March 25, 2023

Advertising: A Season of Families, Vampires and Aliens

O.K., that is an exaggeration. But analysts and executives at media agencies who are studying the schedules announced during upfront week in New York see patterns amid the many shows the broadcasters will introduce in hopes of finding the big hits that have eluded them recently.

The 2012-13 season, which is about to end, “was so lackluster,” said Marc Berman, editor in chief of TV Media Insights. “Nothing broke out, and the networks realized they needed to step up to the plate.”

As a result, “the networks are being more aggressive,” Mr. Berman said, particularly with scripted shows, “the meat and potatoes of any schedule.” Of the 26 series to be introduced in September or October, Mr. Berman counted only one reality series, Fox’s “Junior Masterchef,” (which has already earned a nickname, “Kids With Knives”).

Including the series the networks have on the bench as midseason replacements, the number of new shows climbs to 52.

“I’m still trying to absorb it all,” said Steve Kalb, senior vice president for video investments at the MediaHub division of Mullen in Boston, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

Still, he spotted a trend of “more family-centric sitcoms, with a twist here and there,” in the vein of “Modern Family,” the popular ABC series that was picked up for a fifth season and will begin in reruns this fall on the USA Network cable channel.

Among those shows, he listed “Back in the Game,” “The Goldbergs” and “Trophy Wife” on ABC; “The Crazy Ones,” “The Millers” and “Mom” on CBS; “Dads” on Fox; and “Welcome to the Family,” “Sean Saves the World” and “The Michael J. Fox Show” on NBC.

David Campanelli, senior vice president and director for national television at Horizon Media in New York, described “The Goldbergs,” set in the 1980s, as “having a ‘Modern Family’ meets ‘The Wonder Years’ feel to it” and praised it as “the most promising” of the new comedies.

But in its period of 9 p.m. on Tuesday, “The Goldbergs” will face formidable competition, he added, from returning series: “NCIS: Los Angeles” on CBS, “New Girl” on Fox and “The Voice” results show on NBC.

After looking at the premises of the new sitcoms, Ed Martin, television columnist for MediaPost, said he found that “an awful lot of them are about parents moving in with kids and kids moving in with parents.”

“I don’t know how appealing that’s going to be,” he added.

But he described himself as “really intrigued” by the family sitcom “The Michael J. Fox Show” because Mr. Fox will play a television reporter and father who, like Mr. Fox in real life, has Parkinson’s disease.

“Barriers are broken in television when characters you don’t normally see in lead roles are put into lead roles and have a little fun with themselves,” Mr. Martin said. “That will make or break the show, if you think he is having fun.”

Another trend for 2013-14, involving dramas, echoes the last couple of seasons. “There are so many vampires and monsters and aliens and kids with supernatural powers,” Mr. Martin said. “It all felt very familiar, like I’d seen it before, and I had.”

Among those new series are “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” and “Resurrection” on ABC; “The Originals,” “The Tomorrow People,” “The 100” and “Star-Crossed” on CW; “Almost Human” and “Sleepy Hollow” on Fox; and “Dracula” on NBC.

A new ABC series set in a comic-book universe, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” is the drama “that looked the most exciting to me,” Mr. Martin said, partly because it is based on the hit movie “The Avengers.”

Shari Anne Brill, chief of Shari Anne Brill Media, was also dismayed by what she called “the usual crop of dark, supernatural shows with monsters, mayhem and magic.” Those “derivative” series may have a chance to stand out, she said, if they play up “underlying themes of power, betrayal, greed and revenge.”

After upfront week, a guessing game always begins: Which new shows will be among the first to be canceled? In the 2012-13 season, that dubious distinction went to “Made in Jersey” on CBS. 

“I don’t see anything along the lines of ‘Animal Practice,’ ” Ms. Brill said, citing a widely derided sitcom from the 2012-13 season that NBC canceled in November. She said she was unsure about the staying power of newcomers like “Trophy Wife.”

Mr. Martin, too, said he had little hope for “Trophy Wife” and doubted the prospects for “Sleepy Hollow” and “Lucky 7,” a drama on ABC.

