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Wal-Mart in Promo Deal With TV One

Feb 14, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The year-old TV One network, which targets African Americans, is teaming with Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, on a Black History Month promotion.

The network will air a documentary about the Buffalo Soldiers, the all-black regiments set up after the Civil War to protect frontier towns and railroad lines. The documentary, produced by Wal-Mart ad agency E. Morris Communications, will be supported by a multiplatform promotional effort, including trailers that will appear on Wal-Mart’s in-store television network, which reaches 130 million people each month.

Wal-Mart has already been an advertiser on TV One, but the new deal means “The overall relationship among the three partners has been greatly enhanced,” said Keith Bowen, executive VP of advertising sales and marketing. Mr. Bowen declined to say how much advertising Wal-Mart buys on TV One or how much it will increase as a result of the new partnership.

The added exposure TV One will get from Wal-Mart is valuable, Mr. Bowen said. “For a network like us-and we’ve been growing a lot lately and things are going exceptionally well-to be in-store at Wal-Mart on their video walls, that’s an amazing achievement for us to have that kind of brand awareness being built in-store.”

TV One’s broadcast of “The Invisible Men of Honor: The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers” will be supported by off-channel promotion provided by both TV One and Wal-Mart. Included in the mix are cross-channel spots, spots on stations owned by TV One part-owner Radio One, network radio spots on “The Tom Joyner Show,” ads in black newspapers and magazine ads.

TV One and Wal-Mart plan to televise the documentary three times in February, which is Black History Month. The first telecast is scheduled for Feb. 17. The film will run twice during May to commemorate Memorial Day, and another two times in November for Veterans Day.

The show contains several spots for Wal-Mart. TV One is selling the other spots. The documentary will also be available as part of TV One’s VOD offering.

The documentary grew out of an idea for a Black History Month spot that E. Morris, which represents Wal-Mart in the African-American market, was creating for the retailer. The agency was talking to some of the store’s associates, and one had an ancestor who was a Buffalo Soldier. “That piqued our interest,” said Eugene Morris, CEO and founder of the agency.

The agency brought the idea to Wal-Mart. “They asked us what else we could do with it,” Mr. Morris said. “They liked the idea for a documentary.”

Mr. Morris said the agency approached A&E, The History Channel, BET and other cable networks about running the documentary, but TV One was the most enthusiastic.

“We liked their passion about it,” he said. Mr. Morris liked the fact that the network is black-owned, and also liked the radio promotion it could bring to the project through its association with the Radio One network, which owns 40 percent of TV One.

Mr. Bowen said the agency’s presentation “obviously got the Wal-Mart team excited about putting together a full hour about the Buffalo Soldiers, and we used that internally here to look at exactly what it looked like, the format, the quality, of course, because that was a concern, but no longer. And once we saw that, we were pretty much sold on it.”

Wal-Mart is not the only big advertiser on TV One’s air. Mr. Bowen counts 70 of the top 100 spenders as clients. “We’re doing business with everyone you’d expect us to be doing business with. We have received nothing but tremendous support from the marketplace since our launch a year ago.”

TV One is now in about 20 million homes. In addition to Comcast, which is a co-founder of the network with Radio One, it is carried by cable companies Cox, Charter, Insight and Adelphia and satellite system DirecTV, which acquired a stake in the network as part of its distribution agreement.

The network targets African American adults, compared with the younger demo focus of BET.

“We have been very fortunate that because of the fact that there’s no other network doing what we’re doing, it has created a lot of demand for us,” Mr. Bowen said. “It’s been overwhelming the amount of demand we’ve had.”