Kia buys 'Friends' to make friends

Kia Motors America Inc. hopes to make about 10,000 friends a day through its latest media venture.

The automaker on Friday, Oct. 5, became the first exclusive sponsor of TBS Superstation's interactive component of "Friends." While the sitcom and Kia commercials are broadcast on the cable TV station, viewers are encouraged to answer trivia questions online at TBSSuperstation.com.

Correct, timely answers earn users points toward winning one of 10 DVD players daily and two additional players weekly. A grand prize - perhaps a Kia vehicle - has not been determined.

Other companies, including automakers, are advertising during "Friends," but only Kia gets interactive exposure for four weeks. At the end of the contract, Kia could extend or another company could step in as the exclusive interactive sponsor, said Richard Turner, director of interactive marketing for TBS.

Neither Kia nor TBS would disclose terms of the deal.

Key advantages

The interactive sponsorship is important to Kia because the company gets an immediate focus group, in effect, with real-time feedback on its brand and products from its target audience.

"This extends Kia's message to our Kia.com Web site and gives it exposure with one of the most popular brands on television today," said Otis Meyer, Kia's Internet manager.

TBS began broadcasting "Friends" on Monday, Oct. 1. The station previously got 1.3 million viewers in that 7:30 p.m. EST slot, but expects the figure to rise because of the show's popularity, Turner said.

"We'll ask interest in purchasing, propensity to buy, location of individuals and perception of vehicles," Turner said, adding that "Friends" typically draws more women than men, ages 18 to 49.

10,000 a day

Turner said he expects 10,000 "Friends" viewers a day to play simultaneously on the TBS Web site. Players must register to play.

"Seventy percent of our viewers have Web access, and 70 percent have a TV in the same room," he said. He also said that, on average, 75 percent of the people who get online at the beginning of a TBS interactive program stay through the end.

"This is not one quick hit, but continual interaction," he said.

TBS, with the help of Turner, started connecting TV viewers and advertisers online four years ago with its James Bond movie program, "15 Days of 007." The station brought the idea for "Friends" to Kia, said Robert Romano, a spokesman for Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc., the marketing arm of Turner Broadcasting System Inc.

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