Williams-Sonoma and CBS Cook Up a Deal

San Francisco-based kitchenware cataloger/retailer Williams-Sonoma will be treating customers to a preview of the fall season’s TV lineup, when DVDs with selections from six new CBS series will be distributed in its stores, catalogs, and customer packages.

The company expects to distribute 500,000 DVDs in a three-week period beginning Labor Day weekend, says Patrick Connolly, executive vice president, customer mail order for Williams-Sonoma. The merchant has collaborated with CBS since last Thanksgiving, when it aired a six-episode cooking demonstration series for “The Early Show” filmed at its store in Manhattan’s Time Warner Center. It also produces “Five-Minute Cooking School” segments for the show.

“The segments are very closely aligned with what we are trying to achieve in our stores in terms of merchandising and seasonal themes,” says Connolly. For example, if utensils and pans related to cooking asparagus dishes are being promoted in stores, the show might air a segment focusing specifically on easy recipes for cooking asparagus.

CBS will have aired 35 of the segments by the end of the year. “It’s a great way for us to expose our brands to a larger audience than we could reach with our catalog, and at the same time, it reinforces our brand with our existing customer,” Connolly says. “And CBS has said their viewers love it, which is great news for us.”

The CBS preview DVD, hosted by “Early Show” cohost Hannah Storm, features show previews interspersed with cooking demonstrations by actors such as Jennifer Finnigan of “Close to Home” and Khandi Alexander of “CSI: Miami.” The DVD will also include information for entering a contest in which ten $1,000 cooking sprees will be given away.

CBS, which during the past 15 years has aired tie-ins with retailers such as Target, Kmart, and Sears, finds Williams-Sonoma’s customer base an ideal audience for its fall preview. “They are female and upscale, which is a prime target for our programming,” says George Schweitzer, president of the CBS marketing group. He says the deal with Williams-Sonoma is strictly cross-promotional, with no requirement that the cataloger spend a predetermined amount of advertising dollars. “No amount of advertising money is expected because we’re deriving value as well,” he says. “There’s a saying that each partner’s strength is the other’s opportunity, and in this case it’s very true.”

Though Williams-Sonoma hasn’t announced plans yet to engage in similar cross-promotional deals for its Pottery Barn and West Elm brands, Connolly says the company is constantly exploring such possibilities. “We are always looking for ways to work with prestigious media companies that are beneficial to both of us,” he says.

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