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Saturn's Big Viacom Tie-In

It is going to be hard for young adults to escape Saturn's new Ion compact sedan. The General Motors division has cut a multimillion-dollar cross-platform marketing deal to spread the word about the low-priced car on Viacom's broadcast and cable networks, Westwood One radio networks and Infinity radio stations.

Like the car, the spots target 18- to 34-year-olds.

Saturn and Viacom wouldn't say how much the cross-platform deal is worth. According to Nielsen Media Research's Monitor-Plus ad tracking service, Saturn spent about $110 million on network TV, $27 million on cable and $48 million on national spot in the period January-November 2002.

The deal revolves around Survivor
tie-ins. Fans who visit Saturn dealerships can pick up a DVD with exclusive information about contestants in the latest edition of the show, Survivor: The Amazon, which debuts this Thursday on CBS. In the car category, Ion is exclusively featured in the program.

The DVD gives fans a chance in a Survivor
sweepstakes. At stake: a trip to the finale of Survivor: The Amazon
or, possibly, a new Ion.

Auto showcase

The agreement stems from General Motors' sponsorship of Survivor, hugely popular with the 18-34 crowd. GM has been with the show since it debuted three years ago, spending roughly $12 million in each edition to be the exclusive auto sponsor. It has used the program to showcase different vehicles; last fall, the Chevy Trailblazer was the exclusive sponsor of Survivor: Thailand. But the cross-platform deal for Ion involves incremental spending above the sponsorship in Survivor: Amazon.

The GM Survivor
sponsorships have all involved placing cars in the show. Saturn is one of three major sponsors (each spending around $12 million) of the upcoming installment of Survivor. Another is Coors; the other is Coca-Cola, replacing Pepsi.

GM wants a hard push for its brand-new Ion, says, Lisa McCarthy, executive vice president, Viacom-Plus, Viacom's cross-platform marketing unit. (See page 20 for changes at some of the other major cross-platform marketing operations.)

McCarthy said the marketing folks at GM knew they wanted Survivor
to anchor the launch of Ion, given the show's past successes. But then last fall, she said, executives at GM MediaWorks, the in-house ad marketing unit came to her and said, "Let's blow it out, make it bigger and create an innovative program that generates buzz around the new car."

McCarthy credits the folks at MediaWorks with the idea of the DVD available only from dealerships. "My response was wow! From there, we started brainstorming. some other ideas came up, and here we are."

A lot is riding on the Ion launch, said Jill Lajdziak, vice president for sales, service and marketing at Saturn, "It's a tremendously important introduction for us. [Survivor
is] a great platform to engage our audience in different ways."

MTV, VH1 special

Even show producer Mark Burnett is getting into the act. With Saturn's sponsorship, he is producing 30-minute special Survivor: Men vs. Women Rumble in the Jungle, which will air on MTV and VH1. It's the first time a special about the show has been backed by an exclusive sponsor.

Meanwhile, GM has been building awareness of Survivor: Amazon and the DVD and contest tie-in with a series of 60- and 30-second spots that started airing about two weeks ago on Viacom's cable (MTV, VH1, TNN and CTN) and broadcast (CBS and UPN) networks and the radio stations.

A number of additional ideas and concepts were considered but ended on the cutting-room floor, McCarthy said. "We had a very tight time frame to create and execute the program. We had our first meeting at end of November. I've seen some amazing things accomplished at this company, but this was really a lightning-speed project."