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Time Warners $4K Coupon Catches Eyes

9/10/2000 8:00 PM Eastern

Upgrade your cable service, get a free pay-per-view movie and save $4,000 using the enclosed coupon.

Well, one would have to buy a Warner Bros. version of the Chevrolet "Venture" minivan to save the thousands. Still, it's an eye-catching offer.

Each of these are included in the second "The Big Picture" campaign launched this quarter by Time Warner Cable systems in California's Orange and Los Angeles counties.

The message is subtle: Time Warner Cable is part of a larger company, Time Warner Inc. Take your video programming from anybody else and you don't get the benefits of the synergy between division siblings, including the Warner Bros. Studio Stores, Sports Illustrated and Time.

The first campaign last year emphasized the operator's parentage, and was utilized as an acquisition piece.

Like most operators today, Time Warner executives didn't want to discuss specific lift numbers, but Dawn Callahan, senior regional marketing manager in Orange County, said the campaign generated "really good results. We ended the year ahead of budget and forecasts."

A customer-satisfaction survey following the marketing campaign, conducted by an independent research firm, also demonstrated a significant uptick for Time Warner when compared with other local service providers, she added.

Last year, discount and free-service offers were buried in a glossy magazine sent to noncustomers. Recipients had to sit down and read through the copy to find all of the offers, such as discounted installation for new customers and a discount day at a nearby Warner Bros. store.

This year, current customers are the target of campaign materials designed by SCDRG Inc. of Irvine, Calif.

The operator is experimenting with a coupon sheet separate from the magazine, and it customized the sheet into 13 versions, depending on customers' current service levels.

This means that in Orange County, a basic-only household within the 208,000-customer base would get the version urging them to upgrade to expanded basic for a promotional rate of $29.95 per month. That rate is good for one year.

The sheet also promotes premium units at $10.95 per month, $10 off regular admission at Universal Studios during Cartoon Network Weekend Sept. 15 through 17 and a free viewing of Warner Bros. film My Dog Skip on In Demand L.L.C.'s PPV network this month.

Other offers include reduced-price subscriptions to Sports Illustrated and Time, 10 percent off purchases through the end of the year at selected Warner Bros. stores and the car discount.

"That's a great win-win situation. We brought in one of our local advertisers [Connell Chevrolet in Costa Mesa, Calif.] and made them part of the promotion," Callahan said.

Each of the coupons requires the entry of a priority code so the cable operator gets feedback from divisional partners and it can gauge the popularity of the discounts it offered.

The campaign was designed to increase overall customer satisfaction while boosting all penetration levels.

"We've asked customers, 'What can we do to go beyond your best expectations for us?' Of course, the answer is always, 'Lower my cable bill,'" she laughed, noting that it's not an option. But other responses favored discounts and free previews.

The magazine also "introduces the promise of America Online-Time Warner," Callahan added.

"There's been lots written about the merger, but not the consumer impact," she said, adding that the statements on the new company are broad, global-view sentiments.

The merger is not completed, but the marketing materials promise more information as it becomes available to the operator.

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