Campaign of Distinction: ‘Campus Ladies’

Jun 19, 2006  •  Post A Comment

If you’re looking to attract attention, it’s hard to go wrong with a picture of a bra plastered on a giant billboard.

That familiar piece of feminine garb became a signature component of Oxygen’s January campaign for its original series “Campus Ladies,” an improvisational-style show about two middle-aged women going back to college. The show is based on characters created by actors Carrie Aizley and Christen Sussin, who also star in the series.

Oxygen dubbed the original comedy series a “brand-defining” show because it broke stereotypes about women, but the network faced a dilemma when it came to crafting a promotional campaign for the program: The show’s stars were not well known.

“We had to sell the concept of the show rather than the people,” said Debby Beece, president of programming and marketing for Oxygen. “We tried to present it as fish out of water. They take on the world. The challenge was neither one of these lead actresses were household names.”

But images like an old-school Maidenform-esque brassiere, rather than a racy Victoria’s Secret number, did the trick. Oxygen paired that billboard, which was posted in New York and Los Angeles, with ersatz televised interstitials promoting the idea of “ladies gone wild,” a take-off on the widely known “Girls Gone Wild” franchise. In addition, the campus ladies presented a mock intro to the network’s late-night show “Talk Sex With Sue Johanson.”

The network also ran pseudo public service announcements on the radio in top markets around the country for the made-up organization Students Against Overage Dating. In the spots, a young co-ed complained about the older women nabbing all the young men on campus.

Oxygen also ran a print campaign in magazines People, Entertainment Weekly and InTouch and relied on promos on other cable networks.

Ms. Beece said the $8 million marketing effort was the biggest tune-in campaign for a single show in Oxygen history.

The efforts paid off. The premiere episode Jan. 8 was the network’s highest rated original debut in households and women 18 to 49 for the network, a number recently bested by “Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency,” which premiered earlier this month.

The network is currently in production on additional “Campus Ladies” episodes.

Debby Beece

Title: President of programming and marketing, Oxygen

How long in current position: Five years

Year of birth: 1955

Place of birth: New York

Who knew? Ms. Beece is a self-described “compulsive crafter” and often has multiple projects in the works. In early June she was painting a tabletop with gold leaf, embroidering a wall hanging with beads and finishing a quilt.