TV Dinners on King of Queens Syndie Menu

Even if television does put 10 pounds on your appearance, amiable King of Queens star Kevin James is a big man, and there's a good chance that, when you're strolling the aisles of your favorite grocery this summer, you'll see his mug smiling at you near the frozen-food case.

He'll be advertising Hungry-Man frozen dinners.

It's all part of a nationwide promotion and sweepstakes linking the Pinnacle Foods TV dinner to the launch of Sony Pictures Television's King of Queens
in off-network syndication next September. The show is now cleared in 90% of the country, and Sony recently added WNYW(TV) New York, WCIU(TV) Chicago and KRIV(TV) Houston to the station roster.

And let's face it, could there be better match between a TV show and a consumer product? As Kevin James's character, parcel deliveryman Doug Hefferman, would say, "I know what I like, and I like a lot of it."

James, his ever feisty TV wife, Leah Remini, and Leah's TV dad, Jerry Stiller, will adorn the packages of some 20 million Hungry-Man frozen dinners. That's the man-sized TV dinner that guarantees a whole pound of food in each package. (Of course, if you're really hungry, you'll want to go for Hungry-Man XXL, the frozen dinner that packs a full pound and a half into a single serving.)

Either way, it's going to be hard to miss those specially marked TV dinners this summer. Kobin Enterprises, the marketing agency that worked on the project, estimates the promotion will generate 300 million impressions. And the partners estimate the media value of the campaign at about $7.5 million.

Robert Oswaks, executive vice president, marketing, Sony, said he and his marketing team began searching last year for potential marketing partners for the show's syndication launch. With seven broadcast networks, hundreds of cable networks and a slew of new syndication programs all clamoring for attention at the start of the new season, "there's a lot of noise out there, and we recognize that we need to rise above the noise."

That's hard to do, says Oswaks, with the usual print vehicles and on-air promotion time although those still remain part of the mix. "But we really wanted to get out there in a non-traditional way."

Last fall, Oswaks and his team compiled a list of potential marketing partners for the show. It didn't take long to figure out that Hungry-Man was the ideal fit. "Then it just became a matter of deciding how to make this work, because we realized we were perfect for each other." (Oddly, though an advertiser on CBS, Hungry-Man does not advertise on the series.)

The companies created the "King-Sized Adventure Sweepstakes," in which the grand-prize winner gets a trip to Hollywood to see an episode of the show produced, meet the cast and receive a coupon or two for Hungry-Man dinners.

"This brand has an ability to reach our audience, and our show really resonates with that brand," said Oswaks. Sony's King of Queens
Web site will promote the sweepstakes, and so will newspaper inserts.

It won't come as a big surprise if Hungry-Man becomes an advertiser on the off-network show, although Oswaks stresses that the sweepstakes is a stand-alone promotion not linked to advertising.

"This is about tune-in and awareness," he says. "At this point, it's premature to talk about advertising," but it's a safe bet Hungry-Man will be high on the list of prospects when the Sony ad-sales team begins its upfront activities.

Pinnacle executives couldn't be reached for comment, but Nielsen Media Research's Monitor-Plus ad-tracking service pegged ad spending for the Hungry-Man brand at $24.5 million in 2002.