Hallmark Channel Offers Shelf Space

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New York — Hallmark Channel on Tuesday said it would begin offering an “all-access pass” to its advertisers, that for the first time would allow them to create marketing programs any time of year that reached into corporate parent Hallmark Cards Inc.'s 4,200 card stores, as well as its online site, Hallmark.com.

“Just as the Disney Channel is one large advertisement for all things Disney, we should be the Disney Channel for all things Hallmark,” said CEO Henry Schleiff.

The “all-access pass” will allow Hallmark's sales team to create “fully integrated packages” of promotions for advertisers that will appear in Hallmark Gold Crown stores, appeal to the company's 14 million Gold Crown rewards program cardholders, and the 170 million Web users who visit Hallmark.com each year.

The packages will be akin to those developed late each year in conjunction with Hallmark's holiday movies, such as The Christmas Card and March of the Penguins this past December, according to executive vice president of marketing Laura Masse.

For Kraft, Hallmark created a set of six custom commercials that broke out of — but were related to — the story line of Meet the Santas to promote its Ritz and Wheat Thins crackers. For Nestlé, the channel created a sweepstakes tied to its holiday movies, with entry placards and Nestlé's name appearing at checkout counters in Gold Crown stores.

Online, short video clips that are part of a campaign could show up before a visitor to Hallmark.com orders an e-card, Masse said. And in the stores, shopping bags could be receptacles for promotional brochures, flyers and giveaways.

For instance, flyers promoted the Hallmark Channel premiere of theatrical March of the Penguins, its regular viewing schedule and a plush toy with a dancing Santa and two penguins that flapped their flippers “in a jaunty jingle-bell jam” that could be purchased in the store. The plush toy was promoted on-air as well, to drive viewers into the stores. And Gold Crown cardholders received points for discounts on cards and gifts there.

The integration of marketing came over the past two months, after Schleiff conversed with Donald J. Hall Jr., the CEO of Hallmark Cards in Kansas City.

Neither Masse nor Schleiff, however, were ready to disclose if Hallmark had signed any deals with marketers that spanned the stores, the online site and the channel.

“What we have is an open door to explore all these activities,” Schleiff said.

Schleiff is also now pitching advertisers on the ratings “momentum” of Hallmark Channel, citing its position as one of the 10 most-watched ad-supported cable networks and its ability to pull broadcast network-sized viewership for its original movies.

Through March 26, the channel stood as the eighth-most watched cable network, with a 1.2 rating. That was up 9% from a year ago; making it one of only three networks in the top 10 that showed growth, according to Nielsen Galaxy Explorer figures Hallmark cited at its upfront breakfast.

The Christmas Card hit a 4.2 rating, noted executive vice president of ad sales Bill Abbott. That surpasses the typical 3.7 rating a broadcast network gets in primetime, he noted.

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