Court TV's first nationwide grass-roots marketing effort — the Mobile Investigative Unit tour — is set to roll into Philadelphia in mid-April.
The unit will eventually visit malls in 20 major markets, setting up kiosks that allow parents to collect their children's digital fingerprints.
"We wanted something that was the personification of our signature show, Forensic Files," said Court vice president of marketing Evan Shapiro.
The network will work with Klaaskids Fingerprinting to make sure children as young as six months old can be fingerprinted successfully. Court will assure parents that the fingerprints won't be collected and passed on to other agencies.
Instead, parents take the digital files home themselves, for safe storage in a fireproof freezer.
"The file erases the second you walk away," Shapiro said. "The invasion of privacy issue is a big one."
Nonetheless, all parents should have their children's fingerprints stored in case the unthinkable happens, Shapiro said.
The MIU tour will make the event fun, rather than morbid, by creating a "Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?" interactive game at each stop. Children can put pieces of evidence together by asking questions at the various kiosks, to find out which family member took the cookie in question.
Court is talking with a national cookie company about a possible tie-in to the caper, said Shapiro.
Court TV will work with a cable affiliate in each of the 20 cities. Operators will also run cross-channel ads in support of the campaign.
Local ad sales opportunities are available as well. The tour will also afford cable operators a chance to demonstrate their high-speed-data services.
"We are pleased to partner with Court TV for the national launch of the Mobile Investigative Unit in our hometown," said Michael Snyder, eastern division vice president of Comcast's cable unit, in a statement. "Here in Philadelphia and across the country, the MIU will allow parents and children to experience forensic science such as digital fingerprinting firsthand, using cutting-edge technology."
Initial stops on the tour, slated to kick off at Philadelphia's City Hall on April 12, are planned around weekends to take advantage of high traffic, Shapiro said. Once school is out for the summer, some events will be held mid-week.
The network is in talks to get local forensic evidence experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to greet visitors to the MIU.
Court TV and its MIU tour partner, Simon Malls, will promote local events through banners inside the shopping centers and the Court TV truck that will be parked outside. The network will also solicit local radio stations to host live broadcasts during the events.