Whirlpool Brings TLC to Sandy Relief Efforts

Not many people come back from Atlantic City as winners, but Discovery Communications and Whirlpool didn’t go there to gamble. Both companies were involved in helping to rebuild homes in the city devastated by Superstorm Sandy. So when the time came to create some vignettes for the marketer, the Jersey Shore became a focus.

When the new home improvement series Honey Do premieres on June 17 in primetime on Discovery’s TLC, vignettes featuring three of the show’s handymen hosts—Jonathan Waud, Kevin Peake and Benjamin Patterson—who pitched in at Atlantic City, will air in promotional time. The Honey Do trio will tell viewers that Whirlpool donated appliances for the rebuilt homes. The vignette shows a Whirlpool truck delivering washers and dryers, as well as some of the grateful homeowners.

John Barry, senior VP for ad sales at TLC, said the vignettes came together extraordinarily fast.

Whirlpool had already bought its schedule of commercials and would be advertising products it had not featured on the network before, including washers and dryers.

“The viewers of TLC align nicely with the consumers we’re trying to market to, so it’s a natural fit for us,” says Janet Johnson, associate brand manager for Whirlpool.

Like most advertisers buying significant ad packages, Whirlpool would also get some branded content in the form of integrations, vignettes and billboards.

“Back in early April their agency, Optimedia, came to us looking for some really good ideas,” Barry says. TLC called in its sales marketing team, as well as the network’s marketing team. “What really resonated well was the Atlantic City project.”

More than 125 Discovery Communications employees and on-air talent converged on Ventnor City, a suburb of Atlantic City, to work with Habitat for Humanity last month as part of the media company’s Discovery Impact initiative. In addition to the guys from Honey Do, Buddy Valastro of TLC’s Cake Boss and Dave Salmoni of Animal Planet took part in the effort. Also showing up for work were Ventnor City mayor Mike Bagnell and New Jersey governor Chris Christie. (In 2011, Discovery employees rebuilt homes in suburbs of Birmingham, Ala. hit by tornadoes.)

Whirlpool has worked with Habitat for Humanity for 13 years, contributing more than $78 million in cash and merchandise. TLC approached Whirlpool about joining in the Atlantic City effort, especially since the Honey Do talent would be involved. “We felt like partnering with that show was a natural for us,” says Whirlpool’s Johnson.

In Atlantic City, Whirlpool donated 30 household appliances including washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, ranges and refrigerators. The appliances were installed by Discovery volunteers, working with Habitat’s people.

Creating vignettes around the Atlantic City effort was a great fit, Barry says. “We probably turned this around in a two-to-three-week time frame,” he says. “One of the keys was getting great cooperation on the approval process. There was a very tight timetable for us to work with.”

The vignettes will be accompanied by traditional spots from Whirlpool. Initially, a vignette will air during Honey Do, but it will also appear on other shows on the network. Whirlpool will also get on-air billboards highlighting its sponsorship.

Whirlpool doesn’t normally trumpet its work with Habitat for Humanity on TV. “It is something Whirlpool and the Whirlpool Corp. are obviously proud of, but not necessarily something we led with in marketing. This is a little different in the way we’re approaching it,” says Johnson. “We put this together in less than two weeks’ time. It was amazing, but well worth it. We’re excited to be a part of it.”

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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.