CAMPAIGNS: Channel 4 learns that sex still sells - Broadcast PR

Sex and the City is the latest of Channel 4’s US imports. The comedy features four thirty-something female New Yorkers, and was sure to be popular with the key advertising target audience of 16- to 34-year-old audience. Channel 4’s press team worked to ensure that this age group was targeted before the programme hit the screens on 3 February.

Sex and the City is the latest of Channel 4’s US imports. The

comedy features four thirty-something female New Yorkers, and was sure

to be popular with the key advertising target audience of 16- to

34-year-old audience. Channel 4’s press team worked to ensure that this

age group was targeted before the programme hit the screens on 3

February.



Objectives



To create a ’must-see’ show and to build Wednesday night as a ’viewing

destination’.



Tactics



The team began planning in November, by identifying opinion formers -

not only journalists, but those who set the agenda such as DJs Zoe Ball

and Chris Evans.



Once identified, these 40-odd individuals were sent tapes of Sex and the

City. The idea was to lead these people to believe that they were

receiving the tapes exclusively. The press office added to the intrigue

by informing recipients that the tapes were confidential and must not be

discussed.



Naturally, the exact opposite happened, and it wasn’t long before pirate

copies were being made and circulated to friends - in short, a buzz was

being created around the show.



The media relations side of the campaign kicked in after this, with the

team now targeting opinion forming titles, such as the Face, Time Out,

the Sunday Times Culture supplement and various broadsheets and

mid-market tabloids. In addition, new entertainment magazine Heat was

targeted, as its launch was expected to attract a lot of attention.



Tracy Blacher, press officer at Channel 4 worked to get actress Sarah

Jessica Parker - who both stars in and produces the show - to be a part

of the publicity campaign. Blacher visited Parker’s personal publicist,

Ina Treciokas, and set about convincing her that it would be good for

Parker to raise her UK profile. Parker agreed to do interviews to

promote the series and also to appear in various glossy magazines.

Darren Star, the well-known executive producer and Candace Bushnell, on

whose book the series is based also made themselves available for the

publicity campaign.



To give the campaign a strong visual impact, an instantly recognisable

image featuring the show’s four stars was used in all publicity

materials.



Results



The campaign snowballed beyond the targeted titles - all the nationals

covered the show extensively. The tabloids all ran double-page spreads,

with features along the lines of ’Sex and the City was my real life’ in

the Mirror.



The broadsheets joined the melee, with full-page features on the show,

and Sarah Jessica Parker was featured in various magazines such as FHM

and Elle.



However, while the objective of getting the show talked about was well

and truly achieved, not all the talk was favourable. Perhaps it was that

the show didn’t live up to the hype, or maybe it was simply a media

backlash, but much of the coverage criticised the show for not being

true to life.



Unofficial figures for the first week showed some four million viewers

tuned in, which compared favourably with the five million who tune in to

ER on a regular basis.



Verdict



Having the central figure of your sitcom being a journalist probably

doesn’t do any harm in getting the print media to write about it. That

said, the Sex and the City publicity campaign really captured the

imagination of the press which was simply overloaded with features

relating to the series. In fact, when the press had run out of comments

on the actual programme, it began to write about the publicity campaign

- surely a sign of success.



Client: Channel 4

Campaign: Sex and the City launch

PR Team: In-house

Timescale: November 1998 to February 1999

Budget: Nil



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.