Hollywood Heats Up with Food Network
Food Network’s VP of Marketing
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Food Network has a new starring role in Queen Latifah’s new movie “Last Holiday”. The cable network’s tasty treats are not only props in scenes but are central to the movie’s story line. Susie Fogelson, VP of marketing devised this tantalizing partnership with Paramount, integrating Food Network into the film, debuting on January 13, 2006.

We met with Ms. Fogelson to find out how this successful partnership with Tinsel Town began, how it quickly went from product placement to a deep movie-integration and why Food Network is so satisfied with the final results of this “sweet” branded entertainment campaign.


Interview Highlights:

About the Food Network

  • Food Network is a ten-year-old ad supported cable network owned by Scripps.
  • Its primary ad-sales target is adults between 25-54.

Programming can be summed up in two ways:

  1. Instructional, which teaches people the basics of cooking.
  2. “Food as entertainment,” presented at primetime.
  • On the weekdays and weekends, cooking programming is predominately featured with stars like, Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, Paula Deen, etc.
  • Food Network is in 85 million households.

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Current Branded Entertainment Strategy

  • Susie Fogelson’s team finds innovative ways to link food to sports, movies and music, as a good strategy to reach people and let them experience Food Network outside the kitchen.
  • Fogelson’s strategy challenges the perception that if you don’t cook then you wouldn’t be interested in watching Food Network.
  • Alliances with partners help Food Network further its strategy.

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The Film’s Close Connection to Food

  • The movie “Last Holiday” is about Queen Latifah’s character, who finds out that she only has three weeks to live. The story is really about her blossoming.
  • Latifah’s character is a bit meek, not extremely confident. However, she loves to cook, wants to be a chef and is an avid watcher of Food Network.
  • Food is central to the character’s formation and dreams — and her aspirations of being a chef really come to life in the film.

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How the Movie-Integration Deal Developed with Paramount

  • Wayne Wang, the director of the movie and the executive producer, realized very early on that food was a big part of the film’s story.
  • Wang approached Food Network about bringing his food concept to fruition during the script phase, which was a dream come true for the network.
  • Susan Stockton, a leader of Food Network kitchens put the whole food vision together. She devised every recipe in the movie and educated the film crew on specific cuisines.
  • The team also trained Queen Latifah to cook so that she looked legitimate as an impressive home cook.
  • There were also some product placements for Food Network, since Latifah’s character actually watches the cable channel in the movie.
  • Food Network kitchens were on site for all of the food scenes in the movie.
  • There was also a film crew on site filming a behind the scenes pieces.

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The Partnership Grows Organically

  • Wayne Wang is a great director, but he is also a total foody. He was so charged up by the Food Network’s expertise that its role grew in the film.
  • Wang flew Susan Stockton to meet Gerard Depardieu, who plays a chef in the movie and owns a restaurant in France, to assure him that Food Network had all the film’s food pieces in check.
  • The Food Network built a partnership with Paramount that drives people to the movie, but also creates programming for the network.

Through the one movie experience, The Food Network will actually create three hours of programming from this partnership:

  1. An “Emeril Live” episode with Queen Latifah.
  2. A behind the scenes special called, “Food Network Goes Hollywood”.
  3. Hopefully the Food Network will film another primetime series “Behind The Bash” at the movie’s premier in Los Angeles.
  • Conversations are in the works about putting Food Network’s special on “The Last Holiday” DVD, which is huge and very exciting.
  • There are a lot of integrations in the works that continues to reverberate positively. All Food Network has had to do is continue to think about every aspect and area of its business:
  1. How does the film impact the web? How does it impact sales? How can affiliates get involved? How does consumer press run with this? How can trade press run with this?
  • “No stone unturned” basically has been Folgeson’s strategy for maximizing the Food Network’s exposure within this great partnership.

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How Campaign Concepts Came to Life

  • Creating good concepts has stemmed from great teamwork.
  • Fogelson used her team members’ expertise by putting them in touch with the people at Paramount and then basically letting everyone do what they do best.
  • Folgelson has also taken this historical experience and applied it to this project: maximizing programming, working with affiliates, having ad sales figure out how to tailor a package, tying in the network’s website, developing broadband content and creating collateral pieces.

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Surprises and Lessons

  • The surprise came on the culinary end. Three TV shows can be produced in one day, but only one movie scene gets produced in a day. Therefore, the luxury of time is a wonderful thing for the culinary department.
  • Food Network kitchens had to keep the food in the film looking and tasting good all day. There were about six hundred different meals to prepare the same way all day long, which was a challenge that the Food Network kitchens never experienced.
  • The different approach to production was interesting for the Food Network team, and they had to acclimate to it pretty quickly.

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How the Deal Was Structured

  • Originally the deal started out as a “product placement” barter deal, leveraging Paramount’s and Food Network’s assets; if Food Network kitchens were provided as culinary consultants on the movie, the network would get placements in the film.
  • But the deal got much bigger and went beyond that, which thrilled Food Network. However, there was no money exchanged.

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Coordinating the Overall Marketing Campaign

  • Bill Russ, V.P. of creative advertising at Paramount, gave the people at Food Network movie clips, which bulked up and built the “Behind the Scenes” special. He also facilitated getting Queen Latifah’s approval to promote the special.
  • Gail Silverman, the executive director of public national publicity for Paramount, was able to get Queen Latifah to do a “Emeril Live” episode as well as give Food Network an interview afterwards to push the film.
  • The Food Network and Paramount are not duplicating efforts when it comes to pitching stories to magazines and newspaper editors. They are both pushing stories from different angles, reaching out to their own connections, in order to create a bigger story. So far, this process has worked pretty well.
  • The Food Network’s cable affiliates are extremely important. They were mailed two movie tickets to “Last Holiday”, given a cross channel spot and told about the special.

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What’s On the Horizon

  • The Food Network is definitely interested in doing more movie projects. Movies as food centric as “Last Holiday” are probably a little tougher to come by, but Fogelson believes that her team can certainly find food-centric story-lines again.
  • Food Network can increase the connection between food and music. Discussions are in the works with various labels about how these two entities can be brought together.
  • Conversations with the NFL and NASCAR have been underway and will continue in the next year.