For the past three weeks, members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences have been coming home to mysterious packages set upon their doorsteps as networks, TV producers and their public relations firms vie to get their vote for the Primetime Emmy Awards. Some of the gimmicks are so arresting that AWN decided to look into who is responsible for these bizarre campaigns and what is involved. The votes to nominate productions, talent and craft people were due June 20, 2003, so a bit of disclosure should not sway results.
Videocassettes and DVDs are often just sent out in plain brown envelopes or indistinguishable small boxes. But some are big boxes containing elegantly packaged libraries of programs or handsomely printed packages that light up or emit sounds. The DVD for John Grisham's A PAINTED HOUSE came in a specially printed paint can. The SCI FI Network sent an amazing white acrylic orb, about the size of a basketball that looked like a moon, which set upon a pedestal. It split in half to reveal DVDs of its shows for consideration.
Jonah Borris, director of tv and digital entertainment, for Rogers and Cowan shed some light on the orb. The agency does campaigns for many networks and turned out some of the most notable this year, which included the MAD-TV DVD popping out of snake-in-the-can type package.
"We spend a lot of time (months) working collaboratively with our creative team and our network clients to create unique and dazzling mailers to generate attention so that voters would watch the contents," said Borris. "Sometimes, concepts come very easily, while others take much longer to develop and refine."
When asked if the packaging needs reflect a brand from the network, he said there is always a brand foundation, but they try to veer from it a bit so that voters aren't exposed to old images. "We constantly need to revitalize the images that were used for premiere."
The white orb was a challenge to produce on time and on budget. "Had we had more time, we could have produced the orb in China or somewhere else to bring the cost down, but that wasn't an option," he said. "We have a variety of vendors that we have been using for many years, and, like magic, they are able to always produce whatever concept we come up with. Shipping constraints are always a challenge. The postal service can be very brutal on our mailers. We're also concerned with weight as that increases the shipping costs and we have very limited budgets."
Speaking of budgets, Borris said the range for these campaigns, at least at his agency, can range from $150,000 to $3 million.
At these prices, they want to make sure nothing backfires so they try to think ahead of all instances that could go wrong. "We're very methodical and try to plan for any mishaps so that we can avoid them," according to Borris. "We ship samples in advance to test their durability through the postal system, etc. That's really the biggest unknown."
As more members are switching to DVD players at home, which makes for easier shipping, the potential nominee and agency must decide whether to send tapes or DVDs. "If budget allows, we send both, but the majority of the TV Academy is still tape centric, and, until that changes, we will always send tapes first," said Borris.
Nominations for Primetime Emmys will be announced on July 17, 2003. Good luck to the competitors and their promoters.