TV Land has developed a comprehensive marketing and ad-sales effort around its latest blast from the past: its mid-October launch of I Love Lucy, which includes a week-long marathon.
The campaign includes such elements as network sponsorships, marketing support and affiliate sales and promotion tie-ins.
"It's going to be a huge launch for us of a show that's truly stood the test of time," said executive vice president and general manager Larry Jones.
Jones added he'll take to the air to introduce the sitcom's very first episode, set for Oct. 15 at 9 p.m. — exactly 50 years to the day when the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz show bowed on CBS.
Although TV Land has sold four network co-sponsors — Arby's Inc., Hoover Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and Subaru of America — Jones said the only off-channel advertiser promotional support will come from the affiliate ad-sales end.
MTV Networks vice president of affiliate ad sales Jason Malamud said TV Land's local Lucy
sweepstakes marks the network's first affiliate ad-sales push, albeit one that's limited in scope.
The promotion — with the grand prize of a trip to the Lucy tribute attraction at Universal Studios' Orlando, Fla., theme park — has written a number of sales success stories, Malamud said. Time Warner CityCable in New York sold the Sizzler Steakhouse as its Lucy
marathon sponsor, while the Comcast MarketLink Detroit interconnect signed KFC.
And the Cable Advertising of Metro Atlanta interconnect booked discount-coupon mailing service Money Mailer as a new client — one that sees the Lucy
stunt as ideal way to target the older demographic more likely to use its coupons, Malamud said.
In addition, TV Land has supplied affiliates with a package of sponsor-taggable I Love Lucy
"Classic Moments" vignettes to sell locally. There's even one with a Spanish-language voiceover, he said.
The episodes packaged into the "I Love Lucy's 50 Greatest Laughs" stunt were chosen by experts at TV Land and TV Guide, Jones said. Since TV Guide
will be giving the marathon "huge editorial support" — including nine collectible covers (one available solely via its Web site) — TV Land will not be running tune-in ads in the magazine, he explained.
The exact order of the 50 episodes — culled from the 179 that aired from 1951 to 1961 — will be detailed in TV Guide's Oct. 13-19 issue.
Noting that this push has been in the works for more than six months, Jones said the network's promo arsenal also will include spots to be run in heavy cross-channel rotation on MTV Networks' other services. Additional exposure has been generated from the "I Love Lucy
50th Anniversary Experience" tour, which hit three state fairs since July and is now at the Texas State Fair in Dallas — its final stop — through Oct. 21.
Meanwhile online classic-TV memorabilia store TVLand.com has started to sell the new I Love Lucy
50th anniversary commemorative wristwatch for $60 apiece. Its Lucy
mini-site will also offer a 360-degree view of I Love Lucy's original set (a composite recreated from 645 photos), a screensaver and souvenir I Love Lucy
Sprinkled throughout the marathon will be clips from interviews with the sitcom's creative team, said Jones. Also planned is a salute from another veteran comedienne, Carol Burnett, and testimonials from younger fans taped last month at the
MTV Video Music Awards.
The marathon probably won't be the last stunt for the sitcom perennial. For one thing, the network has not yet scheduled the original Lucy
pilot for showing, Jones said.