Media All-Stars 2003: Laura Caraccioli-Davis

Linking products to entertainment properties creates new contact points with target audience.

Long before Madison Avenue ever crossed Vine, Laura Caraccioli was helping to pave that intersection. Armed with a vast knowledge of both media and programming, she played a pioneering role in the field of entertainment marketing.

And she continues to do so. In the past year, Caraccioli, senior vp/director of SMG Entertainment, engineered a variety of campaigns that define why she was chosen as a Media All-Star in non-traditional media. Among those campaigns are two that stand out: Kellogg’s Pop Tarts’ sponsorship of American Idol’s live tour, and Lego’s introduction of its Clikits brand, targeting girls ages 6 to 11.

Caraccioli notes that SMGE helped Pop Tarts sponsor Idol’s first live national tour in 2002. But it followed so closely on the heels of the program’s freshman success—the series launched in June, the tour kicked off in October—that there was little time to carry the campaign beyond traditional meet-and-greets, radio remotes and ticket giveaways.

Anticipating Idol’s continued success earlier this year, SMGE activated the second tour’s campaign on a store level to take advantage of licensing opportunities. In conjunction with Idol’s summer tour, Kellogg introduced a line of frozen Pop Tarts with the show’s logo branded on the boxes. Caraccioli says SMGE broke new ground in merchandising the brand because many stores moved the new flavors from the snack and cereal aisles to the freezer case. Idol’s brand strength is so strong, she adds, “stores were more apt to move the flavors front and center, because consumers gravitated toward them.”

SMGE also brokered a deal with Ticketmaster through which Kellogg offered exclusive blocks of concert tickets available only via the Pop Tarts Web site. Following a successful viral marketing campaign, Caraccioli says, the initiative sold one-quarter of each venue in 40 markets nationwide.

For Kellogg, the tour was a huge success. “Our base business grew a lot on our core brands, and it helped us to launch new products,” says Scott Hamric, associate director of marketing for Kellogg. “To have that many wins associated with a partnership is outstanding.”

The second campaign Caraccioli engineered revolved around Lego’s introduction of Clikits. The toy line features click-and-play pieces in the shapes of stars, hearts, and flowers that join to create picture frames and jewelry. As a licensee of Harry Potter merchandise, which drew strong sales among young girls, Lego saw an opportunity to target that demo with other products. With two girls of her own, ages 4 and 7, who better to talk to that demo than Caraccioli?

Although the conventional approach to such a campaign might have been TV advertising, Caraccioli says “there was a smarter way to talk to girls 6 to 11.”

She used the marketing dollars allocated for TV to partner with Sony Music and its Swedish girl-pop band Play. Masking its communication plan as a quasi-celebrity endorsement deal, Caraccioli says inserts appeared inside Play’s CDs, which drove consumers to the Clikits Web site. Play’s band members wore Clikits jewelry at events. There was even a design sweepstakes, with the first prize a concert and meet-and-greet at the winner’s school.

Clikits ads also were featured in the Limited Too’s so-called “catazine,” which had never before featured ads for other brands. Between Sony and Limited Too, Caraccioli says the campaign “created contact points with the consumer that didn’t exist before.”

For many who have watched Caraccioli’s career over the years, both the Kellogg and Lego campaigns underscore the effectiveness of her innovative approach to entertainment marketing. “In an area that’s full of hype, Laura has her feet firmly rooted in the tangible,” says Nick Brien, president of corporate business development at SMG. “For Laura, it’s not just about the big, sexy idea. It’s about ideas that work.”

Of course, Caraccioli credits her seven-member team—Kathryn Thomas, Tom Weeks, Amy Harris, Meghan Stutzman, Laura Baruch, Allison Walwyn and Angela Lopez—with much of her success.

Prior to joining SMGE—then known as Starcom Entertainment—in 1995, Caraccioli worked in program sales and content development for a number of production and syndication companies. From the outset, she says, she was drawn to children’s programming and products, an attraction that only was enhanced by the birth of her own children. And if, before they were born, she spent way too much time at Toys R Us, she jokes, “now I have an excuse.”

A.J. Frutkin is a senior editor at Mediaweek.