DirecTV Acts Locally In Summer Retail Campaigns

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Cable operators like to brag of their ties to the local community and proficiency in local-events marketing. But their competitors are apparently no longer willing to ignore the kind of brand-building and customer loyalty that hometown marketing can bring.

DirecTV Inc. later this month will kick off the first of four summer promotional campaigns designed to heighten the direct-broadcast satellite provider's presence in local markets across the U.S.

Working with programmers, technology vendors and retailers, DirecTV plans to host live events designed to draw family crowds. It will tie special family-focused promotional offers to the local events in an attempt to get consumers to look at a DirecTV purchase during the summer, when parents and children tend to spend more time together.

DirecTV also is promoting a nationwide free-installation offer.

Those cities where DirecTV already offers local broadcast TV stations will be among the first to get their own promotions, DirecTV vice president of marketing Maggie McDermott said.

Los Angeles will kick off the Disney Channel and DirecTV "Toons on Tour" event on May 26, followed by Charlotte, N.C., and Denver. The programmer will bring a branded truck to key retail events. Families can meet Pumbaa and Timon from The Lion King, said DirecTV vice president of marketing Maggie McDermott.

In those markets, families that buy a new DirecTV system can receive a $100 rebate for a second satellite receiver.

The promotion delivers "a very strong family message," McDermott said. If more people live in a household, it's more likely to have multiple TVs.

In an 11-market campaign that runs from June 1 to July 14, DirecTV and Nickelodeon will team up with Blockbuster Video stores to deliver a life-sized replica of the "Commvee" land-and-sea vehicle used by the characters on Nick's animated series The Wild Thornberrys.

The vehicle, available for photo opportunities with Blockbuster customers, will visit 16 stores.

The rest of the chain's 4,000 video-rental stores will also support the promotional offer, in which a $25 gift card featuring the Wild Thornberrys
characters is given free with the purchase of a new DirecTV system.

Turner Broadcasting System Inc.'s Boomerang will partner with DirecTV in several key markets, including Phoenix, Omaha, Detroit and northern New Jersey, to promote the DBS provider's Family Pack of diginets.

Boomerang will take its double-decker promotional bus to malls, baseball games and summer festivals to show off 10 costumed cartoon characters, including Yogi Bear and Top Cat.

"Our best guerilla marketing is Magilla Gorilla," Boomerang vice president of trade marketing Tom Alexander said.

The Boomerang/DirecTV tour launches in late June in Detroit, where regional electronics retailer ABC Warehouse hopes to break the record for the world's largest chalk drawing in its parking lot.

Consumers who buy DirecTV at a retailer participating in the Boomerang campaign will receive a $50 gift certificate for that store.

In smaller markets, DirecTV and personal video recorder maker TiVo Inc. plan a live demonstration tour for independent retailers. They'll take a DirecTV and TiVo-ready sports utility vehicle to state fairs, rodeos and summer festivals "for a grassroots approach to sales," McDermott said.

Combining local promotions with the national offers already in place will be an important part of DirecTV's acquisition strategy from here on out, McDermott said.

Along with its retail and programming partners, DirecTV will use radio remotes, retail circulars and in-store posters to support the live promotions.