BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – ABC hopes to clean up in the ratings again with an aggressive marketing campaign that revisits a dry-cleaning promotion for the hit series "Desperate Housewives" (search).
Before the suburban satire debuted last year, the network slapped an eye-catching phrase on dry-cleaning bags: "Everyone has a little dirty laundry."
This year, the bags will bear the slogan "New season, new dirty laundry" and, in some cases, a free "Desperate Housewives" shirt will be included, ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson said Tuesday.
"The marketing is a huge obsession of mine and I think it's a huge obsession of the network," McPherson said in an appearance before the Television Critics Association. "It's become an incredibly important part of what we do and what our success is."
ABC ended a ratings slump last season, with its viewership increasing by 12 percent overall and 17 percent among the advertiser-favored age 18-to-49 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research (search).
"Desperate Housewives," which ended the season as the fourth most-watched program, and another hit newcomer, "Lost" (No. 14), were the engines that helped drive the comeback. Both had received a big marketing push from the network.
The news was gloomier for some of the promotional have-nots. "Complete Savages," a sitcom whose producers had lamented their relatively scanty marketing, lagged in the ratings and wasn't renewed.
ABC again will pick and choose where to apply its marketing might and how to best spotlight a series, McPherson said.
"I think you can expect more of the same, to an extent," he said. "But we look at each of the shows as a project unto itself. We come with fresh eyes and try to attack it as if we've never done this before."
Asked for more details on the clothing giveaway, McPherson declined to describe the kind of shirts, how many would be distributed ("a fair amount," he said), or in what areas of the country.
He was being close-mouthed, he said, because marketing efforts have become so competitive in the wake of ABC's success that "people are ripping the ideas off."
"Desperate Housewives" turned one idea into an inside joke. In an example of art imitating life, the "Desperate Housewives" episode that repeated Sunday included a scene in which a character suggests using dry-cleaning bags as part of an advertising campaign.