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Hallmark Aids Sponsors With Vignettes That 'Break Through’

Looking to boost revenue from advertisers targeting back-to-school shoppers, Hallmark Channel is producing a series of humorous vignettes for several top sponsors.

Hallmark executive vice president and chief marketing officer Chris Moseley said the network is charging advertisers a premium for the vignettes, which feature a 1970s feel with a series of classic first-day-of-school photographs.

Advertisers that cut deals for the Hallmark-produced vignettes (which began running Aug. 12) are Staples, Kohl’s, Subaru of America, Dairy Management and Interstate Brands’ Wonder Bread.

Hallmark said images from the spots include a teen with a mullet, butterfly collar and white polyester bell-bottoms and a young boy in tube socks, bowl cut and Starsky & Hutch lunchbox.

Vignettes feature a voiceover which explains that the images “are being presented as a friendly reminder for parents to dress their kids responsibly and to shop responsibly during the back-to-school season.”

Pointing to research which found that viewers with digital video recorders skip most commercials, but watch a greater percentage of promotions, Moseley said Hallmark expects the vignettes will be more effective at helping advertisers to reach viewers.

The vignettes, which were sold by Hallmark’s Sponsorship Solutions unit, are part of a broader push from Hallmark to sell nontraditional advertising to sponsors through product placements in its original movies and series.

“Our goal is to help advertisers break through commercial clutter to allow their messages to stand out, and back-to-school makes complete sense for us, since Hallmark Channel reaches such a loyal audience,” Hallmark executive vice president of national ad sales Bill Abbott said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Hallmark cut a deal with Kraft Foods Inc. to sponsor its remake of The Parent Trap, selling the company eight minutes of customized ads during the movie.

Separately, Moseley said Hallmark Channel is working on new holiday sweepstakes promotion to tout its six new original movies. She said the network drew 17 million new viewers with the original-movie strategy in 2002, and an additional 12 million viewers with a similar promotion last year.

Hallmark, which currently counts about 62 million subscribers, expects to grow its distribution base to 68 million by the end of the year and to 75 million by the end of 2005, Moseley said.