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It's Just 'So Fox'

Fox is about to become an adjective. Executives at the News Corp.-owned network plan to roll out a branding campaign this summer across the network and its affiliates, anchored by the slogan “So Fox.” As in, so brash. So edgy. So Fox.

The push will debut this month, sometime before Fox's new season kicks off on Labor Day. Joe Earley, who was named executive VP, marketing and communications for Fox Broadcasting Co. last year, plans to unveil the campaign to Fox affiliate marketing pros gathered this week in Orlando for the annual Fox Promotions Executive Conference (FPEC).

After the campaign launches with general spots during the summer, a second phase will roll out with show-specific branding communicating how each show is “So Fox.”

Earley notes Fox has had other branding campaigns in the past, but this one allows the first-place network to have a little fun even at its own expense. “The thing that's important about this line is that it allows us to be self-effacing, which we think is very important for the Fox brand,” he says. “Fox does have a naughty side, a bad side, a funny side. Our animated shows make fun of the network all the time.”

And while industry observers have long referred to shows like the cringe-inducing lie-detector program Moment of Truth as “so Fox,” now the network itself can join in.

The “unifying campaign,” as Earley calls it, includes graphics, back plates, transitions, night opens and color palettes, with a dedicated color for each show. It will tie into everything from primetime series to sports, and perhaps most importantly, local stations throughout their day, according to Nick Belperio, senior VP of marketing at Fox Broadcasting.

Earley and Belperio both emphasize the importance of the affiliates' role in this initiative—and to the network in general. “We rely on these stations in a way other nets don't,” Belperio says.

Fox programs two hours of its affiliates a day. ABC, NBC and CBS program 11 hours. Since Fox affiliates control 22 hours daily, promotion for the network is largely in their hands. In other words, the fact that the executives will preview “So Fox” during FPEC is no coincidence.

“FPEC is just sort of a change in direction for marketing,” Earley says. “Some previous heads of marketing felt affiliates need to conform to the network. I truly believe they are the network.

“This new branding is with the affiliate in mind,” he adds. “It is 100% localizable. Just as the branding embraces what's unique about Fox, the affiliate can localize what is distinct about their local market and their role in the local market.”

Fox execs will be on hand at FPEC to workshop how to incorporate the collateral, which includes custom graphics for local outlets. “Now we can have one look through the day, so if you're watching Fox 11 in L.A. or Fox 5 in New York, it doesn't change when you get to 8 o'clock,” Earley says.

Belperio expects record attendance for FPEC this year, with about 180 markets represented during three days at the Walt Disney World Swan resort. He intentionally keeps the individual meetings small, “so people can get up, interrupt, talk about it, have a meaningful meeting,” he says.

Belperio and Michelle Garry, VP of affiliate marketing for Fox, stacked the agenda with several speakers from inside and outside the company. They include Maureen O'Connell, senior VP of government relations for Fox, who will talk about the DTV transition and other Washington-related issues; Fox executives from sports, research, online, publicity and promotions; and consultants Irma Zandl and Graeme Newell.

The three-day event is a six-figure endeavor, and the network foots the bill. “It's expensive but worth it,” Belperio says.

Fox also will have some help with the tab. Fox affiliates are generally big syndication customers, since they have more airtime to fill than traditional affiliates, so most major syndicators participate in FPEC as sponsors of cocktail hours and other events, which helps defray the cost. Disney, Debmar-Mercury, NBC Universal, Sony and Twentieth Television are among companies represented this year, according to Fox.

If this all sounds a bit like the Promax/BDA promotion and design conference, it is with good reason. Years ago, Fox held the event in conjunction with Promax. Ultimately, the network changed course due to costs. Fox executives found Orlando the cheapest convention city and New York, where Promax was held recently, too steep.