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Inside the CW's Launch Plan: Trying to Slay a Broader Audience

If you were still paying attention by the end of the second week of the most recent Television Critics Association press tour (and you could be forgiven for burning out by then), you might have noticed new CW President Mark Pedowitz talking about broadening the appeal of the network-not only by his admission that he's open to developing comedies, but through two new fall shows.

"Our bread and butter is women 18-34 and to deny that is a mistake," Pedowitz told a group of reporters at TCA. "But what we do want to do, which Ringer and Hart of Dixie provide us the opportunity to do, is to invite more 18-34s in, plus allow other people and other age groups to come sample us."

The desire to attract new viewers to The CW will be reflected in the marketing for Hart of Dixie and Ringer, differing from its usual strategy of what the network calls "smartly provocative" campaigns that push the boundaries (think the "OMFG" ads for Gossip Girl).

"I hope we have been smartly provocative with all of our shows, but also meeting the tenor of what the show's DNA is all about," says Rick Haskins, CW executive VP of marketing and brand strategy.

Hart of Dixie, which stars Rachel Bilson as a New York doctor who inherits a practice in small-town Alabama, is The CW's first show set in the South (besides One Tree Hill, a legacy WB series). As such, Haskins has cooked up what he dubs a "Southern fried" media plan that targets audiences in the South and Midwest.

"We feel that is one of two really big opportunities for us to reach a different audience that we really couldn't reach with some of our other shows," Haskins says. "The South does very well for us, we have very strong affiliates and we think that this is really a good opportunity for us to take advantage of that with a show that they are dying to see."

The campaign includes new buys for the network including at top-50 country radio stations, cable networks CMT and GAC and Country Weekly magazine. They'll also fly aerial banners over NCAA football games for two weekends prior to the premiere for teams like Alabama, Mississippi State and LSU. And the campaign will further target the region with ads in 40 malls, billboards along major interstates and screenings in the top eight markets with strong country radio stations.

"The show lends itself to different media and what different media means is broadening our audience because we've never really had anything to talk to that audience about, which we do now," Haskins says.

But The CW doesn't want to ignore its core audience, either. Hart of Dixie leads out of Gossip Girl on Monday nights, and the network is hoping Rachel Bilson's fashion-icon status will draw the latter show's heavy fan base in New York and Los Angeles to the new series.

As for Ringer, Haskins sums up the marketing strategy for that series in three words: Sarah Michelle Gellar. "SMG is our OMG for this campaign," he says, referencing Gossip Girl's popular "OMG" tagline. Ringer is Gellar's first TV series since her Buffy the Vampire Slayer days, and is a big name for the still relatively small network.

As such, Ringer will get a big push from The CW, with Haskins calling it "a broader buy than we historically do." The campaign includes an eight-deep print buy of large circulation magazines such as People and Us Weekly as well as Soap Opera Digest (Gellar got her start on All My Children). There's also a big cable buy, which for the first time includes BBC America, part of The CW's attempt to attract new viewers on the name recognition of Gellar.

"That built-in equity that she brings is very important to us because I think a lot of people that have never ever watched The CW are going to start watching The CW to see Sarah Michelle Gellar," Haskins says.