Starz Branding Effort Plays on Emotion

To help its Starz! Super Pak brand break through the clutter, Starz Encore Group LLC this week will launch a new $45 million image campaign.

The multimedia campaign — crafted by the company's new ad agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day San Francisco — plays on the emotional response that hit movies can engender. Using the tagline, "Hundreds of movies — millions of emotions," it shows such responses from the perspective of someone looking in on a cinema audience.

Separate spots were created to promote the premium movie programmer's current lineup of comedies, while others highlight tearjerkers or thrillers.

Starz plans to blanket the market well into the summer with broadcast, cable, print and radio ads, as well customizable cross-channel spots for affiliates.

TV media buys include the top 20 cable networks, as well as syndicated shows like Entertainment Tonight, said senior vice president of consumer marketing Jeremy Harris. The company has scheduled some media outlets it hasn't bought in the past, he added.

"This campaign breaks with convention," said vice president of on-air promotion and creative services Che Che Mata. "You have to do something unusual and unique, or you're not going to break through. If you don't, you're right in the middle of a lot of white noise."

Mata said the goal of the campaign is to "burn the Super Pak brand name into consumer's frontal lobe," so cable and satellite affiliates pitching their digital products will have an easier time making the sale.

Starz Encore has backed this year's campaign with significantly more resources than last year's $30 million branding effort, noted executive vice president and chief marketing officer Mike Hale.

In creating the new image campaign, Starz went out of its way to choose actors who were diverse in terms of age, gender and ethnic origin. That's so the TV spots would resonate with the widest possible audience.

"Movies appeal across the board," said senior vice president of research analysis and strategy David Charmatz. "The core value of movies is how they make you feel."

Starz also wants the ads to click with affiliates' customer service reps, too, because they're the ones who have to sell the product, said Hale.

Emotions help determine how consumers choose a premium movie service, Charmatz also noted. Moods and ethics could play into a family-oriented viewer's decision not to subscribe to a premium service that features risqué content, he argued.

Hit theatrical titles like Pearl Harbor
will play a key role in the branding ads, Mata said.

"Those are the coattails we fly in on," he added.

One challenge of the on-air campaign was to reinforce the Starz Super Pak umbrella brand while not sacrificing the strength of the individual channels, such as Westerns, Mata noted.

Hale said the company's strategy is to bring back basic-only customers who have dropped Home Box Office or Showtime in the past, rather than steal subscribers away from the competition.

"Let's face it," Hale said. "If you want HBO, you're going to take it."