Lifetime Goes Interactive

Jul 11, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Lifetime will introduce this week a marketing campaign with extensive new media components, including the network’s first interactive ads.

To support its centerpiece summer programming event, the six-episode series “Beach Girls,” the network will run promos for the show on I-Vu, a closed-circuit network that has 520 interactive touch screens in high-end hair salons in 12 cities in the United States. Salon patrons can interact with the “Beach Girls” ads that will run as part of I-Vu’s 45-minute piped-in programming loop featuring content from ABC, BBC Worldwide and Fashion TV.

The I-Vu deal is part of a broad campaign in support of the show. Lifetime is pulling out all the stops for “Beach Girls,” engaging in guerrilla-style marketing tactics at beaches, running traditional print, radio and TV ads and incorporating interactive and broadband components.

The “Beach Girls” series, based on the book of the same name, debuts July 31 and runs through Aug. 28. In addition to the I-Vu spots, which essentially marry out-of-home advertising with interactivity, the other new media ingredients include exclusive broadband video content, two mobile text-to-win sweepstakes and the launch on Lifetime’s Web site of a mobile storefront connected to the show.

“We are trying younger things with this to go after the 18 to 25 crowd,” said Lisa Black, VP of business and marketing development for Lifetime Entertainment Services. However, the I-Vu ads will likely reach the higher end of Lifetime’s 18 to 49 target demo, since the interactive touch screens are located in upscale salons.

I-Vu rolled out the screens, each about the size of a VHS tape, to hair salons in the United Kingdom in 2002 and introduced them a year ago to American salons in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and other cities. “It’s one of the most captive environments,” said Mike Anstey, CEO and president of I-Vu in New York.

Such in-store points are becoming powerful messaging environments for video because of the captive audience, said Karen Lennon, an ITV consultant and founder of Beyond Z, a cross-platform media production company. Lifetime’s new CEO Betty Cohen is a believer in multiple touchpoints, Ms. Lennon said, so it’s no surprise that Lifetime would pursue such a multifaceted campaign under her watch.

Strong Numbers

I-Vu has already generated some strong numbers for advertisers. For instance, a series of Nokia ads that ran on the I-Vu network about two months ago generated a 33 percent response rate from visitors to the salons, who responded by clicking on the ads to request more information, Mr. Anstey said.

The screens, which are attached to a wall next to the mirrors in the salons, come with headphones and are used during the downtime customers often have while getting their hair done.

Mr. Anstey said salons in the current I-Vu network reach 350,000 to 400,000 people in any given month.

Ms. Black said if the numbers are good for Lifetime she will add I-Vu to the network’s regular marketing mix. “The market seems to be right [for interactive ads],” she said. “It’s very different, this interactive television, which is a great thing to further try and test, especially with a captive audience.”

The I-Vu test will extend beyond “Beach Girls” to include the network’s original movie “The Dive from Clausen’s Pier,” running July 25. Some ads were slated to run on I-Vu late last week to promote the original movie “Murder in the Hamptons,” set to run July 11.

When the promos run, viewers can click on the screen to watch another 30-second clip of each of the various shows. The I-Vu ads will run through mid-August.

Mobile Storefront

On the wireless side, Lifetime planned to launch its mobile storefront online last week. Visitors to the store can buy summer-themed ring tones including the “Beach Girls” theme song by the Cranberries and past hits such as Bananarama’s “Cool Summer,” as well as the “Beach Girls” logo and other show graphics, creating an immediate new revenue stream for the network. The network plans to promote the wireless storefront extensively on-air, Ms. Black said.

The mobile store will evolve and adapt throughout the year, she added. When the “Beach Girls” run ends, Lifetime will add “Golden Girls” content.

“We plan on updating all that content and launching a large-scale mobile initiative in 2006 with original content,” she said. That will include horoscopes, relationship tips, jokes of the day and possibly videos.

Also in support of “Beach Girls,” the network will run two text-to-win contests, one aimed at on-air viewers and the other at beachgoers.

Finally, the network plans a mini-site for the show online that will feature exclusive video content available to the more than 500,000 fully registered members of the Lifetime site. “These are the most loyal fans,” Ms. Black said. “We are giving our best fans exclusive access to an extended trailer” that does not appear elsewhere.

Each week the Web site will add interview footage and clips from the next episode.