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Food Show Chefs Whet Brand Appetite

RELATED: At Evolving CNN, Lifestyle Is News

The thing about lifestyle programming is that viewers get
very attached. They get attached to the shows. They get attached to the
network. And they get attached to the personalities.

Advertisers are the same way. Take Food Network, part of
Scripps Networks, which has built its business on Food, HGTV and its other
lifestyle brands.

"Advertisers come to us. They know we know how to speak to
our audience best," says Karen Grinthal, senior VP, national ad sales, food
category, for Scripps Networks Interactive.

"The idea of the [Food Network] brand now is that it is
really ubiquitous in people's lives. And that's part of why advertisers like to
do specialty marketing with us, because they get the reach of an entertainment
brand and they get the focus of a vertical. And that's really unusual,"
Grinthal adds.

What's also unusual is the way personalities have been a
part of the Food Network brand. "I've been here for almost 16 years and we did
that from the very beginning, when Emeril [Lagasse] was the only known
personality and we had 20 million homes and we were doing specialty custom
production," Grinthal says. "It was a lot less sophisticated, but it was
definitely there."

In this year's upfront, Food Network will be emphasizing Chef
, a series in which a restaurant searches for the person with the
recipe for its success. Kohl's is already a sponsor, but the network wants to
raise its profile among advertisers and other potential promotional partners.

Chef Wanted is hosted by Anne Burrell, who might be
poised to be not only a TV star but a marketing diva. She would be following in
the footsteps of current Food Network chefs Robert Irvine, a spokesman for
Lexus and Sysco; Alex Guarnaschelli, who has a deal with Fisher Nuts; and
Sandra Lee, who works with Diageo. Other Food Network personalities have
merchandising deals, including Giada De Laurentiis, Paula Deen and Lagasse.
These stars have a connection to the network that sticks by even as individual
shows come and go.

Burrell started on TV as Mario Batali's sous chef in Food
Network's Iron Chef. She also cohosts Food's Worst Cooks in America,
where she has adopted a tough but compassionate demeanor.

"She cares very deeply about what she does," Grinthal says
of Burrell. "She's been a line cook in a restaurant. She's been an executive
chef, and she understands in a deep and personal way how stressful that job is
and what it takes to do it right. Anne is interesting because she's really
tough on the outside, but she's really soft in the inside because she has so
much emotion invested. And that's what's so relatable about her."

And that gives Burrell the potential to have a role in the
marketing of Food Network ad clients.

While discussions with clients can lead to talent
involvement, sometimes the clients seek out the network's hosts on their own.
And when they make a deal, it is separate from any media buy.

"We often bring opportunities to talent. But when it comes
to the actual negotiations, that is not our realm," says Grinthal, who wishes
talent was on her rate card.

"We try to put together what the breadth and scope of a
relationship is as it pertains to us and them with the advertisers. And so our
marketing team works closely and our PR team works closely with an agent to
make sure we're all in synch," Grinthal says. "We don't own the talent. We own
the show. In the beginning stages of their career, we have obviously more say.
We have approval. But the more senior they get, the more latitude they have."

For example, Rachael Ray has a two-year deal promoting S.C.
Johnson products. "We did a whole Scripps-wide deal with S.C. Johnson, so we
create custom content featuring [Ray]. But the deal with the company, that's
her deal," says Grinthal. "But it wouldn't have happened if we hadn't sat down
together with a broad concept with S.C. Johnson and then they said, ‘Now we
want talent in, and we want Rachael.' We can't offer that. That is their

But it pays to keep the programmer involved for
marketers doing business with Food Network talent. "Target is a very big
partner of ours, and they have a line of cookware and food with Giada De
Laurentiis," says Grinthal. "So we sit down and we say, ‘You have this
investment with Giada, you have a great investment with us. We have all these
assets. How do we make them all work hardest for you?' And that's the