For the executives at E! Entertainment Television, getting behind a cause meant, first and foremost, trying to engage an audience instead of lecturing it.
“We try to create a public action campaign instead of a public service announcement,” says Suzanne Kolb, executive VP, marketing and communications for the Comcast Entertainment Group, which includes E!, G4 and Style.
Last fall, the network teamed with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals for its second annual “Cards for Kids” campaign.
Viewers were guided through an on-air effort to E!'s Website, where they were able to send free holiday e-cards featuring the work of renowned children's illustrators like Eric Carle.
The network has since also launched the even more ambitious and innovative campaign, “Drive Safe.”
“We saw a need and a genuine role our viewers could play,” Kolb says. She was inspired in part by E!'s news coverage that had been devoting plenty of time in recent months to a spate of Hollywood DUIs.
“I started wondering if we were glorifying the act,” Kolb adds.
The network teamed up with Sean “Diddy” Combs and Ciroc Vodka to create celebrity-driven PSA ads encouraging viewers to avoid driving after drinking. In each spot, a person is seen leaving a Hollywood club buzzed but not overly drunk—precisely the situation where people make dangerous mistakes.
But in the ad a car pulls up, the window rolls down and there is a celebrity—Combs, Eva Longoria, Tommy Lee—offering a ride home. “People will want to see who's behind the glass in each spot,” Kolb says.
Of course, celebs aren't going to give many people a lift home. So Kolb's PSA's encouraged viewers to go to E! Online before they go out and type in their ZIP code to find options for getting home; or text Drive Safe 37373 into their phone to get the number of a nearby taxi service.
“We don't want to tell people their specific behavior is bad—everyone drinks sometimes,” Kolb says. “We want to say, 'In that situation, here's what you can do.' We want to help people make a better decision.”