This holiday season Hallmark Channel wants to bring all its marketing muscle home.
The family-friendly network, under the tag line “Home for the Holidays,” is deploying a multi-pronged marketing campaign, including consumer sweepstakes and a first-time presence in Wal-Mart Stores. All told, the marketing and media outlays will total some $15 million, according to executive vice president of marketing Laura Masse.
The effort, backing Hallmark’s expanded holiday season programming lineup -- highlighted by six original telefilms debuting on Saturday nights -- matches the support level the service placed behind its 2006 holiday programming push, keyed by the world TV premiere of the Academy Award-winning documentary March of the Penguins.
(For more coverage of CTAM Summit '08, click here.)
Masse said “Home for the Holidays” speaks to the core of the Hallmark’s family-friendly brand and feel-good home and hearth programming during the holidays.
“We’re a welcoming and comfortable destination for viewers, who know they can come to Hallmark for great holiday programming, not only with our originals, but our daily, month-long schedule,” she said. The programming stunt begins Nov. 22 and runs through Dec. 27.
While Masse conceded that tag line seemed intuitive to the Hallmark brand, the network nonetheless conducted research to solidify its theme choice, made in May, because the network plans to use it over the long term.
“Home for the Holidays is something we want to build equity in year after year,” she said.
This year’s multi-million dollar initiative, featuring consumer sweepstakes and tune-in elements, will manifest via Hallmark properties, both on-air and online, as well as at some 4,000 Hallmark Gold Crown Stores. Through Dec. 24, customers will receive appreciation packs, replete with tune-in information, customized messages from the network’s local distribution partner and coupons for up to $50 in savings on specific holiday merchandise.
The brochures being disseminated at the stores give the distributor -- Hallmark has reached operator deals for systems covering 46 million homes -- a position to tout one of its products or services. Masse said Hallmark has also produced materials that affiliates -- which must run cross channel, tune-in spots to participate -- can use to develop attendant radio, print, TV, online and bill-stuffer promos.
Affiliates are also involved with the “Holiday Homecoming Sweepstakes” -- a national watch-and-win (an 800-number will appear during the original movies directing viewers to a microsite that launches Nov. 22) and shop-and-win (swipes of Gold Crown loyalty cards automatically registers customers) -- awarding four grand prizes. Masse called those efforts “circular traffic.”
The winners will receive $25,000 cash to help transport and host a homecoming party for up to 20 family winners. Ten first place prizes of $10,000 cash will be awarded, while another 1,000 second-place winners will receive a Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Collection.
Hallmark Channel is also putting the final touches on a separate local ad sales promotion designed to support affiliates’ efforts this holiday season.
In addition to expanded media buys on national radio and cable, and print, with such titles as People, US Weekly and TV Guide, the “Home for the Holidays” thrust marks Hallmark’s initial presence within the world’s largest retailer. Masse said Hallmark Channel will be part of looped content/promos that will run on the retailer’s network of monitors and checkstands at over 600 outlets. The content will be updated to feature the upcoming Hallmark original movie.
Pleased with the medium’s performance last year, Hallmark Channel will also run 15-second tune-in spots on digital kiosks in 105 malls nationwide.
“It was really successful,” said Masse. “It’s the right time of year: the campaign starts right around Black Friday.”
Hallmark, now a perennial top 10 cable network relative to household ratings, receives a boost during the holiday season: its four original during that span last year averaged a 3.0 household rating and 3.6 million viewers for their premieres.
This year’s Saturday night lineup from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving, starring Jacqueline Bisset, Nov. 22; Moonlight & Mistletoe, Tom Arnold and Candace Cameron-Bure, Nov. 29; The Christmas Choir, Jason Gedrick and Rhea Perlman, Dec. 5; The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Henry Winkler and Brooke Burns, Dec. 12; Our First Christmas, Dixie Carter and John Ratzenberger; Dec. 20; and A Kiss at Midnight, Faith Ford, Dyan Cannon and Hal Linden, Dec. 27.
Overall, Masse anticipates that the connections between the umbrella campaign and the programming will be especially strong this holiday season.
“Right now during these turbulent times, people want to reach out to things that make them feel comfortable,” she said. “Hallmark Channel has proven to be a reliable supplier of quality program. Viewers want to come to our network, especially during the holidays.”