E! is taking part in a great tradition that stretches all the way back to 1974. They're using The Great Gatsby to sell luxury goods. The company was Ralph Lauren at the time (and "on line" referred only to fishing), and this year it'll be Tiffany, among others—Brooks Brothers has an unrelated campaign that also uses the upcoming Baz Lurhmann flick. E! is making use of its red carpet presence to sell advertising to Tiffany for its Gatsby-branded line (using The Beautiful People as a magnet), pointing up the increase in interest in its new platform, which got a major face-lift last year to great fanfare as the whole network rebranded under NBCUniversal cable svengali Bonnie Hammer.
"This is true native advertising," said Scott Schiller, evp of digital advertising sales for NBCUniversal. "This is what everybody's been trying to do since the dawn of media." That might be a little strong, but it is true that traffic is up 30 percent against first-quarter figures last year (the last quarter before the rebrand), with its uniques up 65 percent. The company is seeing interest from both new advertisers and in new categories, according to John Najarian, evp and gm of digital media and business development for E!
Among those new advertisers is Unilever, which is attaching the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter brand to the launch of EOnline's new food channel. The sponsorship is "going to include a video series that will be part of that channel," Najarian said, and will join partnerships like Jim Beam Brands' Skinny Girl under EOnline's belt. The Skinny Girl campaign gives a good idea of how not just E! but a host of cable channels are working to make their Web portals as viable for advertisers as their networks—the campaign had both online and on-air components during the Oscars (one of the highest-traffic periods for the site), driving customers from the broadcast to the Web and back again. It's a strategy that is vital for the linear product as well as the digital one.
"In today's world where consumers are consuming content on multiple devices at one time, there's an expectation from the advertiser that you'll be able to reach those viewers wherever they are," said Schiller. The ability to meet that expectation makes a gross ratings point on a network that can do so more valuable by comparison—especially if they're using expensive devices that might suggest something positive about their income levels to watch the content. After all, you want to be able to reach the beautiful people, too.