While A&E, The HISTORY Channel and Lifetime have carved out different programming niches, they all have the same deep, ongoing commitment to cause-centric marketing initiatives. And the benefits derived from the wide variety of social issues they've championed have paid off in significant ways for the brands, those they've helped and even their advertising partners.
Each of the A+E Networks' brands present several cause-related campaigns over the course of the year. Some, like The HISTORY Channel's "Save Our History" and Lifetime's "Stop Breast Cancer for Life" have become long-running annual initiatives. Others are connected to a specific TV series or specials and occur on a one-time basis. Regardless of their frequency, the campaigns encompass a number of elements that magnify causes in the spotlight, such as public service messages, community events, donations and opportunities for viewers to contact outreach organizations.
The efforts provide two main benefits, explains Elizabeth Luciano, A+E Networks' Senior Vice President of Marketing. "The first is to have some sort of impact in the wider world, above and beyond the entertainment space," she says.
The initiatives also play an important role in developing brand affinity with audiences, she adds. "Many causes we lean into are central to what these brands deliver to audiences every day."
"Save Our History" is a case in point. It began two decades ago as a showcase for preserving historical landmarks around the U.S. Since then, it has expanded its scope, partially due to viewer response. "We've evolved over time to find new ways to help organizations preserve these valuable treasures," says Kim Gilmore, The HISTORY Channel's Senior Vice President of Corporate Outreach and Chef Historian. "For a [recent] show called Tulsa Burning, about the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, we gave a grant to help the only remaining building from that part of Tulsa -- a church that was burned and had significant damage. That church is now a site where people go to find healing."
Other projects launched through "Save Our History" in recent years include the digitization of historical documents and photographs; artifact searches and preservation, and grants to keep already-restored landmarks open to the public.
The brands' cause campaigns also give valuable takeaways that viewers can immediately use. For example, a Lifetime movie that addresses the issue of domestic violence might be followed by information about a hotline for the abused. And the "Stop Breast Cancer for Life" campaign provides information about setting up mammogram appointments.
Providing resources is crucial in many instances, says Kannie Yu LaPack, Lifetime's Senior Vice President of Publicity, Public Affairs and Social Media Strategy. "You turn to the power of positive storytelling, and you provide a takeaway that helps people," she says.
One example of what Yu LaPack describes is "Gift of a Lifetime," launched two years ago to coincide with Lifetime's lineup of original holiday movies. In 2020, five charities were spotlighted. Officials from each organization picked a woman to receive a selection of gifts to brighten their holidays. Participating advertisers in the campaign offered gifts to each person chosen. They ranged from a nurse to a breast cancer survivor.
Last fall, country music and TV star Reba McEntire participated in the campaign and picked the charity Thistle Farms, which works with victims of sex trafficking and prostitution. The person selected needed a new place to live. She was given a fully decorated and furnished apartment with two years of rent paid in advance. "It was truly a life-changing moment," Yu LaPack says. (McEntire is pictured at top with receipient Terrié Moore.)
Luciano has some advice for other brands interested in cause-related campaigns: Especially when planning a multi-year campaign, it's important to undergo an extended period of due diligence. "Consider your audience's interest," she suggests. "Do surveys to learn what their top five or 10 issues are. Study what organizations you want to work with carefully, and make sure they operate within certain standards and guidelines."
In addition to helping those in need, the brands' various cause-marketing campaigns create opportunities for advertising partners to amplify their own social values or initiatives. Last year, MediaVillage spoke with Lifetime's David DeSocio, Executive Vice President, Ad Sales Marketing and Partnerships, who encouraged ad partners to take advantage of these synergistic opportunities to magnify their positive impact.
Expect one or more new cause-centric projects to launch on Lifetime, The HISTORY Channel and A&E during the second half of 2022. With more functionality coming to smart TV sets and devices, the campaigns are likely to introduce some interactive features over the coming months.
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