Hachette's search is believed to be linked to its agreement to develop a cable TV channel based on Car and Driver and Road & Track with Tele-Communications Inc. Hachette also is in discussions with TCI to form other channels based on its magazines.
All the channels would have a heavy emphasis on advertiser-sponsored programming (AA, Dec. 6).
Among the companies Hachette is talking to are Brockway Direct Response Television, Huntington, N.Y.; Transactional Media, Beverly Hills, Calif.; Guthy-Renker Corp., Palm Desert, Calif.; and Regal Group, Fort Washington, Pa., said Mario Cooper, VP of Hachette Filipacchi Multimedia, the unit overseeing interactive media projects.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to help our advertisers and improve [their] sales, either direct sales or foot traffic to retailers," Mr. Cooper said. "It's a logical extension into interactive, or the interactive experience."
Hachette wants to be a sort of "one-stop shop" for its advertisers, Mr. Cooper said.
"To us, it's a logical extension that with a full advertising campaign in the magazines they also would be backed up by an infomercial," he said.
Mr. Cooper said Hachette's interest in infomercials extends beyond its deal with TCI, but he admitted having an infomercial producer on hand could help attract potential cable advertisers not accustomed to long-form ads.
The automotive channel is expected to launch in the next 12 to 18 months.
What's unclear in Hachette's plan is if its advertisers will want to make infomercials. Mainstream marketers have flocked to the format in recent years, but few have seen measurable results from their expenditures.
And though some publishers are testing the interactive waters, none have ventured into infomercials on an ongoing basis.
Long-form advertising on an all-automotive channel might be a different scenario, though. Auto buffs and consumers wanting to buy a car would likely eat up advertiser-sponsored programming that gave them the opportunity to learn more.
Some automakers already have experience in the format, including General Motors Corp.'s Saturn division, Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen of America. Other likely infomercial advertisers include automotive supply companies.
Another problem for Hachette is what relationship, if any, the infomercial company would have with a particular advertiser's agency. While several infomercial companies have aligned themselves with agencies recently, some client conflicts are bound to crop up.
Hachette last year signed an agreement with talent agency International Creative Management to represent it in interactive media deals. ICM is acting as an intermediary for Hachette, screening potential infomercial partners and developing programming ideas for the automotive channel and other potential channels, said ICM agent Ariel Emanuel.
Hachette's search for an infomercial partner is a sign that the publisher wants to develop programming skills.
"There's a certain level of expertise in just a handful of companies in the country on this kind of thing," said an executive at one infomercial company on Hachette's list. "I think that's why they're getting involved, and I think that's why a company like this company is saying, `Hey look, let's not reinvent the wheel. Let's not have a number of failures here; let's get going in the right way."'