Livin' the Lifestyle MakesNetwork Cash Registers Ring

There's something about the lifestyle programming at Scripps Networks Interactive that appeals to Steve Gigliotti, a veteran ad sales executive who’s worked in both cable and broadcast.

For Gigliotti, president of national ad sales and marketing at Scripps Networks, a bounty that includes Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel gives the company what amounts to “a marketplace of our own,” populated by advertisers in those categories—food, home, travel—that spend all, or nearly all, of their TV advertising dollars with Scripps.

Take a project like HGTV’s popular annual Dream Home giveaway. For the 2012 Dream Home, HGTV already has received more than 80 million entries, topping the record 77 million set in 2011. And it might be even more popular with sponsors. “We have a whole group of advertisers that are sponsors of the Dream Home and as such buy a large amount of advertising in order to be sponsors of the Dream Home,” Gigliotti says. “You have not seen these on other networks like A&E or Lifetime or broadcast because they don’t go there.”

He’s not talking about major marketers like General Motors and Procter & Gamble, whose products appear in the Dream Home. But there are other sponsors like Bissell, Owens Corning, Ethan Allen, Pella windows, Lumber Liquidator, Sherwin-Williams, Delta faucets, Rinnai tankless water heaters and Wellborn cabinets that are less exposed on TV.

“We are a wonderful outlet for them to reach consumers that are interested in the home, which gives us this built-in marketplace,” Gigliotti says.

Media buyers say the appeal of lifestyle programming to endemic advertisers is perfectly logical. “If you have a cooking product, it can’t hurt to be in a cooking show,” says Gerri Donini, senior VP, national buying at media agency RJ Palmer. “It’s a good place to be. That doesn’t mean it’s the only place to be.”

And within the category of food shows, some will be more successful than others. “We look for how the show is presented, who is going to host it, who’s producing, and how it fits into the network overall,” says Francois Lee, senior VP, group client director at MediaVest.

Lifestyle and food shows pop up on networks all over the dial. Take NBCUniversal’s Bravo, which airs programming designed to give an audience passion points: food, fashion, beauty, design and pop culture.

“Advertisers are interested because consumers are passionate about them. They care. And that’s where all the magic happens. That’s where for a marketer, they get higher engagement, if they’re in that environment or a program that has that passion and connection to a consumer,” says Susan Malfa, senior VP, national sales for Bravo Media and Oxygen Media. “So that is why advertisers want to be there and I would say that is why consumers want to be there because it’s stuff they care about.”

Bravo has it’s own stake planted firmly in the food category, with the Emmy-winning Top Chef.

Top Chef is like a popculture icon,” says Malfa. “The differentiator is how we tell that story, how we execute from even a quality production standpoint.”

And the series has a cadre of loyal sponsors. Toyota has been a sponsor for nine years, and in 2011 was partner in a cross-media experience that allowed viewers to follow story lines from TV to online. Advertising partners for last year’s edition of Top Chef Just Desserts included Buick, Extra Dessert Delights gum and KitchenAid. On Top Chef Masters, sponsors included Lexus, KitchenAid and Chase Sapphire.

“They want to be in that program environment,” Malfa says. “They know that the program works for them. We have a lot of case studies. The advertisers get lifts in recall, and likability, and it’s measurable,” she adds.

Bravo ranked as the No. 1 cable network for brand recall and brand opinion lift among adults 18-49 and claimed 10 of the top 20 major product integrations in first quarter 2011, including No. 1 during Top Chef All-Stars.

As a sponsor of Top Chef Masters, integrations for Lexus outscored the norms on brand recall by 59%, and the brand opinion jumped by 21%, 62% more than usual.

Malfa also sells ads on the Style and Oxygen networks, which feature lifestyle programming as well, including Style’s Jerseylicious, which centers on the hair and beauty business.

Scripps, meanwhile, is looking to expand its lifestyle approach to country music network GAC with a concept called “Living Country” that revolves around how Main Street America lives, as opposed to those on the coasts and big cities. Flyover state viewers are in fact attractive to a number of advertisers.

“A lot of the advertisers that are on HGTV and Food are also looking for a way to connect to this hard-to-reach audience,” says Gigliotti. “We have a lot of domestic automobile business that’s very interested in that, and you can imagine the truck business is very interested.”

Consumer packaged goods marketers also want to connect to GAC’s wholesome Main Street living approach, Gigliotti says. “And one of the things we do really well in our company is we create that interstitial element, that vignette that surrounds your spot that allows the audience to get deeper involved with your commercial message.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.