Cable's Hometown Challenge

Promotions between networks and cable systems build loyalty. They draw advertisers, too.

Local broadcasters score points with everybody from congressmen to the high school football coach because they are local. Cable operators are local, too, and that's one of the reasons cable networks offer regional, high-minded promotions: They help get cable systems recognized in their communities and, in the same way, assist cable networks in making a tighter bond with local viewers. For cable systems, it's also just good business: Operators use the promotions to sell spot ads.

“Cause-related marketing campaigns open doors for affiliate partners to engage local businesses with a unique opportunity to reach consumers on a personal level and in a way that traditional advertising cannot,” says Lauren Monks, director of affiliate marketing for Discovery Networks.

Discovery's Animal Planet “Be a Hero” campaign, which in part helps community animal shelters, is also a “tangible extension of the network's mission to connect humans and animals,” Monks says. That's why cable networks such as Court TV, Lifetime and MTV are so active in local promotions.

Although most of the major cable networks have extensive promotional calendars—some are simply sales incentives for local operators—promotions that are “customized according to the individual clients that create a special synergy” are catching on, says Lori Givens, senior director of sales promotion and corporate communications for National Cable Communications, the big cable spot-buying agency.

But there are still many broad-based local-cable ad-sales tie-ins that are rolled out nationwide.

“In this day and age, with the country in the shape we are in,” Givens says, “localized service promotions are very appealing.”