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Comedy Central Orders a Guinness

NEW YORK -The Comedy Central sales executives who raised a toast to Snapple last year are now drinking something harder: Guinness.

But even though the beverage isn't the same, Guinness Bass Import Co.'s year-long buy on Comedy-which includes national and local components-is similar to the one made by Snapple Beverage Co. last spring, said vice president of affiliate ad sales Kurt Greves.

In a multimillion dollar, multipronged deal, Guinness will commit most of its 2001 national television budget to Comedy Central. Its goal is to reach men aged 21 to 34, said Guinness vice president of marketing James Thompson.

Its buy will include customized features due to start running in late February on the network's The DailyShow with Jon Stewart
as well as customized billboards during that series, South Park
and The Man Show, said Comedy senior vice president of ad sales Glenn Close.

There also will be online and off-channel promotion elements, said Close, who called the young male demographic one that is "so crucial to both our businesses."

The main focus of Guinness' campaign next month is promotion of "The Great Guinness Toast," which will take place in participating bars across the U.S. on Feb. 23. The brewer intends to break the world record for the largest communal toast by getting revelers to simultaneously raise a pint of Guinness.

Last year's record was 320,470 adults 21 and older, Guinness said. The Comedy deal is the first national overlay in the history of the eight-year-old promotion. The Guinness Book of World Records
is affiliated with Guinness beer, Greves said.

The local buys, placed via spot-cable rep firm National Cable Communications, will run in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., Greves said. In New York, Guinness has bought time on the Madison Square Garden Network.

A local cable "Great Guinness Toast Sweepstakes" will be tied to The Daily Show, with a trip to a program taping in New York as grand prize, he said. Comedy affiliates in participating DMAs will plug the contest with some 200 cross-channel promos.

In addition, Guinness will tease the program and the sweepstakes on its own Web site (www.guinness.com, which will post a hyperlink to comedycentral.com), as well as via point-of-sale displays, banners, window signs, and T-shirts at 16,000 bars and retail outlets, as well as radio spots in 72 markets.

Comedy also is in discussions with potential sponsors and affiliates about its fall event, "The Laugh Riots Stand-Up Competition." (Last fall, Guinness' Bass Ale division bought sponsorship of the local semifinals in Atlanta via AT&T Broadband.)

Comedy, which developed the "Laugh Riots" promotion in conjunction with Los Angeles interconnect Adlink in 1999, may expand it from three markets last year to "ten or 12" this year, he added.

Snapple recently changed ad agencies, so it's unclear whether the soft-drink company will renew last spring's integrated national and local buy, Greves said.

Nationally, Snapple bought the network's "Indecision 2000" political coverage and tie-in sweepstakes and supplemented that purchase with a six-market local buy.