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Mining New Categories

Viewers in 13 Cox Communications markets have the chance to win a top-to-toe makeover, much like the ones on TLC's weekly series, A Makeover Story. In fact, each of the 13 local winners who submit to the show's primping, trimming and shopping expeditions will find themselves the subject of an upcoming episode.

The promotion, which began this fall and continues into January, is one of the most prominent of an increasingly popular breed of campaign: those designed to reach out to specific advertiser categories that aren't yet spending much on cable.

A Makeover Story
features total makeovers of people getting ready for a big event like a wedding or family reunion. Cox's promotion includes a contest allowing viewers to apply for a similar makeover. TLC picks a winner in each participating locale, then arrives with cameras to film the makeovers, completing them in beauty salons, clothing boutiques, shoe stores and other businesses sponsoring the contest. "We designed this to generate revenue in multiple categories," says Mike Van Bergen, director of affiliate advertising sales at Discovery Networks.

TLC created a makeup brush kit branded with the network's logo and that of A Makeover Story
so sponsors can use them to promote their own sales during the contest period.

TLC reps are also teaming with Cox account executives to call on prospective sponsors, and help them tap vendor support dollars from manufacturers of beauty supplies, clothing, shoes and other items. To maximize their sales effort, Cox reps selling the campaign participate in a weekly conference call, during which they exchange success stories.

So far, the promotion has gone a long way toward meeting Cox's expectations. "It is bringing in new buckets of revenue," Hurt says. "It has been very strong for new business and category development. We're working with clients with whom we didn't previously have relationships."

Another new category promotion launched this year targeted the families of pre-schoolers. The back-to-school campaign, Playhouse Disney A-Z, highlighted the Disney Channel's daytime pre-school programming block while giving affiliates an opportunity to pitch children's clothing retailers, hospitals, daycare centers and even maternity shops and restaurants. Vignettes taught tiny viewers a different letter of the alphabet each day, while encouraging parents to enter a sweepstakes with a $26,000 scholarship grand prize, plus local cash prizes and other gifts.

Playhouse Disney A-Z was the first promotional campaign that offered an ad-sales tie-in to ABC Cable's flagship network, which reaches 80 million households but carries no advertising itself. The campaign won participation from systems reaching a total of 40 million subscribers, according to Ron Hebshie, director of local ad sales for ABC Cable Networks Group, who adds: "This promotion will definitely be back next year."