Hallmark Shoots For Younger Market

Feb 26, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The “H” in Hallmark Channel’s new on-air look doesn’t stand for Henry. It stands for other things, including “happy,” “humorous,” “holidays” and most of all “home,” said Henry Schleiff, president and CEO of Hallmark Channel.

Mr. Schleiff said one of the first things he did when he joined Hallmark last year was to authorize a new on-air image for the channel. Promos, interstitials and other on-air elements are how a channel “creates a personality and brand,” he said, adding that the new tagline, “Make Yourself at Home,” captures the “warm and fuzzy aspects of the Hallmark brand.”

Hallmark Channel has been successful in building its viewership and ad revenue, but parent company Crown Media Holdings has been losing money because of certain acquisitions and low subscriber fees. Last year Hallmark ranked 11th in total viewers during prime time, but those viewers skew older and Mr. Schleiff said the channel needed to add more 40-somethings without alienating current viewers.

He said he didn’t want to disturb the network’s family-friendly programming, which appears to be working, so a new on-air look was a good alternative. The old look, which hadn’t been changed since Hallmark Channel was launched in 2001, was “a little tired,” he said.

The new material, with its wholesome, clean look featuring images of families gathering, kids walking in the rain and dogs playing, “sure is not stodgy,” he said. “It is not your grandmother’s Hallmark. I’m not even sure if it is just your mother’s Hallmark. It’s your older sister’s Hallmark.”

But the new look isn’t as edgy as the one Mr. Schleiff approved at Court TV. “Different horses for different courses,” he said. The spots continue to carry the full name of the channel as well as the well-known Hallmark crown logo.

Mr. Schleiff said the channel will devote additional airtime to promotion when the new campaign rolls out beginning March 1. The campaign also will be used for cross-promotional spots and will appear on the network’s Web site.

The campaign launch ties in with a heavier-than-usual slate of original movies set for March: “Sacrifices of the Heart” starring Melissa Gilbert, “McBride: Dogged” with John Larroquette and “Jane Doe: Ties That Bind” with Lea Thompson.

While primarily designed to make viewers feel comfortable with the channel and stay tuned in, the new campaign also will be presented to ad buyers as the network makes its upfront pitch, Mr. Schleiff said. “I think it most clearly shouts what the Hallmark of the coming years should be,” he said.

Hallmark is in the process of trying to renew most of its affiliate deals with cable operators. But Mr. Schleiff said the campaign was not aimed at cable operators because they already know the value of the network.

Development of the new campaign was overseen by Marvin Dorson, senior VP of creative services. Elements including design, editing, product, graphics and music were created and produced by the network’s in-house creative services department in coordination with Spark Inc.