Phase one: Sally Struthers pleaded to “save the music video.” Phase two: an in-MTV’s-face stunt this summer that razzed its bigger rival. Phase three for Fuse, which rebranded in May from MuchMusic USA: a two-month national campaign that breaks today with print ads in an array of publications including Blender, The Onion and Rolling Stone. The ads aim to grab the attention of 12-to-34-year-old music lovers and media buyers by breaking through the clutter with four kooky Fuse-lovers: disgraced televangelist Tammy Faye, comb-over king Sy Sperling, banned infomercial queen Miss Cleo and the late-night New York TV sex personality Robin Byrd. Byrd will be featured in New York only, although not in Times Square, where Faye’s mascara-laced mug will grace a billboard (leased to MTV owner Viacom, and facing MTV’s studios) on the same building that rejected Fuse’s Beach House ad until Fuse removed the phrase “kosher pool.” “We had some issues with the landlord, but we have worked them out,” says Fuse president Marc Juris. “Tammy Faye is now eager to appear on our network — she wants to host a video countdown — and we’d love to get all these folks in the studio. Like us, they use media to make themselves famous, meaningful and really part of our pop culture landscape.” Phase four in its rebranding efforts will break Nov. 17 with a national four-spot TV campaign that parodies public service announcements. “As you grow up you’re bombarded with not only your parents and teachers telling you what to do, but even when you turn on the television to escape you find PSAs telling you what to do and what not to do,” says Juris. “It’s never really been broached as a subject for parody, so we’ve created a [faux PSA] campaign that plays off a government-issued character — much like McGruff the crime dog — warning our target audience of the dangers lurking about music videos.” It’s hoped that the rebranding campaign will help establish what Juris calls Fuse’s “dumb-ass cool” street cred with youths. “We’re very pleased so far with the awareness in the media community, our affiliates, our audience and what we’re hearing from artists.” Fuse is also developing two long-form shows for 2004 that its ad sales chief Corey Silverman is talking up to advertisers in advance of the spring upfronts: 4Play, in which a music video runs with three other screens showing extreme sports footage, and Soundtrack to Your Life, a reality-based skein. A VOD test with Cablevision — the parent company of Fuse, now separated from its Rainbow Media siblings — featuring current music videos is planned for the spring, with In Demand handling the transport. More interactive efforts (in partnership with GoldPocket Interactive) are also in development. “We’re digital and proud,” says Juris. “We’re all about experimenting with new technology, and we go where our audience is going and thinks they may want to go. Our demo is everywhere, so we need to be the early adopter network.”

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