How Do You Iron Chef?

When Food Network began planning a promotional campaign for the second season of Iron Chef America, it decided to focus the bulk of its spending online.

The spend was made on high-impact takeovers of top portals’ entertainment sections; Yahoo Television and TV Guide this past weekend, and AOL Television next weekend. It will complement those buys with placements on smaller sites, as well as limited TV and outdoor ads. The campaign goal is not so much to attract new viewers but to connect with the substantial audience the show built in its first season and to alert them to the start of the new season, which began Sunday night.

“It’s not a new media for us, but this is the biggest online marketing push we’ve done,” Susie Fogelson, VP marketing at Food Network, told ClickZ News. “We love new viewers, but this push is more about announcing the new episodes.”

Fogelson said the show’s popularity with 18- to 34-year-old men, as well as the amount of broadband content around the show, makes it a perfect fit for an online push.

“We do online for everything, it’s an important part of the media mix. But Iron Chef America lends itself especially well to online, since that’s where the target audience is, and we have a number of elements that play out beautifully online,” she said.

Among those elements are studio tours, staff and competitor interviews, and an interactive game. The video clips on the site include a pre-roll :15 ad, currently sold as a run-of-site buy, but which could potentially be targeted to the Iron Chef America mini-site, according to Doug Parker, director of FoodNetwork.com.

Parker’s team also developed several hidden “Easter Egg” videos, including one of a yodeling catfish. He hopes users who find the hidden clips will take advantage of the “forward-to-a-friend” feature to provide a viral element to the campaign. To help users become aware of the clips, several will be featured in rich media units running on other sites.

Another element Fogelson said works well online is a fan site with user-generated video — howdoyouironchef.com. Food Network began running :15 spots soliciting viewers to visit the Web site to submit their own stories of how they held their own Iron Chef-like battles at home, work, or in public.

“We had heard anecdotally about people holding their own mock battles. We got hundreds of responses to the spot — from a kid who makes his mom drive him to the store to get ingredients to guys who battle on a Brooklyn rooftop to town-wide battles,” Fogelson said.

Most of the clips on the site are submitted by users, though Food Network chose a few stories to film professionally. Both kinds of videos will be live on the fan site this week. More will be added as they’re submitted.

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