A&E Names Venables, Bell Agency of Record

Cable Network's Estimated Spend Is $45 Million

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SAN FRANCISCO (Adage.com) -- The Arts & Entertainment Network has hired San Francisco independent Venables, Bell & Partners as agency of record.

Guy Slattery, senior VP-marketing for A&E, said he selected Venables, Bell after a review that included four other undisclosed shops. "They are a really creative shop and a flexible shop -- we have to be nimble in our approach," he said. "This is not the A&E it used to be." A&E has not had an agency of record for a number of years, Mr. Slattery said, and had been using a variety of shops but decided it wanted an agency of record "to get more consistency."

He declined to discuss spending, but estimates among agencies participating in the pitch put it at as much as $45 million in paid media. According to TNS Media Intelligence, the network spent $18 million in measured media for the first eight months of 2007 and $33 million for the full year of 2006. "We have always been a big believer in the power of marketing," Mr. Slattery said.

'Spread the gospel'
Paul Venables, founder and co-creative director, Venables, Bell, said the primary challenge for the network is the competitive cable landscape. "They need to spread the gospel." Creative will include both branding and support for individual programs.

"We're a top-tier network and that's where we want to stay," said Mr. Slattery. The network's strategy, he said, is to be "in the consideration set of channels people go to when they turn on the TV."

The network's current audience skews slightly female and is evenly split between the 25-to-54 demographic and the 18-to-49 demographic, he said. According to Nielsen, in 85% of cable's 95 million homes, A&E had total viewership of 1.111 million in 2006, up from 1.005 million in 2005. During that period of time, the average age of its viewers dropped from the early 50's to the early 40's while growing audience.

A&E's prime-time rank has risen to No. 10 from January 1, 2007, to November 18, 2007, according to Nielsen, up from No. 13 in 2006 and No. 15 in 2005.

The network has hit some bumps recently. "Dog the Bounty Hunter" was at one point A&E's top show. However, star Duane (Dog) Chapman was caught earlier this year on tape using a racial slur in a conversation posted online. A&E pulled the program.

An A&E spokesman said several of the network's shows, "Gene Simmons' Family Jewels," "The First 48" and "Criss Angel: MindFreak" as well as "Intervention" have ratings comparable to "Dog the Bounty Hunter."
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