Marketers get beached

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Marketers are blanketing the beach in hot pursuit of consumers switching off their TV sets and heading to resorts.

Time Warner's HBO network is draping pretty young women in American flag bikinis to highlight the second season of "Da Ali G Show." Lifetime and Volvo Cars North America are using sophisticated heli-ads evolved well beyond the simple banners that once promoted gigs at local bars. ABC plans to hit the beach to promote airplane crash drama "Lost," while Playboy has deals with beach volleyball leagues to stay front and center during the summer months.

"We're all out there trying to find new media environments," said Catherine Moran, VP-marketing at Lifetime. "Beaches do seem to be on everybody's hit list."

Grand Central Marketing and Van Wagner Aerial Media are two New York firms benefiting from the beach boom. "We've seen a 30% spike in net advertising revenue and we're just halfway through the summer," said Rob DeAngelis, Van Wagner's national sales manager. He attributes the surge to a maturing of the business.

more professional

"We've made the business more professional," Mr. DeAngelis said. Gone are the hourly rates paid to pilots. Now media buyers pay a fee based on fly-over frequency and numbers of visitor passes sold to a particular beach.

Grand Central CEO Matthew Glass makes the point that beaches tend to attract very segmented crowds and says programs are relatively economical, ranging anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000.

Lifetime's Ms. Moran said beaches have become big destinations as TV channels seek out young consumers who may not be watching TV. Moreover, people are much more receptive when they're relaxing and beach-goers are also something of a captive audience.

The network did a small beach promotion last year; this year it expanded to three cities and added a radio buy to promote two investigation shows, "Missing" and "Wild Card."

Grand Central Marketing is also working on HBO's new comedy series, "Entourage," and is planning an ice-cream giveaway to highlight Fox Network's "The O.C."

But for those who prefer to stick with traditional media, there's even a resort-oriented TV network for folks in their summer rentals.

Former Nantucket Nectars founder Tom Scott opted to create his own local cable network, Plum TV, which operates in Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and New York's Hamptons. The service, launched on June 1, is supported by advertisers such as J. Crew, Merrill Lynch and Sentient Jet.

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