History Channel wants to entice young and middle aged men to watch its “Gettysburg” special Monday night, and the TV channel has reenlisted with Microsoft Xbox for the third time to do it. Like it did for its “WWII in HD” and “America The Story of Us” series, History Channel is banking on Xbox to help attract elusive 18- to 49-year-old men with an interest in war games and the real thing.
“Due to the subject matter, we thought that the gamer was a really key target,” said Ann Marie Granite, senior director of consumer marketing at History Channel.
In addition to video content, the Gettysburg campaign features Xbox homepage sponsorships and an Xbox Live Hub dedicated to Gettysburg, as well as a Gettysburg presence in the Kinect platform, which allows players to control games using voice and motion tracking rather than a controller device. History Channel has worked with Horizon Media on all three of its Xbox campaigns.
“It’s kind of a fragmented world now…. That’s why we’ve chosen to do so many different platforms for the same [campaign],” said Granite. With Xbox it brought everything together,” she added. For instance, the Xbox experience allows people to interact with a map of Gettysburg that can also be seen in-person at a kiosk near Bryant Park in New York City.
“It added an event element to it,” said Granite.
The Gettysburg special kicks off the channel’s larger four-year commemoration of the Civil War, which began 150 years ago. That initiative also involves the Give 150 campaign, an effort History Channel is supporting that provides donations to the Civil War Trust and the National Park Foundation for preservation of Civil War sites. The channel has used Facebook and Twitter messaging to get the word out about the project.
The earlier WWII in HD promo featured a first-person shooting game that morphed into “serious” video content to attract gamers interested in gritty war documentary programming. The Gettysburg campaign is intended to appeal to a serious sensibility, too, said Granite. That is why – though the channel has done lighter-hearted game related campaigns for shows like “Pawn Stars,” which offers a Pawn Stars Facebook game – History Channel is using the more sophisticated Xbox platform to draw sober-minded war gamers for Gettysburg.
“The issue is they’ve got to be really in-depth, high quality games .You don’t want to do something that [the audience will] think is silly or not serious,” said Granite.
“The [targeted] TV viewer isn’t necessarily watching TV all day until 7 or 8 o’clock at night,” said Granite. Getting their attention while they’re on Xbox is “the way to get that male 18-49 [viewer] right before they’re making [decisions about] their TV viewing,” she continued.
Gettysburg premieres on Memorial Day, May 30. The documentary was produced by Tony Scott and Ridley Scott.
Following positive results from the WWII campaign, History Channel re-upped with Xbox, adding other Microsoft properties such as online news, sports and gossip content to the campaign for America The Story of Us. In addition to display ads and photo galleries, editorial staff produced content with historical American themes. For instance, stories about American athletes making history were accompanied by ads for the series on sports sites. “We basically sponsored Microsoft for the campaign,” said Granite.
Ultimately, History Channel campaigns are measured by one key metric: TV ratings. But when it comes to the Xbox related elements, the company measured impressions, click-throughs, video downloads, and video views.