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To Get People To Watch Viceland On TV, Vice Uses A Newspaper

The people preparing the launch of Vice’s new cable network, Viceland, really want to hear from you.

The cable network, slated to debut on February 29 on the outlet known as H2, took out a hard-to-miss neon-green print ad in The New York Times on Friday, listing only its name and a phone number. People who choose to call listen to a message that appears to change regularly. Last week,  callers were asked to discuss what in the world kept them up at night. On Tuesday, curious dialers were told to relate what they might do if they were President (presumably of the United States, not Viceland). “This call will be recorded and broadcast on television and YouTube,” the recording states.

Newspapers, so conventional wisdom would have it, are falling out of favor with advertisers as a means of making a splash with consumers. Print advertising revenue in newspapers fell to $16.4 billion in 2014, according to data from Pew Research Center, compared with $46.7 billion a decade earlier. And yet, here is an example of a company turning to print to help generate awareness of an important corporate initiative.

Viceland is billed as a 24-hour cable network that will play upon the spirit of Vice, the digital-media outlet whose fortunes have been buoyed by its interest in you-are-there documentaries that take viewers everywhere from North Korea to the war on cancer.  Director Spike Jonze is on board as creative director, and series include “Weediquette,”  a program based on Vice’s digital reports on the power and politics of marijuana.

A+E Networks, which is backed by Walt Disney and Hearst and owns H2,  invested $250 million for a 10% stake in Brooklyn-based Vice in the summer of 2014.  The contribution of H2 to Vice programmers  was expected to boost A+E’s stake in Vice  to 20%. The network reaches about 70 million U.S. households.  Walt Disney is an investor in Vice on its own as well, along with other heady entities, including 21st Century Fox and British advertising conglomerate WPP.

Vice is adopting a technique that has been used before in the nice practice of using advertising and promotion to get people to watch specific TV offerings. In the summer of 2014, a billboard touting the services of attorney James M. McGill went up in Albuquerque, NM, complete with a phone number featuring the region’s 505 area code.  McGill is the birth name of Saul Goodman, the lead character in the AMC series “Better Call Saul.” The number, 505-842-5662, still works, and callers are treated to a lilting message from the voice of actor Bob Odenkirk, who tells them that McGill is “a lawyer you can trust.”

Executives at Vice declined to specify which of a bevy of new programs might use the caller comments, but a person familiar with the promotion suggested the ad had sparked “hundreds” of responses.

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