Showtime, Toy Chain Team Anew

Showtime Networks Inc. and Toys 'R' Us were so pleased with the results from their first marketing partnership last fall that they'll team up again for a fourth-quarter subscriber-acquisition campaign.

The family-appeal campaign — featuring the toy retailer's advertising mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe — will offer a $50 Toys 'R' Us gift card to all new Showtime subscribers. The subscription drive will run from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.

Even as this campaign is readied, Showtime Networks senior vice president of marketing Geof Rochester is scouting for other retail partners to take part in the gift-card concept.

Acquisition ascent

For affiliates, the fourth-quarter '02 campaign resulted in "a 22% lift over total business-as-usual activity," said Rochester, who expects this initiative will at least match those results.

Prior in-market testing had indicated that the Toys 'R' Us value-added overlay "generated a significant lift over an affiliate's stand-alone offer."

Rochester said he is especially enthused because the impetus for this latest effort originated with the toy retailer. Although Toys 'R' Us didn't provide any statistics about how the 2002 campaign affected store traffic and the like, Rochester said the link obviously bolsters Toys 'R' Us media exposure during its crucial pre-Christmas toy-selling period.

In one ad featuring the retailer's giraffe mascot and the headline, "Wow! Things are looking up!" the copy outlines a joint operator/Showtime offer of digital cable and the Showtime Unlimited package of five digital channels. New customers who order two months of Showtime Unlimited at half price — saving $7 per month — will get the $50 gift card, the copy reads.

In a direct-mail piece, as a young family looks up at the giraffe, the father exclaims, "You mean we get a free $50 Toys 'R' Us gift card just for getting Showtime?"

Many affiliates tend to add their own digital-cable upgrade offers.

Showtime marketing materials will call consumers' attention to the availability of such movies as Die Another Day, Spy Kids 2, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
and Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, as well as such original series as Soul Food, Dead Like Me
and Out of Order.

The Showtime executive said the toy retailer's stores in "select markets" will have the opportunity to erect in-store displays, but he did not know at press time whether Toys 'R' Us planned to incorporate stills from Die Another Day
or Spy Kids 2
into those displays. Both movies have spawned spin-off toy and game products.

Since last year, Rochester said, Showtime has sought out "big, robust consumer-friendly brands" like Toys 'R' Us and, in a first-quarter '03 marketing campaign, Home Depot.

"And operators clearly like this [kind of tie-in] because it creates excitement."

"All the major MSOs" participated last fall and are expected to return for the upcoming campaign, he said. Last year affiliates sent out some 10 million mail pieces, Rochester estimated.

CSR, web additions

On the consumer side, Showtime has produced direct mail, radio and direct-response television ads, door hangers and print ad slicks. Web banners and customizable HyperText Markup Language e-mails were added this year, Rochester noted. Showtime's Web site will also alert visitors to the Toys 'R' Us gift card.

Rochester also said Showtime will run a national incentive sweepstakes for customer-service representatives. It will include call-center promotional displays and details on the prizes for "hundreds" of CSRs — $5,000 worth of Toys 'R' Us gift cards and a Vespa scooter.