Campaigns of Distinction: ‘Sex and the City’

Jun 20, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill

Special to TelevisionWeek

When TBS bought “Sex and the City” from HBO with an eight-year deal and fashioned the series about four single women in Manhattan as the centerpiece of its “very funny” prime-time sitcom lineup, the network needed its senior VP of marketing, Trish Melton, to create a campaign to make the investment sing.

A year after the June 2004 launch on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the results are clear. “Sex and the City” is advertiser-supported cable’s No. 1 sitcom among adults 18 to 34 and 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research, and TBS is seeing double-digit growth for those demographics over the same periods last year. Ratings growth among women 18 to 24 stands at a staggering 233 percent.

That’s why Promax is honoring Ms. Melton with a Campaign of Distinction award.

“With ‘Sex and the City,’ Tricia and her team created a marketing campaign that focused on the relatable characters who have made the show a pop culture phenomenon,” said Steve Koonin, executive VP and chief operating officer for TBS and TNT. “The campaign was a brilliant creative strategy to reach established fans of the show and the enormous untapped audience who had not seen it during its initial run.”

“We started by talking to a lot of people-women and men, big viewers of the show and those who did not subscribe to HBO and may not have even seen it,” Ms. Melton said. “They told us that one of the biggest selling points for them was that they would get to see the show from the beginning. This was true of heavy viewers, those who had seen the show only sporadically and those who had not seen it but wanted to.”

TBS then launched what Ms. Melton called “an aggressive campaign” centered on making the point that the audience would be transported back to episode one. Among key tools was a print ad blitz and on-air spots that featured actors portraying the show’s four characters as 15-year-olds sitting and eating and talking about men as they did on the series.

The campaign took a turn close to the 2004 national election, when Ms. Melton and her staff launched a “Vote Carrie” blog that included “political platforms” for each of the characters. Click “Carrie’s Platform,” for example, and proposed fashion education legislation was displayed.

“The biggest potential pitfall was making the campaign too ‘inside,'” Ms. Melton said. “Overall, it was a blast to do. And it’s proven a campaign with a lot of legs.”

Trish Melton

Title: Senior VP, marketing, TBS

How long in current position: Since 2003

Year of birth: “A year comparable to the characters’ on ‘Sex and the City.'”

Place of birth: Birmingham, Ala.

Who knew? Ms. Melton said she learned some of her marketing skills by being a high school cheerleader: “It’s all about volume, enthusiasm and reach.”