Mr. Campanelli said he believed that a midseason replacement at Fox, “Gang Related,” may not see prime time because it “looked like an unnecessarily uber-violent show.”

Mr. Kalb, who called his record of predicting early cancellations “so bad every year that I have to leave it up to the American people,” wondered about “Reign,” a drama on CW about Mary, Queen of Scots, because it differs greatly from the network’s typical fare.

Although viewers may not go for “a period piece taking ‘90210’ to a new century,” he said, it could work if it is perceived as “the same good-looking people, just in different costumes.”

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Advertising: Tabasco and Frank’s RedHot in a Buffalo Wing Sauce Duel

Now, a hot sauce war has broken out in time for the Super Bowl, perhaps the most snack-centric day of the year. According to a survey from the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, consumers who plan to watch Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday will spend $11 billion on food and other goodies, compared with the $10.1 billion they said they would spend before Super Bowl XLV last year.

One hot sauce warrior is the McIlhenny Company, which is introducing a seventh flavor in its Tabasco line, Tabasco Buffalo Style hot sauce, joining varieties like the original, known as Tabasco pepper sauce, and chipotle pepper sauce.

The new flavor is celebrated in a campaign by Ogilvy West in Los Angeles as “from the people who perfected hot sauce,” offering “classic Buffalo flavor with just the right amount of heat.”

As those ads begin, Tabasco’s principal rival, Frank’s RedHot sauce, is expanding to national television a sassy campaign, previously in print and on radio, that carries the theme “I put that — — on everything.” ( The campaign, with a budget estimated at $15 million, is created by Euro RSCG New York.

In the frank Frank’s commercials, a bleeping sound is heard over the word as it is uttered by a mischievous older woman named Ethel. On screen, her mouth is covered by a splat, as if a censor spilled sauce on the film.

Ethel adds “a little bit of heat” to everyday life, “and not only metaphorically,” said Rahul Sabnis, executive creative director at Euro RSCG New York, part of the Euro RSCG Worldwide unit of Havas.

Because “we want to be clever and fun, but we don’t want to go over the top,” he added, the intent is to portray her as “your grandmother being a straight talker.”

The maker of Frank’s, Reckitt Benckiser, also plans to send a branded bus on a cross-country Frank’s to the People tour. It starts this week in Indianapolis, this year’s host of the Super Bowl.

When Buffalo wings were first served, in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1964, Frank’s RedHot was an ingredient in the sauce. Frank’s also offers a RedHot Buffalo Wings sauce, introduced in 1996, and even sells a flavor called Frank’s RedHot Hot Buffalo Wings.

The heating up of the hot sauce category is indicative of the increasing efforts by marketers of packaged foods to take advantage of a trend that began in 2008, when consumers seeking to economize started eating at home more often. That dovetailed with another change, a yen for bolder, intensely flavored foods.

For instance, the inside front cover of the Feb. 6 issue of Time magazine carries an ad for Lay’s Kettle Cooked Mesquite BBQ potato chips, sold by the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo. “BBQ so real,” the headline promises, “you’ll want to wipe the sauce off your face.”

(Hmmmm. Maybe Lay’s could flavor a chip with Tabasco or Frank’s RedHot.)


“We did a ‘needs gap’ study with consumers in 2010,” said Martin Manion, vice president for corporate marketing at the New Orleans office of McIlhenny, and “over 80 percent of the people we talked to thought that Buffalo would be a great addition to the Tabasco portfolio.”

Although “Frank’s is aligned with chicken wings through the story of Buffalo wings,” Mr. Manion said, in taste tests with consumers “six in 10 preferred the Tabasco formula to the one we tested against.”

The campaign promotes the product as “a Louisiana twist on something you’re familiar with,” he added, echoing a commercial that declares, “Buffalo, New York, meet Buffalo, Louisiana.”

“What McIlhenny has done is try to understand and remain on the leading edge of how palates have evolved over time,” Mr. Manion said. “When we introduced chipotle sauce, 90 percent of people couldn’t pronounce it.”


