The stakes continue to get higher in programmers' quests to
give their brands a higher profile.
In its latest attempt at capturing the attention of its
affiliates and customers, American Movie Classics launched an 18-city tour early this
month to promote its weeklong "Monsterfest '99" horror-film festival.
The star attraction is an 80-foot-tall hot-air balloon
named "Cuddles," designed to resemble the star of 1956 thriller The
This is the third year the network is promoting
Monsterfest, which is set to air Oct. 24 through Nov. 1. Last year, the network tied the
film festival to a "House of Horrors" promotion.
"We decided to theme this year's Monsterfest around
'the biggest scare ever,'" AMC vice president of marketing Laura Masse said.
Masse called the nine-story-tall, 6,000-pound hot-air
balloon -- which was created especially for the tour -- "a major investment for the
company and one that our affiliates are excited about."
Comcast Corp.'s Baltimore Metro system hosted the balloon's
first stop. "We have worked with the Monsterfest people for a couple of years
now," vice president and general manager Doug Sansom said. "It's a standing
event for us now."
Sansom estimated that the balloon drew several-hundred
attendees, most of them current customers. Because the balloon could be seen several
blocks from its outdoor field location in North Baltimore, it couldn't help drawing a
crowd to the free event.
In addition to the balloon tour -- which is limited to the
18 markets it can reach before winding up in Salem, Mass., on Halloween -- AMC offers all
of its affiliates a separate Cuddles-branded Monsterfest promotion.
Affiliates can send out specially designed postcards
promoting the film festival on the front and offering customers Halloween safety tips on
The balloon tour kicked off Sept. 5 in Baltimore, and it
made other stops in northern Virginia and Philadelphia before heading for the Midwest last
In October, the balloon is set to scare up publicity in
California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Georgia and Missouri. AMC plans to take
Cuddles to New York's Central Park the day before Halloween.
"It was important to be as encompassing as possible --
to bring this to as many parts of the country as possible geographically," Masse
AMC partnered with affiliates in each of the 18 markets to
promote special community events to showcase Cuddles. Masse said affiliates can offer
tethered balloon rides to some of their customers. Subscribers can also have Polaroid
photos taken next to the balloon, and free Cuddles Halloween masks are available for
In keeping with the theme, people dressed in costumes from
a variety of the Monsterfest movies walked through the Baltimore event, Sansom said.
AMC will run radio promotions with one station in each
market to drive attendance. Affiliates are expected to promote the balloon tour with
cross-channel spots, and AMC runs newspaper ads reminding consumers of the date and place
of the event.
"Something unique for us is that this was the first
time we used the Internet to make people aware of an event," Sansom said. "Three
out of 10 people whom we talked with said they found out about it on our Web page."