‘Cane’ Push Blends Content, Commerce

NEW YORK In a bid to generate buzz for its new prime-time series Cane, CBS has created a marketing campaign that integrates a print ad, appearing in the Sept. 7 issue of Rolling Stone, and a promotional contest into the storyline, which follows a Florida family in the rum making business.

The Rolling Stone ad is unusual on several fronts. It promotes a fake brand, Duque Rum, named after the family on the show, which stars Jimmy Smits. The ad features a sealed “flavor strip” designed to taste like a rum-based Mojito drink. This marks the first time a flavor strip has been used to tout a TV show, the network said.

CBS has also created a Web site that promotes the fake brand (and the actual program). Viewers can go to the site and enter a real contest to become the “Duque Rum Girl,” an advertising icon for the brand.

As if that wasn’t enough meshing of content and commerce, both the Rolling Stone push and the contest have been written into the storyline. The ad will appear on air and characters will discuss the brand’s marketing strategy, including the search for the next Duque Rum Girl, said George Schweitzer, president of CBS marketing. And the winner of the contest will be featured in an episode of the program later in the season.

The campaign is designed to “jump from the screen to reality and back to the screen, creating this whole kind of relationship between the show and the real world,” said Schweitzer. “It’s about engagement and integration.”

Schweitzer credited CBS’ media agency, Interpublic’s Initiative, with the flavor-strip idea; Schweitzer and the network’s marketing team developed the fake-brand concept.

This marks the second quirky print idea Initiative has used to promote a TV show. Last year, the shop worked with cable network Showtime, a unit of CBS, to develop a scent strip that smelled like marijuana, also for a Rolling Stone ad, to promote the series Weeds.

According to Rolling Stone publisher Ray Chelstowski, such ideas are becoming more commonplace as advertisers seek new ways to stand out: “The magazine has a certain profile in the marketplace that allows for these kinds of ads to naturally exist and ensures that they get the kind of notice [they] warrant.”