Tis the season for ABC Family's '25 Days of Christmas' perennial programming stunt.
Gearing up for what is traditionally its strongest month of the year with the Nielsens, ABC Family's 12th rendition of the event will total some 200 hours of programming from Dec. 1 through Christmas, accompanied by a host of marketing and affiliate support.
ABC Family's 11th annual '25 Days of Chrismas' extravaganza in 2008 was its second-most-watched across all key measures, including demos including total viewers (2.57 million - tied with 2007), adults 18 to 34 (473,000), women 18 to 34 (294,000), adults 18 to 49 (1.08 million) and persons12 to 34 (748,000), behind only the 2007 stunt, which benefited from the channel's No. 1 telecast of all time Holidays In Handcuffs.
This year, the lineup is highlighted by the basic-cable premieres of Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) and Unaccompanied Minors on Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.; the exclusive TV premiere of Walt Disney Pictures Presents "Pixar Short Films" on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.; the annual Harry Potter marathon weekend from Dec. 4 through Dec. 6; and the network's original telefilm Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m., starring Jenny McCarthy, Paul Sorvino and Dean McDermott. There's also an array of Disney animated holiday specials and Rankin Bass classics.
"It's a holiday-rich programming mix that the whole family can watch," said Danielle Mullin vice president of marketing, ABC Family,
To drive awareness, the network again has rolled a local ad sales initiative behind the programming marathon.
"There are great local prizes and a grand prize sweepstakes of $25,000 in cash that gives our affiliates and their advertisers a chance to tie-in with the event," said Mullin.
Over 250 affiliates, whose systems reach some 64 million households, have committed to running cross-channel spots. More than 275 local prizes, with average retail value of $750 apiece will be given away during the in-store and online promotional period extending from Nov. 20 through Dec. 26. Consumers can enter either in-store at point-of-purchase displays or online at www.25daysofchristmassweeps.com. The winners, nationally and locally, will be selected by Hothouse, Inc., with entries collected until the end of the promotion.
ABC Family supplies affiliates with 25 Days of Christmas taggable spots, available for download at www.affiliate.disney.espn.com.
Activation materials include POP entry boxes, replete with pre-printed entry forms; posters, staff buttons and programming guides; customizable postcard, e-card templates and online sweepstakes buttons for the local sweeps; a DVD showcasing 25 Days programming; :20/:10 and :15/:15 sweepstakes and event tune-in spots.
In addition to the cross-channel promos with an estimated media value of $5.5 million, ABC Family has amassed myriad media platforms behind 25 Days.
"With this being our biggest programming event of the year, we are naturally supporting it with one of our biggest marketing initiatives," said Mullin.
Tactics extend to network and spot cable, spot radio and Radio Disney and national print -- Parade, USA Weekend, Family Fun, Woman's Day, Rachael Ray, TV Guide, People, US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style, Star and OK!
The media schedule also encompasses online search, as well as entities like tvguide.com, zap2it.com, People.com, Yahoo, Facebook, including a fan page; spots in 671 theatres on 9132 screens; mall panels in the top 10 markets; plus corporate synergies across such Walt Disney properties as Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Partners Federal Credit Union, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, ABC, Disney Channel, Disney Live Entertainment, Disney Cruise Line, Radio Disney, ESPN and Disney.com.
On Thanskgiving weekend, street teams in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington distributed reusable branded shopping bags and programming guides, which are also available at participating affiliate retail outlets, as well as Santa stations in 179 malls. All told, ABC Family hopes to disseminate 3 million programming guides this holiday season.
As children wait in line to see Santa, the network also has festooned these areas with poster and a 30-minute promo loop.
"This is a great opportunity for families to get a sense for what's on 25 Days of Christmas," said Mullin.
While ABC Family has utilized many of these tactics in the past, it is supplementing the diverse campaign with a curtain-raiser of supports behind the aforementioned original telefilm Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe. On Dec. 7 at noon in Manhattan's Bryant Park, ABC Family will attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Kris Kringle's "elves"
ABC Family staffers and executives, joined by the movie's stars McCarthy andMcDermott, will hand out elfin costumes to kids and young-at-heart adults. The goal: a Guinness-record gathering of over 250 elves. Prizes, including a flat-screen TV, also will be distributed.
"ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas is the biggest event in cable, so it's only appropriate that this is the biggest event we've undertaken as a network," said Mullin. "We want this to be a great family event."
The network is pushing the word out about the event via media relations outreach, messaging on ABCFamily.com and local New York radio station, Z100, as well as Facebook and Twitter.
Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe stars McCarthy as Santa's business-minded daughter Mary Class --she changed her name to remain anonymous in her job as a marketing executive in New York-- who, upon returning home must contend both with Santa's mid-life crisis and his elves going on strike right at the height of Christmas madness. Santa's tired of the responsibilities of the job and is ready to pass on the reins to Mary, who feels torn between the family business and running her own high stakes firm in Manhattan, along with balancing a relationship with the love of her life, Luke (Dean McDermott). The situation gets increasingly dire when a disgruntled former elf, Teri (Kelly Stables), in cunning disguise, sows dissension at the North Pole in an effort to take over Christmas.