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
"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
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.