CAMPAIGNS: Product Launch - LA's elite pause to notice UltimateTV

Client: Microsoft UltimateTV (Mountain View, CA)

PR Team: Rogers & Cowan (Los Angeles)

Campaign: UltimateTV at the Emmys

Time Frame: August - November 4, 2001

Budget: Under $10,000

Microsoft's UltimateTV may be the next must-have gadget for die-hard

couch potatoes, but the set-top box that allows viewers to replay and

pause live TV (among other things) has faced a tough time attracting

consumers in a market cluttered with DVD players, TiVo, ReplayTV, and

satellite offerings.

"People just don't know what pausing live TV means until they see it,"

laments UltimateTV's PR manager, Tim McDowd.


In an attempt to show influential consumers - such as television actors

and executives - exactly what the product does, UltimateTV enlisted the

help of LA-based Rogers & Cowan for a campaign at this year's Emmy


Despite two postponements, the show finally went on in mid-November,

competing for audiences with the seventh game of the World Series. While

that made it a difficult night for ratings, it was the perfect scenario

for UltimateTV, allowing Emmy-goers to watch both the game and the

kudos-fest at the same time - exactly what the service is designed


UltimateTV wanted to grab the attention of tastemaker celebrities in the

hopes of reaching mass consumers through a bit of top-down viral


The reasoning was that if the product gained inroads with the writers,

directors, actors, and execs who made up the show's audience, there was

a chance it would find its way into television storylines or get

mentioned in the press by besotted celebs.

The company also wanted to build a closer alliance with the

entertainment industry - a notoriously hard task for tech outfits.

"The goal was specifically to seed UltimateTV to the influentials in

television," says R&C's Jonah Borris. "It's a perfect match for the

Emmys because it's a night celebrating TV."


UltimateTV sent 10 staff members to the Emmys to act as


Two of the set-top boxes were attached to 27" televisions on each of the

Shubert Theater's (where the event was held) three floors. Boxes where

also placed in the deadline pressroom, where journalists filing stories

watched the telecast on monitors, and in the backstage area where

winners went after accepting their awards.

Before the event, boxes were also installed in the homes of judges, with

award-nominated shows pre-recorded. The press breakfast where the

nominees were announced was also sponsored by UlitmateTV.


With the Diamondbacks and Yankees battling it out in one of the most

exciting World Series in years, many of the Emmy attendees were more

interested in home runs than The West Wing winners.

"A good portion of the people at the Emmys were extremely interested in

how the game was going," confirms Borris, adding that UltimateTV's

picture-in-picture ability that allows two programs to be watched

simultaneously won rave reviews from audience members who snuck out of

the auditorium to catch the score. LA police officers providing security

were also big fans. So many people flocked to the UltimateTV stations,

that Emmy producers insisted the game be switched off to keep people in

their seats.

Backstage, broadcast journalists set up interview stands in front of the

UltimateTV monitors. As award winners came offstage, they were able to

replay their acceptance moments while being interviewed for shows such

as Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood. "We really took a sort of

non-entertainment product, and really brought it to the entertainment

realm," says Borris.

He adds that host Ellen Degeneres requested a box for her home - exactly

the kind of result the campaign sought.


Borris and McDowd agree that other awards events are highly likely for

UltimateTV, but nothing is confirmed yet. While both client and agency

were happy with the results, Borris says that next time he'll use bigger

monitors - the better to see with.

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