The Animal Planet Rescue vehicle gets around.
Over the last weekend in September, the 80-foot truck
attracted an estimated 6,000 animal lovers in a stop at New York City's Central Park.
Later that Sunday night, the truck was redirected to the
Southeastern United States to aid animals hurt or lost in Hurricane Georges.
Unlike other networks' touring vehicles, the rescue
efforts, rather than the marketing opportunities, remain the Animal Planet truck's
primary purpose, said Jennifer Reichenbach, director of national-accounts marketing for
the Discovery Networks U.S.-owned service.
Hurricane Georges is the fourth natural disaster that the
rescue vehicle has followed in partnership with the American Humane Association.
When the truck isn't sent to help reunite lost pets
with their owners, Animal Planet sends the rescue vehicle to its affiliates' towns to
help market the network and, by extension, the local operators.
"The venue chosen becomes extremely important,"
In New York, where there's already so much going on,
"you have to try to do things that are very different just to break through the noise
barrier," said Gerri Warren-Merrick, vice president of public affairs for Time Warner
Cable of New York City, which brought the tour to Manhattan.
Time Warner Cable marketed the event in advance, targeting
its own employees internally and its 1 million customers through newsletters. Time Warner
also invited local elementary and junior-high-school students and their families, as well
as several community groups.
In addition to giveaways like free popcorn, sno-cones and
Animal Planet posters, the Animal Planet Rescue tour offered to teach people how to
prepare to handle their pets in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
Warren-Merrick said Time Warner asked Animal Planet to
tailor the presentation to an urban audience.
Animal Planet is included in Time Warner's
"MetroChoice" package, which is available wherever the plant has been upgraded.
When the Rescue tour hit Nashville, Tenn., early this
summer, it drew more than 5,000 people to its location at an outlet mall, said D.J.
Shugars, regional marketing manager for InterMedia Partners' middle Tennessee region.
"We'd had a very bad tornado come through six
weeks earlier, so this was very significant," she said.
Although the truck is an eye-catcher, Shugars said most
attendees were drawn by advance marketing support, which included print ads and
cross-channel spots. InterMedia also sent mailings to animal-interest groups, including
local veterinarians and pet-food stores, asking them to hang posters publicizing the
event. And the operator promoted the tour on its Internet site and through newsletters.
Shugars called the Animal Planet tour "our most
successful public event, so far." She said the family-oriented event attracted
subscribers of all ages, many of whom brought their pets.
Shugars appreciated the turnkey nature of the Animal Planet
"We didn't have to spend a lot of money on
this," she said, adding that Animal Planet allowed the operator to make modifications
to the promotion. The event also gave InterMedia the chance to give away things like cards
imprinted with channel-lineup changes.
Animal Planet is available to more than 260,000 InterMedia
subscribers in its rebuilt areas in Nashville, Shugars said.
When the tour reached Westland, Mich., in late July,
MediaOne was able to use the event to demonstrate its MediaOne Express high-speed Internet
service, said Bill Black, director of public affairs for MediaOne's Midwest region.
As a local tie-in to the Detroit-area event, which drew
more than 3,500 people, MediaOne collected 300 pounds of pet food donated by employees and
subscribers. Black said the operator got advance media coverage for the event.
He added that MediaOne signed up new subscribers during the
event, both for cable and for high-speed Internet access.