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Lifetime ‘Trafficking’ in Men

Oct 17, 2005  •  Post A Comment

For the first time in its 21-year history, the “network for women” is trying to attract the opposite sex.

The marketing campaign for its “Human Trafficking” miniseries-which executives describe as the network’s largest campaign ever-is Lifetime’s first attempt to target both women and men.

“This is such a very important initiative for the network, and [sexual slavery] is an issue that affects entire families,” said Catherine Moran, the network’s VP of marketing. “We’re covering the women demographic, but complementing that is this initiative that is reaching out to men.”

Typically, Lifetime’s audience is about 76 percent female. But “Human Trafficking” ads on male-skewing news outlets such as Slate.com, Washingtonpost.com, Newsweek.com and The New York Times have been tailored to appeal to men, and feature statistics such as sex trafficking being a $9.6 billion industry. Lifetime’s campaigns aimed at women tend to focus more on storytelling.

The campaign is a smart way for Lifetime to push its event, as long as the net doesn’t lose its focus, said Brad Adgate, senior analyst at Horizon Media.

“Lifetime is facing a lot of competition and they’re trying to throw out a bigger fishnet while trying to keep their core viewers,” Mr. Adgate said. “The good news is their movies are the highest rated of any ad-supported cable network, but the bad news is there’s so much competition now, their ratings aren’t what they were 10 years ago. It can work as long as they don’t alienate their core.”

The network has no long-term intention of continuing to seek male viewers, either in general or for any specific upcoming project, according to Ms. Moran. The four-hour, two-part “Human Trafficking,” about the international smuggling of women and children for use as sex slaves, is the network’s first miniseries.

Though it was developed before President and CEO Betty Cohen assumed her post in March, Ms. Cohen earmarked the project as a top priority. Lifetime movies typically are among the top-ranked original movies on basic cable, and anything less than a major splash for the mini’s Oct. 24 debut will be seen as a disappointment.

The marketing campaign behind the project is the network’s most expensive to date, a spokesman said, though he declined to reveal what Lifetime has spent promoting “Trafficking.”

The push includes traditional print and cable spots, a college outreach program, movie trailers and the familiar Lifetime-prompted congressional legislation tie-in-specifically, the End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act of 2005 and The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005.

Though targeting men may be a one-time effort, some new high-tech aspects of the campaign will likely continue.

For instance, this is the first Lifetime campaign to target podcasts (placing ads on downloadable streams from popular Web sites), and the net sent out audio ads via wireless phones.

“We did some really deep promotion within the interactive environment,” Ms. Moran said.

The network also partnered with Yahoo! and purchased Google search terms (“sex trafficking” and “marriage brokers” ) and used Really Simple Syndication, or RSS (a method of distributing ads across a variety of sites), for the first time.