Court Goes Mobile With Investigative Tour

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Court TV is set to roll with its Mobile Investigation Unit tour for a second year. This time, the grassroots marketing initiative is backed by two national sponsors, Suzuki Motor Corp. and Discover Card. A major local ad-sales effort has also already amassed $1.3 million for participating affiliates, according to vice president of marketing Evan Shapiro and vice president of affiliate ad sales and strategic marketing Tom Wolfe.

Starting with Time Warner Cable in New York from May 10 to 11, the MIU tour will travel to 23 markets — including 15 new ones — through early September. That's up from 20 last year, when it drew more than 250,000 visitors.

Affiliates will tie-in to generate local ad dollars, show off their high-speed data products and for public-affairs purposes, as Court TV will digitally fingerprint youngsters, Wolfe noted.

Inspired by Court's top-rated Forensic Files
series, tour exhibits enable visitors to work through a mystery designed in a lighthearted manner. Last year, the tour presented a "Who Stole the Cookie?" interactive game, while this year's "Digital Mystery Tour" will send consumers to find out what happened to the Kloos (as in clues) family's misplaced laptop by tracking down information at several interactive kiosks.

In addition, an actor portraying "Frank Lee Forensics" demonstrates forensics experiments, mainly for the benefit of children. That character will once again be featured in Court TV's upfront ad-sales pitches, Shapiro added.

Unlike many other networks' promotional trucks, which can convert into a tour venue, Court TV's 18-wheeler offloads the exhibits, which cover 900 square feet and can used be indoors or outside, noted Shapiro.

MSN on board

In addition to New York, Time Warner Cable will truck with the tour in Columbus, Ohio (May 31 to June 1). Adelphia Communications Corp. is the tie-in affiliate in Cleveland (May 28 through 29) and Los Angeles (July 19 to 20); while Cox Communications Inc. is on board in Phoenix (July 15 to 16); and Comcast Corp. will bring it to Philadelphia (May 17 to 18).

Adelphia director of marketing and promotions Scott Pesner said Court's family-appeal MIU tour has proven effective in many of its markets, and its fingerprinting aspect has helped it "strengthen our commitment to the communities we serve."

In Los Angeles, he said, the tour "was an easy sell" to a mall in Encino — and "we had two additional malls also very interested."

Interest in Phoenix

A marketing specialist at Cox's Phoenix system said the tour has generated considerable interest. Last year, the system sold Education America, and it will again approach the specialty school which has a program designed around criminal justice.

The tour already has sparked interest in another account that dislikes sweepstakes or events in which people must wait on line, he said.

The MIU tour has attracted a variety of clients from entertainment-related and other sectors, including auto-related advertisers. For example, Bridgestone Tire is a major buyer for the Aug. 30 to 31 stop in Detroit, via Comcast, Wolfe said.

Court TV is also working a smaller-scale tour through a partnership with Klaas Kids, in which parents are given their kids digital fingerprint files in case the unthinkable occurs.

As Court's only other local-sales promotion, this effort has garnered about $300,000 in local sales for operators in 10 markets so far this year, according to Wolfe. He cited a sizable Six Flags schedule on Adelphia's Buffalo, N.Y., system as a major buy.

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