Art & Biz: Family & Faith Entertainment 2012

Most brands are at the mercy of the programs on which they advertise, making it tough for family-friendly companies to find content that matches their values. To that end, companies such as Hallmark Cards, Walmart and Procter & Gamble have responded by producing and/or distributing wholesome entertainment of their own, serving uplifting and inspirational media directly to receptive auds.

For 60 years, the Hallmark Hall of Fame series has afforded the venerable greeting-card company a chance to control both content and delivery, while branding its programming so viewers associate Hallmark with its message. Through the network Family Movie Night initiative, Walmart and P&G are trying a similar model, sponsoring a series of features broadcast on network TV.

“They are creating different circumstances for the audience to save money and manage the family budget better, and with that in mind, it becomes a place where the audience is a little more open to what they have to say,” says Judith Manigault, editor-in-chief of FE Media, an online review of family entertainment. “They are striving to present a certain value system of family first, togetherness and respect — core values that families hold dear.”

For its Hallmark Hall of Fame telepic series, parent company Hallmark develops the programming with its distributor, currently ABC, and produces through a dedicated Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. shingle. Family Movie Night follows a similar model, with P&G producing under its Procter & Gamble Prods. banner and sometimes outsourcing to Telenext Media Inc. The consumer goods behemoth then distributes through NBC and Fox, and over-the-counter with co-sponsor Walmart.

According to Chris Wyatt, founder and former CEO of the website GodTube, whose company owns and operates cabler FamilyNet, “There’s a misconception in Hollywood that Christians buy food at a Christian grocery, shop at Christian bookstores and watch movies at Christian theaters. The truth is we’re the majority of today’s moviegoers and the largest consumer of DVD releases at Walmart.”

By creating a reliable banner for child-appropriate fare, branded specials establish an entertainment space that appeals to such consumers while boosting the sponsor companies’ values-driven corporate ethos.

“In a survey conducted last April, Walmart and P&G found that 75% of moms admitted to having to change the channel because of inappropriate content in a program they thought was family-friendly. Additionally, 42% of moms feel their family would spend more time together if there was more family-friendly TV programming,” Walmart spokeswoman Sarah Spencer wrote in an email.

Such vertical integration has become increasingly advantageous for advertisers as media have fragmented across the Internet and mobile devices, while giving brands a chance to promote their family-first position without being overshadowed by other like-minded advertisers.

“Hallmark Hall of Fame is somewhat unique because other than a mid-program station break, Hallmark has all the advertising,” says Lisa Macpherson, senior VP of marketing for Hallmark Cards. “That helps showcase our message and ensure the program is a seamless viewing experience.”

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