In an effort to reach women where they live, Lifetime Television kicked off its 12-city "Experience of a Lifetime" tour at Long Island, N.Y.'s Roosevelt Field Mall earlier this month.
The programmer launched its first mall tour last year, and learned some valuable lessons along the way, said director of marketing and events Brent Poer.
"It has to be interactive," said Poer. Lifetime told its title sponsor — Unilever's Dove brand soap — that it needed to interact with participants, rather than just provide product samples.
So Lifetime and Dove collaborated on the idea of a personal day spa, offering five-minute massages and skin-care advice. They also involved local salons, which provided on-stage makeovers and haircuts.
"One woman cut off 10 inches of her hair," Poer said. "She walked away with a bob."
That participant then decided to donate her shorn locks to a local nonprofit organization that makes wigs for cancer patients, Poer said.
Dove was a good mall tour title sponsor because the brand is soft, feminine and inclusive. "For a co-brand on something as large as this, we had to make sure that the brand didn't fight with ours," Poer said.
Lifetime was also seeking a sponsor whose participation would "be fun at the end of the day," and whose products were priced so that Lifetime viewers could afford them, Poer noted.
Attendance at the first stop was ahead of expectations. "We blew through 7,000 Dove samples" in two days, Poer said.
Other tour sponsors are Bally's Total Fitness, which holds fitness talks; and the Barnes & Noble and B. Dalton bookstore chains, which provide coloring book stations for children waiting while their mothers take in the day-spa experience.
All told, the Lifetime exhibit has eight separate stations — one for each letter of the Lifetime brand.
Taraji Henson, star of the Lifetime original drama The Division, appeared at the Roosevelt Field Mall to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. Other Lifetime stars will appear at future tour stops.
Last year, some attendees traveled for as long as two hours to attend Lifetime's exhibit at the Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis, Poer said. The "Experience" is a destination event, and doesn't simply rely on existing mall traffic, he said.
The Lifetime exhibit will return to Mall of America — the largest mall in the country — and also visit venues in Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Colorado, Florida and Texas.
The areas were selected because they're good TV markets, as well as the size of the mall and and their attendant demographic appeal, Poer said.
In some markets, local cable affiliates participate through a special kiosk that highlights digital cable and Lifetime's newest network, Lifetime Real Women.
There's also an online station that promotes the network's Web site (www.lifetimetv.com) and its two new interactive games, "Open House" and "Cinema Sequence."
The Web site will also help keep Lifetime fans abreast of the mall tour — even those who live too far from any of its scheduled stops. Because the network is promoting the tour on its air, it will post photos to the Web so those who can't attend feel as though they're participating in some way.
In addition to the online and on-air ads, Lifetime is promoting the events through local newspapers and radio-station remotes.
While Poer would not disclose how much Lifetime or Dove will spend to bring the tour to 12 malls, he did say that it's "a multimillion-dollar campaign."
The tour's target audience is decidely 18-to-49-year-old women. Poer recalled standing just outside the exhibit area at Roosevelt Field, where he overheard two men talking.
"Your wife is in there?" the one man asked.
"Yeah," the other replied. "She got sucked in by Lifetime."