TV Guide is doubling its TV ad budget for this year to $15 million, with a campaign featuring NBC sportscaster Bob Costas as the weekly's first official spokesman.
In a series of 15-second commercials that broke this week, Mr. Costas urges viewers to "just open up" the new TV Guide.
The magazine late last year underwent a redesign and added new sections on family viewing and style in a bid to lure advertisers in new categories, including fashion.
"We want to underscore to viewers and readers that there's a new and energetic TV Guide," said Editor in Chief Steve Reddi-cliffe.
The ads, from Zicardi & Partners, New York, broke last week and are slated to run for 26 weeks in spot markets. Media buying is being handled by Independent Media, New York and Los Angeles.
The News Corp. weekly is looking to shore up single-copy sales.
For the six months ended June 30, TV Guide sold an average of 4.79 million copies each week at the newsstand, down 8.9% from the same period in 1994, according figures supplied by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Its subscription sales for the first half were up 2.2% to 9.22 million. The magazine's rate base dropped 7% to 13 million last summer.
While single-copy sales are ailing, ad page performance has been improving. Through November, TV Guide's ad pages were 2,982.7, up 2.5% from the same period a year ago, according to Publishers Information Bureau.
Next year, TV Guide is pushing through selective cover price increases that will tack 20¢ a copy onto the regular newsstand price for such specials as the Summer Olympic Games in August.
A strong TV marketing effort should help to hype reader interest and offset any softness in sales due to the price spikes.
The new campaign will be featuring Mr. Costas appearing alongside four large-size TV screens. The sportscaster then suddenly appears inside one of the screens, while two TVs will feature video footage linked to the contents of that week's issue.
The fourth screen will display the campaign tagline, "When you want to be there, get inside. TV Guide."
Copyright December 1995 Crain Communications Inc.