The campaign for Tabasco Buffalo Style, with a budget estimated at $3 million, includes television, radio and online ads; the Tabasco Web site,; and social media like Facebook and Twitter. The campaign carries a theme, “Are you one of us?,” created by Ogilvy West for the Tabasco brand.

“There are people who get hot sauce, and those who don’t,” said Colin Drummond, senior partner and head of planning at Ogilvy West, part of the Ogilvy Mather Worldwide unit of WPP, and Tabasco is particularly interested in those “we call ‘zesties,’ who share a zest for life and the food they eat.”

His colleague at Ogilvy West, Peter Kang, senior partner and executive creative director, said: “It’s kind of like life turned up to 11. Zesties carry Tabasco with them to put on their Egg McMuffins in the morning and on their dinners at four-star restaurants.”

As Reckitt Benckiser confronts competition in hot sauce, it is introducing a $20 million multimedia campaign — also by Euro RSCG New York — for another of its pantry staples, the French’s line of mustards, which carries the theme “Friends. Family. French’s.” In mustards, too, flavor is a focus, with ads for products like Spicy Brown and Dijon With Chardonnay along with original yellow.

Although they are “so different as brands,” said Paolo Zotti, vice president for marketing in the food division of Reckitt Benckiser in Chester, N.J., each campaign is about “trying to leverage and nurture a brand experience” centered on variety.

“I’m a romantic marketeer,” he added. “You’re successful if people love your brands.”

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Greek Anger on Debt Agreement Is Focused Especially on Germany

Here in Greece, anger is running so high — especially toward Germany, whose Nazi occupation still leaves deep scars here and which now dominates the European Union’s bailout of debt-ridden Greece — that National Day celebrations were called off on Friday in the northern city of Thessaloniki for the first time ever after a group shouted “traitor” to the Greek president, Karolos Papoulias.

“I was the one fighting the Germans,” Mr. Papoulias, 82, said on national television. “I am sorry for those who cursed at me. They should be ashamed of themselves. We fought for Greece. I was an insurgent from the age of 15. I fought the Nazis and the Germans, and now they call me a traitor?”

Beyond populist talk, which ranges from euro-skepticism to anti-German demagoguery, experts say the concessions that Greece has made in exchange for the foreign aid it needs to stave off default — including allowing European Union officials to monitor Greek state affairs closely — are unprecedented for a member nation, making Greece a bellwether for the future of European integration.

The European superpowers Germany and France are trying to translate the new deal, to accept a loss on part of Greece’s debt, into changing European Union treaties to give the union greater oversight of national budgets and to create tougher, more easily enforceable rules for countries that go astray.

After years of pay cuts and tax increases that have pushed the Greek middle class to the breaking point, Greeks are not inclined to feel grateful to the so-called troika of foreign lenders — the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — that demanded austerity in exchange for loans. Instead, they increasingly feel they have become a de facto European Union protectorate.

“If we weren’t under the E.U., which is the only reason this loss of sovereignty may be justified, I’d have to say that Greece is an occupied country,” said Nikos Alivizatos, a constitutional lawyer in Athens.

Such feelings run so deep that after reaching a deal in Brussels this week for banks to accept a 50 percent loss on the face value of their Greek bonds, Prime Minister George Papandreou took great pains to explain that a new agreement — a troika presence until 2020 — would only offer technical assistance and that it was not tantamount to Greece’s relinquishing control of its fate.

“Nothing in this deal sacrifices our right to take our own decision. On the contrary, it will pave the way for us to freedom from dependency,” Mr. Papandreou said in a televised address.

But few Greeks agree. “Our politicians are just employees, simple employees,” said Margarita Tripolia, 17, a high school student who marched in the National Day parade. She, like other students, turned her face away from representatives of the government, church and military outside Parliament in a silent protest against the austerity measures and the direction the country was going.

But the sovereignty question goes far beyond street protest.

One highly delicate, unresolved question, in negotiations between the European Union and banks over the Greek debt deal, is whether future Greek bonds will be governed by international law, not Greek law, which currently governs 90 percent of Greek bonds. Such a change — aimed at preventing Greece from changing its laws to the detriment of creditors — would be unprecedented for a European Union member country.

