Lifetime will kick off the second season of Army Wives, its top drama, with an affiliate campaign that will both promote and reward local ad sales and act as a community relations project benefiting those depicted in the series — the families of service personnel.
For advice on the promotion, Lifetime turned to Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit group that provides emergency assistance to troops in the field and support for the families left behind, as well as wounded service personnel after they return from the battlefield.
Sue Panzer, Lifetime's vice president of affiliate ad sales and distribution marketing, said affiliates expressed an interest in linking ad-sales efforts to the series because of its theme and ratings power. Army Wives is the most successful series in the channel's history, she said, capturing top ratings in its timeslot among women aged 18 to 34, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54.
Affiliates also recognized that such a local ad-sales effort, if treated properly, could be considered “cause marketing,” she added.
Operation Homefront said service families want long-distance phone cards so they can keep in touch with their loved ones in uniform. So, Lifetime has created an advertiser-rewards program that will draw local businesses into the campaign and earn benefits for military families.
Advertisers that buy time during the second season, which begins June 8, will receive an Army Wives gift pack. It contains an updated version of the book on which the series is based: Army Wives: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage, autographed by author Tanya Biank. Also included are series posters signed by the entire cast, a DVD player and a DVD of its complete first season. It will also include a certificate for supporting “Army wives” — both the show and the real people.
Lifetime will then donate phone cards for distribution through Operation Homefront, on behalf of the advertiser and the local affiliate.
Operators who have signed on for the promotion include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks, said Panzer. Another participant is cable advertising rep firm Viamedia of Lexington, Ky.
Operators are deploying the promotion in markets with a heavy military presence, such as Cox's San Diego system, Panzer said.
Operators will be provided with taggable spots that can name the participating advertisers. Web banners are also being developed.
Lifetime expects great interest in the return of the series, which finished its first season with a bomb jeopardizing the series' main characters.
The network ordered 18 episodes for the second season, delayed due to last fall's Writers Guild of America strike.
Army Wives will air on Sunday nights through mid-September, with a mini-cliffhanger leading into a hiatus. It will resume in mid-November for five more episodes, Panzer said.
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