Selling the Space Between 'Law' and 'Order'

It's been said that Law & Order has the perfect format: the first half of the show tracks the investigation, while in the second half-hour, viewers watch the prosecution at work.

Turner Network Television, the exclusive cable home to the long-running off-network drama, has been capitalizing on that "crime-and-punishment" motif, inking clients to sponsorship deals for a customized vignette that recaps the show's first half hour and sets the stage for the second during a half-dozen weeknight airings of the popular program.

Succeeding Nissan, the initial presenting sponsor of "The Investigation … So Far" vignette during the fourth quarter, Pfizer Consumer Health Care will carry the banner in the first quarter. Kaki Hinton, vice president of advertising services at Pfizer, said the company will rotate three brands over that span: new product Listerine Citrus Mouthwash in January, Rolaids in February and Zantac in March.

The company's pharmaceutical arm has secured the sponsorship for the second quarter, but has not yet identified which brand or brands it will affix to the vignette, according to Turner Entertainment Sales executive vice president Linda Yaccarino.

Yaccarino said Turner Entertainment Sales last January began discussing the "unique packaging opportunity" during planning sessions for the 2003-04 upfront season.

"The show breaks perfectly and this is a great environment for an advertiser: exclusive branding against the highest-rated off-network show on cable in primetime," she said.

She noted that packages were offered to a number of clients and there was great interest among agencies and companies, before Nissan and Pfizer stepped up. Verizon Communications Inc. is on board for the third quarter of 2004.

In addition to sponsoring the mid-episode recap vignettes, which vary in length from 30 to 60 seconds, Nissan and now Pfizer will benefit from viewer impressions via co-branded tune-in spots that run throughout the week, as well on-air billboards within each primetime Law & Order episode. The package also includes online integration elements.

Hinton said the company has been a sponsor of L&O since it bowed on NBC in 1990. She said the opportunity to sponsor the vignette is "a benefit of the long-standing relationship the company has had with TNT and TBS Superstation. This is a great way for Pfizer and its products to gain exposure via brand association with a wonderfully written and high-rated show."

Neither Hinton nor Yaccarino would disclose the premium Pfizer is paying for the vignette sponsorship.

Yaccarino said that while TNT proffered the vignette package on a quarterly basis to start, the term could be extended to a year. "Yes, there could be full-year opportunities; everything is open to a price," she said.