Some argue that greater oversight is needed for Greece to push through the structural changes it promised in exchange for foreign aid. They say some loss of Greek sovereignty is a small price to pay considering that the new debt deal and eventual recapitalization of some banks comes at the expense of taxpayers from other European countries.

Dimitris Bounias contributed reporting.

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At Impasse, Greek Leader Vows to Reset Cabinet

Earlier in the day, as thousands took to the streets to protest austerity measures, Mr. Papandreou offered to step aside so that his Socialist party could form a coalition government with the center-right opposition, but only if the opposition would support a new bailout plan for the debt-ridden country.

Greece needs to pass a new round of austerity measures by the end of the month in return for fresh loans from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

 Mr. Papandreou’s support has been plummeting, even within his party, and the Socialists appear to be lagging behind the center-right opposition for the first time since the current government was elected in 2009. With a five-seat majority in Parliament, Mr. Papandreou has been struggling to get his government fully behind the measures and to contain growing rifts within his party.

Antonis Samaras, the leader of the center-right New Democracy party, has opposed spending cuts. He has called instead for tax breaks and a renegotiation of the terms of Greece’s agreement with its foreign creditors.

After hours of speculation, Mr. Papandreou went on national television just before 10 p.m. local time and announced the cabinet reshuffle. He also criticized the opposition for playing politics with the country’s future.

Mr. Samaras defended his actions in a televised speech after Mr. Papandreou’s appearance, saying it was impossible to participate with the Socialists because “they have lost the trust of both the Greek citizens and the markets.”

Speaking of Mr. Papandreou, he said, “If he can govern, he shouldn’t have asked us for support. If he can’t, he should call elections.”

On Wednesday, thousands of people joined a nationwide strike as Parliament prepared to debate what would be a second round of sharp reductions in government spending. The measures are highly unpopular with Greeks, who have already suffered deep salary and pension cuts.

“We had the first set of measures, that’s over, now they want a second,” said Angeliki Kolandretsou, 63, a retired private nurse who joined the nationwide strike Wednesday. “But what will we see from this? Nothing at all. It will just go to the banks.”

On Wednesday, the police fired tear gas and scuffled with protesters in the central Syntagma Square here. The demonstrators were largely peaceful and from across Greek society, but some in the crowd smashed the windows of a luxury hotel and tried to prevent legislators from entering Parliament. Police officials said they detained more than 20 people.

Violent and often theatrical protests have long been a mainstay in Greece, even before the financial crisis hit. But in a more telling sign of the depth of the anger, peaceful demonstrators have gathered daily in Syntagma Square for three weeks, some sleeping in tents, to protest the austerity measures.

In Greece, there is a deep divide between policy experts, who tend to believe that the country is taking the right steps to get back on track, and a large percentage of Greeks, who feel they are unfairly suffering from the government’s mistakes.

“We didn’t create the debt, they created the debt,” said Lina Pantazi, 40, a public school French teacher, as she stood in Syntagma Square wearing a surgical mask and sunglasses to protect against tear gas that police fired on the crowds.

The new austerity measures aim to raise about $9.1 billion this year through additional tax increases and cuts to public sector spending.

They include a “solidarity tax,” ranging from 1 to 4 percent according to income, and an additional 3 percent tax on the incomes of civil servants — whose salaries have already been cut by up to 20 percent over the last year.

Owners of large properties, yachts and swimming pools would be subject to an emergency tax. The new austerity drive would also slash the Greek civil service, which employs about 800,000 people, by a quarter over the next few years, and sell off $71.45 billion in state-owned assets, including stakes in Greece’s main electricity utility.

Critics accuse the government of cutting wages and pensions while failing to adequately address rampant tax evasion or take on the powerful labor unions that remain a pillar of the Socialists’ power base.

But analysts said that in spite of the political turmoil, the Greek Parliament was still likely to pass the new austerity measures. “It’s going to be difficult, but the dilemma is clear,” said George Pagoulatos, a professor of European political economy at Athens University of Economics. “If the measure doesn’t pass and we don’t get the money, we go bankrupt.”

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