Nets Do Well While Doing Good

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Long popular among cable-system operators, network/affiliate sales promotion campaigns with a pro-social slant may become even more prevalent in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Female-targeted network Lifetime Television has "two tentpole affiliate campaigns, " according to vice president of affiliate ad sales and distribution marketing David McFarland: the "Be Your Own Hero" effort in May and "Stop Breast Cancer for Life" in September and October.

McFarland said the "Hero" initiative — which was "highly successful" during its monthlong 2000 debut — is designed to inspire leadership and self-esteem among women. Last spring, it doubled Lifetime's local sales tally to more than $4 million, and attracted a range of clients from automotive concerns to retailers.

The effort has concentrated on 20 markets and has reached 24 million subscribers, he said.

And the breast-cancer awareness campaign reached 95 million subscribers, according to McFarland. He said it wouldn't be appropriate to release ad-sales data on a campaign related to a charitable cause.

But McFarland did note that 1,000 affiliates participate each year in one or more of the fully integrated campaign's disciplines — ad sales, marketing and public affairs. Lifetime offers taggable Spanish-language spots for both of these efforts.

"The philosophy we've taken is quality vs. quantity," McFarland said, noting Lifetime's emphasis on those two efforts. But that's not to say the network doesn't conduct other initiatives on a smaller scale. One is "Stand Up Against Violence," which has limited affiliate participation and curtails its ad-sales component to local-event sponsorships. Another is the network's child-care initiative, "Caring With Kids."

Comcast Corp. had been "getting more into cause-related efforts, even prior to Sept. 11," said cable unit senior director of marketing and promotions Kellie Grutko. She indicated that Lifetime's breast-cancer program — which consisted of a consumer sweepstakes and a community-outreach element — did "extremely well for our clients."

Clients included hospitals, doctors and car dealers, Grutko said.

Likewise, AT&T Media Services senior vice president Judi Heady listed Lifetime's breast-cancer-awareness effort among the MSO's more consistent sales producers.

ABC Family — formerly Fox Family Channel — is adding a public-affairs initiative for its affiliates. "Teaching Together," which begins in January, will urge families to get more involved in their children's schools, said senior vice president of marketing and local ad sales Todd Schoen. The program includes a local-sales element.

The Learning Channel's "Safety Heroes" promotion, which runs through March, allows operators to create their own community event tied to a blood drive, a child-fingerprinting initiative or similar events, said Discovery Networks U.S. director of promotions Beth Meyer.

On the ad-sales side, Discovery Networks director of local ad sales Mike Van Bergen said this promotion has tallied $1.3 million so far this year from grocery stores, pharmacies and other non-traditional advertisers.

This type of promotion seems particularly relevant in the wake of Sept. 11, according to Meyer.

TLC has noticed an uptick in affiliate interest during October, probably attributable to the increased emphasis on firefighters, rescue workers, the American Red Cross and other groups, she said.

MTV Networks' most popular pro-social initiatives with a sales element is VH1's "Save the Music" campaign, said vice president of affiliate ad sales Jason Malamud. VH1's Divas Live
— which is linked to "Save the Music" — is also one of MTVN's biggest local ad-sales gainers: it posted a 50 percent gain this year, to $2.4 million.

In part due to its links to Divas Live
event, the "Save the Music" program has also been a local success for such MSOs as AT&T Broadband, whose Denver system persuaded The House of Blues to double its ad budget by sponsoring a local event. In Sacramento, AT&T Broadband signed a sponsorship pact with a record store that paid for the ad with its own budget, rather than through co-op funds.

Cox Communications Inc.'s system in Norfolk, Va., landed a six-figure buy from a consumer-electronics retailer on the strength of the Divas Live
promotion.

Meanwhile, Nickelodeon's "Big Help" — a year-round grassroots initiative that encourages youngsters to volunteer in their communities — also has an ongoing, evergreen local-sales component: a live fun-and-games event dubbed "Big Helpers in Action," according to Malamud.

On the network side, MTV has sold ads tied into its "Fight for Your Rights: Take a Stand Against Discrimination" campaign, via a special souvenir book titled "Common." The book was distributed to all attendees at September's VMA
s, held at New York's Lincoln Center.

Levi Strauss & Co. was among the attendees who ran ads in the promos. Its spread read: "Levi's Jeans and Destiny's Child to support MTV's 'Fight for Your Rights.' " Also involved were 1-800-Call-ATT, whose ad declared: "Put an end to discrimination, now;" and Capitol Records, whose page said, "End Discrimination."

A year-long MTV initiative, "Fight for Your Rights" runs both on- and off-channel. A Cox-specific 16-market version of the effort consists of a leadership-award contest based on essay entries, gathered by local retail sponsors. One winner from each market will receive a $1,000 grant.

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