Spy Sweeps Part of a Starz Summer Salvo

Starz Encore Group is going all out this summer in acquisition-marketing campaigns for the Starz Super Pak, led by its spy-themed "Summer Stakeout Sweepstakes."

Vice president of strategic marketing Kelly Bumann said the hefty marketing push is designed to help cable and satellite providers boost subscriptions and digital-cable upgrades during the traditionally lackluster subscriber-acquisition season, which typically lags behind the first and fourth quarters.

Summer is also a time of lower viewership, Bumann acknowledged. "We've got to break through those issues," she said.

The way to do that is through attention-grabbing blockbuster films making their cable debuts. In its affiliate kit, Starz Encore noted that premium subscribers "want more movies," yet 41% of Home Box Office's primetime schedule and 27% of Showtime's lineup consist of original series.

The sweepstakes — to run June 2 through Aug. 31 — is pegged to the network's five spy-themed summer movie titles: Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Bourne Identity and Undercover Brother (all due in June); XXX (July); and Master of Disguise

In spots for the contest, as clips of the films apppear, a voiceover notes: "A new breed of secret agent is coming to Starz!."

After citing the grand prize, the 60-second execution closes with Austin Powers saying, "Very shagadelic, baby. Yeah!"

Materials aplenty

The primary objective of the campaigns is to drive upgrades, said Bumann, who noted that free previews will be another component in the overall effort.

Those who subscribe to digital cable service with Starz Super Pak will "get your first month free."

The watch-and-win sweepstakes mail piece includes a game, to engage the consumer, Bumann said, with the actual offer and message contained inside the brochure. The mailing, for example, shows a figure in outline only under the headline, "Test your spy movie I.Q." The question: "Who chooses covert operations over jail time?"

Consumers enter by reporting a spy movie to a special on-screen phone number.

The grand prize is a trip to New York and $10,000 in cash, to be delivered in true spy fashion — via briefcase — to the winner in Manhattan's Central Park. Secondary prizes include: Panasonic digital cameras, Bushnell binoculars and film posters.

Other films plugged in the overall summer push are Signs and Blue Crush (both July) and Sweet Home Alabama (August).

For affiliate campaigns not linked to the sweeps or a specific offer, Starz Encore is offering "gift with purchase," including the Dr Pepper and Seven-Up soft drinks, Pop Secret popcorn and Red Baron pizza, to spur consumer orders, she added.

3 million mailers

Noting that Starz Encore is still selling-in the summer campaigns, Bumann declined to estimate an overall marketing budget. She did indicate that the programmer already anticipates that 3 million pieces of direct mail will be sent out, versus last summer's 2 million.

There's also a Goldmember-related "Psychedelic Cinema"-themed point-of-sale push targeting customer service representatives, she said. That phase includes training, games and giveaways as incentives, tied to meeting subscription-sales benchmarks, she added.