Retailers, programmers gain: Lady of the house rules home market

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Move over, Bob Vila. The new face of home improvement may just be Paige Davis.

The success of "Trading Spaces," hosted by the perky Ms. Davis on Discovery Networks' TLC, dovetails with a trend in recent years toward home-improvement marketers shifting more of their focus and marketing dollars toward women.

Sherwin-Williams Co. once directed most of its ad heft at men via sports programming. But a new flight of 30-second ads for Sherwin-Williams Co. that broke earlier this month from Wyse Advertising, Cleveland, includes one showing a woman toting her china teapot to a store to match a paint sample. Another features its Martha Stewart Signature line of colors. The ads follow last year's launch of the company's female-friendly, easy-open Dutch Boy "Twist and Pour" paint containers.

Similarly, Masco Corp.'s Delta faucet brand shifted the focus of its $60 million ad campaign in 2001 toward women, said John Wills, president, Delta Faucet Co. A primary reason is that a growing portion of Delta's sales come from home-improvement retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe's Cos., where women tend to be major decision-makers, he said.

Both the growing wave of home-improvement programming and the marketer's increased attention to women are driven by common trends, according to Ellen Moreau, VP-marketing communications for Sherwin Williams. "The whole nesting trend was getting big even before 9/11, and that made it even bigger," Ms. Moreau said. "People are doing more in their homes and entertaining more in the their homes." That home focus drives more interest in do-it-yourself projects and retailers, she said, "and the DIY arena tends to be female."

A survey by Forrester Research found that Lowe's and Home Depot had each been visited by 45% of U.S. women at least once in 2002. In a survey released last year, Lowe's found 94% of female homeowners undertake home improvement projects on their own at least once every five years.

That fact has not been lost on hardware marketers such as Zircon, which two years ago introduced a new line of its category-leading stud locators in a compact size and translucent colors. Currently, 75% of the product's sales are to women.

program drivers

Home-improvement retailers also have driven growth of programming. Lowe's and Sherwin-Williams were major forces behind the growth of E.W. Scripps Co.'s HGTV, which in turn caught Discovery Networks' eye, according to Peter Knobloch, president of media buying firm R.J. Palmer, New York.

Lowe's and Home Depot both have been major sponsors of shows on TLC, according to Joe Abruzzese, Discovery's president-advertising sales. Lowe's sponsors "Trading Spaces," while Home Depot sponsors another TLC home improvement show called "While You Were Out."

The growing popularity of DIY programming also is attracting some less-traditional advertisers to the space. CapitalOne this week becomes a first-time HGTV advertiser, spending about 20% of its ad buy around a new series called "Mission: Organization," which fits the credit card issuer's "No Hassle" theme, an HGTV spokesman said. Holland America cruise lines also recently signed on as an HGTV advertiser for the first time (around a Mother's Day promotion), and Best Buy recently returned to HGTV after a hiatus of several years.

national players

The big DIY chains have each attained the scale to become major national advertisers only within the past five years, and now their rivalry is feeding DIY programming, Mr. Abruzzese said. The rivalry "increases spending and creativity, and the clients want to get involved in the shows," he said. "I think it's healthy for each of them and for us."

Soon, there will be room for more rivals. Viacom's CMT is launching "Ultimate Country Home," sponsored by Lowe's, and Mr. Knobloch said News Corp.'s FX is developing a home-improvement concept. "Trading Spaces" is also spawning two spinoffs-the "$100,000 Challenge" with 100 times the original show's remodeling budget-and the tournament-style "Win a House."

While the programs fit firmly in the burgeoning reality genre, they make more sense for advertiser tie-ins than some other reality shows, said Mr. Abruzzese, who moved to Discovery from Viacom's CBS. The home-improvement shows "fit so well with the client," he said. "We did certain things on `Survivor' that were kind of forced. To have a parachute come down with the Target logo is kind of forced."

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