By Stuart Elliot
Crossover episodes of television series are a popular method to stimulate ratings, as viewers are encouraged to watch cast members from one show turn up on another. Crossovers date to the early days of the medium and there was one as recently as March 26, when cast members from two TV Land series, “Hot in Cleveland” and “The Soul Man,” exchanged appearances on each other’s programs.
Now, two magazines are seeking to emulate the crossover concept. The May issues of Food Network Magazine and HGTV Magazine will feature coordinated front covers and three-page gatefolds, or cover foldouts; a video clip, which can be watched through YouTube or the Blippar and Digimarc Discover apps; and articles that share the idea of throwing a colorful spring party. The premise is that Food Network Magazine is supplying tasty cookies and cupcakes for the fete while HGTV Magazine provides the décor.
The print version of the television crossover has a sponsor, Pure Leaf tea, which will run a three-page advertorial, carrying the headline “For the Love of Entertaining,” on the other side of the gatefolds of both magazines. The advertorial will be accompanied by adjacent one-page regular ads for Pure Leaf, part of a current campaign, created by Anomaly in New York, owned by MDC Partners, with the theme “For the love of leaves.”
Pure Leaf is estimated to be spending more than $1 million on the project, which was developed by the creative services and marketing departments of the magazines with OMD, the media buying agency for Pure Leaf. The two magazines are paying for special “It’s a Party” displays of the issues at Barnes & Nobles stores and at Gateway newsstands around the country.
Like the TV Land crossovers last month, made simpler because both series are on the same cable channel, both magazines hosting the crossover party share a parent: They are part of a joint venture of the Hearst Magazines division of the Hearst Corporation and Scripps Networks Interactive. Coincidentally, Pure Leaf is a product of a joint venture between PepsiCo and Unilever, known as the Pepsi Lipton Tea Partnership.
The crossover is another example of how magazines are seeking to innovate for marketers and readers as they compete for advertising dollars and eyeballs with new media like online video as well as traditional rivals like television. In fact, the project emerged from a meeting by Hearst Magazines on Oct. 15 that was intended as a print version of a television upfront presentation, wooing advertisers by offering them opportunities to be part of new initiatives on the news and business sides of the company.
“When Michael Clinton said we were putting together a ‘magfront,’ each one of us was asked to come up with a big idea,” said Daniel Fuchs, publisher and chief revenue officer at HGTV Magazine, referring to the president for marketing and publishing director at Hearst Magazines. During the meeting, according to Mr. Fuchs and Vicki Wellington, vice president, publisher and chief revenue officer at Food Network Magazine, the editor in chief at Food Network Magazine, Maile Carpenter, “put it out there that they were looking to work with HGTV Magazine on a dual cover.”
“OMD reached out to Vicki and me and said they had a client interested and could we make it work in the springtime,” Mr. Fuchs said, when the project would be a good fit with the Pure Leaf marketing calendar. “It seemed natural, food and home, working so well together.”
Ms. Carpenter and Sara Peterson, editor in chief at HGTV Magazine, said they were pleased with the project because, as Ms. Peterson put it, “it started with an editorial idea,” adding, “That was very important to us, from the beginning.”
Still, Ms. Carpenter and Ms. Wellington said, all the coordination required was no easy task. Ms. Wellington said: “The challenge was, how do you marry all three brands There were numerous, numerous cycles of this, iteration after iteration. It had to be right.”
Executives on the advertising side of the project said they, too, liked the outcome.
“The brands that are winning are the ones engaging the consumer to build a relationship,” said Eric Whitehouse, director for marketing at the Pepsi Lipton partnership. “We want to deliver a lot of lifestyle-oriented communications around the Pure Leaf brand to break through.” PepsiCo lists Pure Leaf as among six new brands on track to reach at least $100 million in annual American retail sales.
“We loved the idea from the first time we heard it,” said Brad Valeri, group director for strategy at OMD in New York, part of the Omnicom Group, because the magazines are “two of the most vital magazines in the print space” — regularly raising their rate bases, the circulations guaranteed to advertisers — and the project is “very much on message for our objectives for Pure Leaf for 2014, talking to our consumers’ passion points.”
The project “goes beyond” generating awareness of the Pure Leaf brand, he added, “to tell the brand story, that real tea taste comes from tea brewed from real tea.”
The editors in chief and publishers of the magazines hope to try another crossover. “We’re bullish about what we expect to hear,” Ms. Wellington said.
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