WGN, Payless 'Together' on Child Safety Effort


WGN, the Chicago superstation, is partnering with Payless ShoeSource Inc. and various social agencies on an umbrella child safety and abduction prevention awareness campaign.

Together with the shoe chain, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, WGN will launch "Together We Can" on Oct. 1.

Original public service messages produced in-house will run during commercial breaks throughout the schedule. The channel's Web site (superstationwgn.com) will offer information about child safety and drug abuse prevention, as well as links to participating organizations' Web sites and other resources for additional information.

Also, WGN, owned by The Tribune Co., will show pictures of missing children during end-credit sequences of various programs, with Center-provided details and a hotline number.

As a corporate partner in "Together We Can," Payless, which counts more than 5,000 outlets nationwide, will be linked to the project through on-air identifications. However, according to WGN executive marketing director Jeff Rosenberg, Payless has expressed interested in doing in-store promotion on the campaign's behalf.

Payless officials didn't return calls by press time.

Rosenberg views "Together" as a prelude of things to come for WGN, now in more than 58 million households. Over the years, WGN has relied on second-window agreements with syndicators and other program suppliers, rather than original fare. That may change under an executive team Tribune installed 18 months ago, led by president Bill Shaw, which has developed and premiered new logos, graphics and branding earlier this year.

Outreach marketing and original production "will be a focus more so now than in the past," Rosenberg promised.

The child-safety messages and online material will emphasize what to do when children separate from their parents in public places; how children can be taught to recognize strangers; and how they can remove themselves from dangerous situations that could lead to abductions. The topic was a natural campaign starting point, "because we're a family-oriented general-entertainment network, and we're all parents," Rosenberg said. "We want to bring kids home, but associate ourselves as well with preventing abductions, the subject of a lot of unfortunate press the last year."

Payless was on a short list of advertisers WGN wanted to approach for the project, he added. "We already had a great relationship with them, and they are a family-friendly company. It's working out well."

Print "Together We Can" ads will start appearing in TV Guide
regularly over the Christmas holiday. WGN is also exploring a distribution relationship with KidsSmart, producers of an original DVD for parents on child safety.