Cause Marketing Under Construction at HGTV

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Home & Garden Television is entering virgin marketing territory with its new landmark preservation campaign, and it may not be long before Scripps Networks other cable channels follow similar paths.

Cause marketing — where the thrust is as much about solidifying community relationships as buttressing brands — is the arena HGTV is entering with its "Restore America — A Salute to Preservation" project.

Starting next Independence Day, the channel in conjunction with The National Trust for Historic Preservation, will highlight for a full year national landmarks in various stages of restoration. As part of the campaign, HGTV will give the trust $1 million, divided among the landmark efforts showcased along the way.

Although the project was inspired by Restore America
— the long-running HGTV series centering on the renovation of endangered structures — the focus is not about building the audience for the show.

"It's demonstrating that HGTV is more than just a TV network," network president Burton Jablin said. "We're creating consumer awareness about public service worth their attention. It's more than giving money, or we wouldn't be doing it."

One Trust-backed landmark will be the subject of minute-long vignettes running each day for a month on HGTV, and will be featured in segments on Restore America. The show itself will run two Trust-focused specials, one next summer and the other in 2004. HGTV's Web site currently has information on all 12 sites covered in the campaign, plus a link to the Trust's Web site.

The company first took interest in a public affairs initiative a couple years ago. HGTV vice president of marketing Michael Boyd knew people at the Trust, and met with them last May. "They are smart and understand what we're out to do," Jablin said.

At the top of Boyd's agenda: lining up cable affiliate outreaches in each of the 12 landmark areas. AT&T Broadband's Los Angeles system — ahead of its conversion to Comcast ownership — is working with the Far East Building, part of the city's Little Tokyo district, on a number of events. Other areas in play include: Detroit, Atlanta — home of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr.'s base — New York and San Francisco.

HGTV is also trying to bring aboard an advertiser as a lead sponsor. The network's ad team "has come up with a short list" of prospects and expects to land someone by year end. "Cause advertising is a new opportunity for our folks," said Boyd. "We're not necessarily saying the advertiser has to be new to our channel. But it's a natural opportunity for a new advertiser, or someone new to us."

Scripps-owned broadcast TV stations and newspapers will run promotional messages for the initiative on an intermittent basis. On the Trust's end, officials will consult with producers on the vignettes and Restore America
segments, co-develop local events, and use its Preservation
magazine for feature stories and promotions.

Sister service Do-It-Yourself is wrapping up a cause marketing game plan that could be announced by year end, and several ideas are under discussion at Food Network, according to a company spokeswoman.

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