New York -- Home Box Office last week took the wraps off
two new ads in the premium network's "It's Not TV: It's HBO"
And unlike its earlier "It's Not TV" spots,
HBO is backing the new ads with "very heavy cable buys," with extensive runs on
15 to 20 cable networks, according to Eric Kessler, senior vice president of marketing for
One spot made its broadcast debut last Monday during a
Monday Night Football game and HBO bought such high-profile slots as game three of the
HBO created the 5-word tag line to communicate the message
"we're not like other TV networks," Kessler said. He added that HBO
recognizes that in the minds of viewers, its competition is not just other pay TV
services, but all of television.
Entering its third year, the image campaign has produced
ads so eye-catching that an earlier one even won an Emmy.
Kessler said his goal is to have everybody talking about
HBO's ads at the water cooler in the same way they might talk about its original
programming. The spots use humor and high production value to help break through the
clutter, he added.
In "Guardian Angel," a celestial being diligently
protects his subject from all manner of danger until his attention is called away by a
television in a store window . When the unprotected human is struck by a falling piano,
the audience is told why: It's not TV; It's HBO.
In the second spot, HBO enlisted actor George C. Scott as
general for an army of germs struggling for control of the TV remote.
"Obviously we spent some money" to get Scott,
For competitive reasons, Kessler declined to specify how
much HBO spent on the new campaign.
"We're investing heavily in this campaign,"
he said. "Our spending levels are comparable to those of the past few years."
About three-quarters of HBO's advertising dollars are
budgeted for specific programming, such as fights or theatricals, rather than image
campaigns, Kessler said.
But image advertising does help set HBO apart from other
networks, he said.
"It gives consumers a sense of the brand
personality," he said. "They see a sampling of HBO that's indicative of
what you might see on the network."
The ads were designed to appeal to a broad audience, both
to help reinforce the purchase decision for current subscribers and to encourage
non-subscribers to take a closer look.
Kessler also expects cable operators to take note of the
"Putting this kind of support behind the brand is good
for affiliates," Kessler said. "The affiliates see this and they appreciate this
-- and that helps keep HBO on top."