Marketing on the move

Feb 10, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Cable networks are on a roll.
Mobile marketing is growing in importance to cable programmers in their affiliate marketing efforts. The past few years have seen an increase in the number of networks offering truck and tour promotions for local marketing events, and the scope of such stunts has been enlarged.
The trend has been driven by the increasing strength and recognition of cable brands, said Tracy Barrett, VP, affiliate advertising sales and distribution marketing, for Lifetime Television. “The chance to make it three-dimensional and touch and feel is a win, win, win,” she said.
Here’s a roundup of what’s in store this year for local cable systems.
Lifetime plans to roll out in Garden City, N.Y., on March 8 its third annual Experience of a Lifetime mall tour, sponsored by Dove. The women’s network will bring the tour to 12 markets, primarily Time Warner and Comcast systems, and spend two days in each market. Last year’s tour drew an average of 10,000 visitors in each market. This year is the first to include a local sales component, and affiliates can sell local sponsorships, said Ms. Barrett. This sort of marketing stunt can increase a media buy for an existing client or can help generate new business, she said.
The tour “experience” is off-loaded into a central area of the mall and features kiosks and stages with different information for women on issues important to them, she said.
CourtTV will drive its mobile investigative unit to 20 cities starting in May. It is the tour’s second year and features a new mystery to solve on missing computer data called The Digital Mystery Tour. Court TV offloads the unit into the local venue, which sponsors the event.
The mobile investigative unit can help generate incremental revenue buys for the affiliate with signage and sponsorships, said Tom Wolfe, VP, affiliate relations, for Court TV. “This is money they might not have gotten otherwise,” he said. In fact, last year’s tour generated $750,000 in local ad revenues, he said. Visitors spent an average of 40 to 45 minutes at the tour.
In March, ESPN will roll out its second touring truck, which will visit 50 markets throughout the year. This truck will focus on new products such as interactive TV, broadband and on-demand services. The network sends its two trucks to local venues such as malls or automotive dealers. Visitors can tour the vehicle to test the different services and watch ESPN’s networks. ESPN works with affiliates to offer taggable spots and encourages local salespeople to motivate advertisers to increase a buy by offering sponsorship of the truck as an add-on, said Jeff Siegel, VP, affiliate advertising, sales and marketing, ESPN.
The truck visited Time Warner Cable’s Akron, Ohio, system last May, and the cable system attracted a new $50,000-a-year advertiser. What sealed the deal was the system offered to send the truck to a local automotive dealer for the two days it was in town, said Eric Kinaitis, research and promotions manager for the Northeast Ohio division of Time Warner Cable. “It really gives us a leg up on our competition,” he said.
USA’s big push for 2003 is its PGA Golf Clinic, which began in January as part of a 28-city tour. The network is working closely with the Multicultural Golf Association of America to bring the event to city youths age 7 to 17. The network sponsors five-week clinics in each city for kids. Cable operators can offer signage and sponsorships of the tour to local advertisers, even have a local restaurant provide food for the kids on a Friday after school, said Doug Holloway, president of affiliate relations and distribution for Universal Television Networks.
The promotion helps the network expand its audience for golf, since it has doubled its golf coverage to 32 events this year. “It really ties into our need to connect with the community in a different way and the PGA tour’s need to connect with audiences it hasn’t presently served,” he said. This is the first year for the USA event.
Animal Planet begins in April its fifth year of Animal Planet Expo, which includes an 80-foot disaster relief vehicle and emergency vet clinic to help areas hit by natural disasters and a 60,000-foot traveling expo that visits parks and festivals. The expo includes a theatre running an animal rescue video, a kids zone, a climbing wall and more.
Local marketing opportunities include sponsorship, signage and taggable spots, said Bob Storin, director of event marketing and affiliate sales and for Discovery Networks. In 2002, affiliates generated 2.5 million in local ad revenues specifically from this promotion, he said. And Discovery Kids is rolling out an interactive tour in April to 12 markets in conjunction with its new reality show “Endurance.”
Cartoon Network plans to introduce a mobile game unit to promote its afternoon action adventure block “Toonami.” Turner Networks has, for the most part, avoided mobile stunts. Its local ad sales efforts have focused on “experiential trips,” such as a trip to the recent NBA All-star game. Affiliates can use these packages to motivate sales staff or to lure new advertises or reward existing ones, said Jerry Ware, VP, local advertising sales. Mobile stunts don’t offer as much to a local advertiser as it does to the network, which is why Turner has largely avoided them, he said.
Big events have, however, two primary benefits, said Mike Goodman, analyst with Yankee Group. They help integrate a programmer into the fabric of the community and provide cheap advertising for the local system. “When [a local system] can get marketing for little or no cost to them, if I’m an MSO, I can’t think of a better form of marketing,” he said.