Hallmark Push Hits The Books

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Hallmark Channel will embark on its latest local ad-sales promotion late this summer with its first-ever “back-to-school” campaign, providing $8,000 grants to participating affiliates and their advertising partners. The grant is customizable and can be used toward a variety of educational experiences including K-12, college and life-long learning opportunities.

A local affiliate may divvy up the scholarship money in the manner best fitting its needs, said Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel executive VP, network distribution and service Janice Arouh. The program can be executed as a sweepstakes, as an internal award for local ad sales staff, as a sales incentive aimed at clients or in other ways.

“This is not only Hallmark Channel’s first-ever back-to-school affiliate advertising promotion but the channel’s first-ever scholarship/grant program,” Arouh said. “This compelling initiative is flexible on many levels, to meet the goals and objectives of our affiliates and their advertiser partners.”

Flexible is the hallmark of all of the channel’s local ad-sales promotions, Arouh said. And operators agreed.

“Hallmark, although new at creating ad sales promotions, works hard to go out of their way to accommodate market requests,” said Comcast Spotlight VP of marketing Kellie Grutko. “They are eager to take suggestions to create promotional campaigns that work for our markets.”

Although Bresnan Communications has only taken part in one of the channel’s local ad-sales promotions to date, regional VP, ad sales Kelly Enright said he finds Hallmark among the best in terms of flexibility. He also noted that Hallmark’s promotions have become more and more creative with each introduction, making them more attractive to local ad-sales reps who have to sell the campaigns to clients.

That’s important, Enright said, because local operators receive an almost overwhelming number of pitches each month from networks, wanting them to take part in the latest campaign. Enright figures Bresnan receives between six and seven pitches per month and takes on one or two of them.

It can’t do them all, he said, because the requirements are too stringent; there’s not enough time to sell the promotion to clients; or there’s not enough cross-channel inventory. Basically, there isn’t enough time in the day to take them all on at once, he said.

One of the things that should make Hallmark Channel’s latest promotion attractive to operators is the lead time with which to sell the spots to clients, Arouh said. The campaign runs from Aug. 3 to Sept. 13. Participating operators must run 300 Hallmark cross-channel spots in specific dayparts on desired networks within that time frame and provide affidavits to prove they ran accordingly. 

On first blush, it might seem a stretch to mix scholarships with a network that skews heavily toward the baby boomer demographic. But Arouh explained that many boomers are parents of school-age kids and many are anxious to return to school themselves. That makes selling school-related materials a no-brainer, she said.

With each new ad-sales promotion Hallmark takes on, it has ramped up the promotions and prizes it offers. Hallmark understands that helping affiliates’ local ad-sales efforts and helping forge positive relationships is “a win-win for everyone, as it allows MSOs to generate revenue from local clients, while also helping to generate increased ratings for their prime programming — allowing them, in turn, to please their national advertisers,” said Grutko.

“They promote positive relationships between themselves and the ad sales teams, thus generating outside-the-box thinking and better results for all,” she added.

While Arouh said this latest promotional outreach effort is meant to leverage Hallmark Channel’s high-quality, family-friendly advertising environment, she hopes it also fosters a love of learning for the scholarship winners.

She noted that Hallmark is known for its socially responsible programming, citing shows like The Reading Room, which addresses adult illiteracy; Sacrifices of the Heart, about Alzheimer’s disease; and Our House, about homelessness.

“Until two years ago, we were very focused on distribution. But we really put the pedal to the metal to push our local ad-sales campaigns,” Arouh said. “We have seen an increase in participation with each campaign we have undertaken and our operator partners have done very well with our campaigns. We’re climbing to the top of their lists because we’re listening to what they need; we’re flexible; and we’re doing things smarter each time.”

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