Food Network is experimenting with tying Web and SMS messaging elements to TV programming, in a bid to promote a two-hour wedding special and gauge advertiser interest in such multi-channel interactive marketing.
"We're looking at this as a test," said Beth Higbee, VP of Food Network's interactive group. "And we definitely feel we have the full support of advertisers."
The program, which is called "Food Network Caters Your Wedding," features the wedding of a couple named Aaron and LeAnn, winners of a contest of soon-to-wed pairs who competed to have their wedding broadcast, as well as catered, by the E.W. Scripps-owned cable network. Expedia and Citibank, which sponsored the FoodNetwork's online Weddings section, will broadcast television commercials during the two-hour program.
Leveraging a growth in simultaneous Web and TV use, the promotional campaign for the show will allow consumers to submit "love notes" to their significant others, which have the chance of being screened on television during the two-hour program.
Messages are limited to 160 characters in length and may be sent either by SMS messaging from a cell phone or through an online submission form on the Weddings micro-site. (Text message submissions sent via cell phone will receive an automated reply, inviting the sender to join a new SMS newsletter for Food Networks.)
A "love crawl" of 700 of these messages -- censored for content -- will scroll in white letters across an orange-red backdrop in the lower third of the screen. The scroll will run continuously throughout the program, except for during commercial breaks.
Food Network turned to GoldPocket Interactive to design and implement the love crawl component of the campaign, which targets an 18-34 demographic, Higbee said.
"Our biggest goal is to get new young users and viewers," Higbee said. "It's wedding content targeting youth. So we thought a love crawl would be a really funny way to give people a direct line to TV."
In addition to appealing to a younger demographic, the love crawl was designed by GoldPocket to rivet audience attention on the programming.
"We worked with Food Network to create an engaging viewer and user experience, putting text onscreen to develop a stickiness for viewers," said Steve Leonard, president of GoldPocket Wireless, a division of GoldPocket Interactive. "Presumably they will watch more of the program in order to see if their messages appear onscreen."
GoldPocket also designed an interactive trivia game, which asks detailed questions about the television program, for the Weddings micro-site.
"The online trivia game tests to see if you're paying attention to the television program, which provides a more captive audience to advertisers," Higbee said.
The micro-site also features video clip excerpts from episode, which load in a viewer that plays video ads from marketers across the entire Food Network Web site, as well as a slideshow of stills.
The campaign marks Food Network's second collaboration with GoldPocket. Its next multi-channel promotion will also feature an interactive trivia game component. However that effort will feature in-game advertising, she added.
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