THREE NETWORKS EXCEL

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Other cable networks distinguished themselves with outstanding marketing efforts, along with A&E. Here are three examples of cable marketing at its best.

With a clear marketing mission statement, The Weather Channel came into its own this year. Its unambiguous branded name gives The Weather Channel a strong image in the competitive marketplace.

"We're in 69 million homes, and there are very few people who don't know who we are," says Bruce Humbert, VP-strategic and consumer marketing research for the cable network.

Network executives recognized the strong brand image and moved to capitalize on it.

"We know people click us on to check out the weather, but we want people to tune in for more than just a few minutes at a time," says Mr. Humbert.

The goal was to make The Weather Channel more approachable.

To suggest an enjoyable viewing format, the network this year launched an ad campaign titled "The Front" via TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif. In a number of humorous spots, patrons are shown to be Weather Channel fanatics.

"The people in the commercials have a passion for weather, and that's the sense we're trying to convey," says Mr. Humbert. "That The Weather Channel is not merely a dry, scientific dissection of highs, lows and storm fronts. We're saying, 'Hey, it's a comfortable place. Stay a while.'"

The service also wants to be on the cutting edge with advertisers, and this year signed a deal with Wink Communications for interactive commercials. The Wink software allows viewers to push a button on their remote to access more information about the weather.

Another cable network known for its stellar marketing is Nickelodeon. This year the company added motion pictures as a major brand extension. Furthermore, the network continues to expand its brand beyond daytime.

Already programming until 8 p.m., Nickelodeon recently announced it will extend its franchise yet another hour.

This year Nickelodeon's gross ad revenue is expected to top $440 million, according to Paul Kagan Associates, up 20% from last year.

A number of Nickelodeon's shows, especially "Rugrats," are among the most viewed on cable -- a point not lost on advertisers.

Kraft Foods has a long-term tie-in deal with Nickelodeon. The network is known as one of the most friendly tie-in partners around.

Another top cable marketer is Home Box Office. Over the years, HBO has been far and away the most consistent cable TV marketer and this year, as the network celebrated its 25th anniversary, it shined once again.

HBO has won far more awards for excellence than any other cable network, and this year added another trophy to its proud collection: the first Emmy for best TV commercial.

The spot, "Chimp," was produced by BBDO Worldwide, New York.

"Whether it's image advertising or show-specific ads, HBO has always done a great job," says one envious executive at a basic cable network. "They spend the money and get great results. We can all learn from them."

Ironically, it is HBO, a non-ad-supported network with 23 million subscribers, that regularly does a better job of advertising itself than any ad-supported cable network.

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