Promo-Wise, Hallmark's the Holiday Net


Chris Moseley isn't on the same calendar as most of us anymore. Now that Hallmark Channel has aligned its marketing efforts with the key holidays and seasonal occasions targeted by Hallmark Cards, the network's executive vice president of worldwide marketing and brand strategy has adopted that retailer's mindset.

Thus, Moseley begins to map her upcoming promotion plans months in advance — such as preparing for Christmas in March.

"The idea of 'owning' holidays is appealing," she said, adding that the strategy has helped bolster consumer awareness of the channel, as well as its ratings momentum.

It also appears to be drawing affiliates eager to bolster their own local marketing and tune-in efforts in various markets. With respect to ad sales, greater participation is progressing as Hallmark Channel is added to the insertable-network roster of more operators and interconnects, some cable executives said.

High on minis

In addition to tailoring Hallmark Channel's marketing to the greeting-card giant's 4,500 Gold Crown Stores on a seasonal basis, Moseley is also bolstering off-channel marketing support for the network's monthly original movie — and its growing library of off-net miniseries.

Those miniseries include not only Roots but also The Thorn Birds, which averaged a 1.2 household rating from March 30 through April 2 — 73 percent above the net's first-quarter time-period average. The primetime airings and an April 6 marathon helped Hallmark earn a 0.5 rating, its best-ever week on a total-day basis.

At least two other miniseries blockbusters are on tap: Shogun
(set for July) and The Winds of War.
"We're still noodling" with plans to promote those projects, she said.

To make viewing The Thorn Birds
"a DVD-like experience," Hallmark inserted interview footage with producer David Wolper, said Moseley. America Online was the miniseries' presenting sponsor.

Such events serve as "a way to promote our regular bread-and-butter programming" to consumers who might not otherwise be made aware of them, she explained.

Mom & Pop promos

Hallmark Channel's May Mother's Day promotion will carry the theme "Thanks a Million, Mom." Local radio and a micro-site on the network's Web site will plug the $1 million sweepstakes grand prize.

Major sponsors of that month's original movie, Audrey's Rain, will be Johnson & Johnson and realtor Coldwell Banker.

An affiliate layer, themed "Thank Mom with Style," will give consumers another chance at prizes, Moseley said.

For Father's Day, Hallmark will air The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay. The attendant sweepstakes, titled "Hangin' with Dad," offers a tool set as the top prize. Sponsors Ace Hardware and Subaru will contribute support via their stores and dealerships, as well as their Internet sites, Moseley said.

A subscription-acquisition campaign tied to Hallmark's "Keepsake Sweepstakes" last winter drew a "fairly good response" in Adelphia Communications Corp.'s central region, said director of sales and marketing Cindy Chalfant. She also used the Gold Crown stores as drop-off points for her systems' "Toys for Tots" project.

Chalfant said she liked the programming-linked sweepstakes approach, which helped drive tune-in, adding that a connection to Internet auction site bolstered Adelphia's high-speed Internet services.

About 50 percent of Adelphia systems across Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland participated, based on the network's availability. Chalfant said those systems have already signed to participate in the Mother's Day and Father's Day promotions.

Those efforts did not involve local ad sales, since the channel is not yet widely inserted, but another Adelphia official said the Colorado Springs, Colo. system generated sales from a Christmas promotion.

Various Charter Communications Inc. systems are planning to tie-in with Hallmark Channel for the first time this spring, a spokeswoman said.

Last year, Hallmark put 145 million Keepsake Sweepstakes game pieces in play, on par with "the scope of a McDonald's or Burger King promotion," Moseley said.