create such promotions? Has it been all in- house or outsourced, and what is the advantage of either method?

LEWINSON: We do both; it helps with prizing fulfillment.

I like working with outside promotions agencies because they are experts, and they know how to give the prizewinner a certain level of service.

Doing creative is a good mix [of in-house and outsourcing]. Sometimes we produce in-house. For creative, I outsource because our team is in New York City. It’s really a mixed bag. Every deal is really different, and you just need to decide what works best for you.

QUESTION: How do you approach integrated promotional relationships, such as the ones you have with Hollywood and some major Internet brands? In the same vein, what should be avoided?

LEWINSON: The key to all of our promotions is that they have to go back to the brand, plain and simple.

The brand is about entertainment for women, and one of our strongest franchises are movies. The other side is reality: women overcoming great odds and inspiring advocacy. What I try to do is find other partners to lend our brand identity if they target women in some way.

We have lots of companies approach us all the time for partnerships, typically a marketer that wants to strengthen the brand with women. When we take these meetings what we look for is a balance -- does the other company offer products or services or entertainment our women will enjoy? We also look to see what a partner can provide to our audience. Sometimes it’s all about advocacy.

A partnership is about money and exposure. Sometimes it’s more important to get media dollars and exposure. Here it’s about meeting a brand objective, strengthening our brand as well as our partner’s brand. Both sides have to feel they are getting as much as they are giving; I have always tried to forge alliances in this way.

Also, I really like to work with companies over and over again; if you want to do that, you have to look at it like a personal relationship. You need to feel good about what you are entering into.

I also try to consider the other side’s position; it’s the most useful tactic you can employ. If I understand them and their brand, I’m in a much better position to help them. So much of a promotional partnership is research. I found that the [partnerships] where we have taken the time [to do the necessary research] and nurture have been the ones that continue.

QUESTION: Who should be partnering with Lifetime and why?

LEWINSON: Oftentimes, we get approached by partners looking to target mothers. We have that [demographic] but we don’t just want to tell mom about the great new kids’ toy or movie. We really want to say “this is something for you” or “this will inspire you or inform you.”

The biggest wins are companies interested in advocacy and key public affairs initiatives. If a partner is interested in this, it has the makings of a truly great partnership.

Honestly, we will do promos with any category you can think of -- automotive, apparel, consumer package goods and entertainment products.

Take our Hard Rock Café partnership, which began two years ago. Lifetime typically doesn’t do music programs. I thought it would make a lot of sense to bring in a partner that is receptive to messages about music. Hard Rock has about 40 locations around the country, and it has tremendous foot traffic and a nice mix of local visitors as well. With merchandise, when people think of music they think of the Hard Rock.

It also supports advocacy, and it has various ways to fundraise as well. It makes guitar pins for lapels. We created pink and then orange “Women Rock” [Lifetime TV show] pins that say “Stop Breast Cancer.” Hard Rock sells these pins at all locations and on its website; proceeds all go to our breast cancer charity partners. It was an organic fit.

We also created full-sized Fender guitars, auctioned them on eBay [a Hard Rock partner] and promoted it within the “Women Rock” show. Some segments of the show also were filmed at Hard Rock Cafes.

QUESTION: Have you had other successful promotional partnerships where the Web was used as an extension or as a part of that relationship? Why did they work?

LEWINSON: We did one with the 20th Century Fox movie “High Crimes,” which wanted to get the point “how well do you know your lover?” across.

We developed an online quiz that asked “how well do you know your mate?” We created an on-air spot that drove people to our site to take the quiz. We also gave people promotional information about the movie after they took the quiz, and then we drove people to the “High Crimes” site.

This is a great example of how we used the power of our online messaging for a promotion. I don’t have the numbers, but I know our online team felt that the numbers were very significant. It did work extremely well.
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