HSN launches its first national network TV campaign in five years today to woo channel flippers to park for a peek at the network’s new look during its 30th anniversary.
“Thirty years is an important milestone to celebrate the business that started this industry,” said Mindy Grossman, president and chief executive. “It’s also the perfect opportunity to show customers we may have lost or who never shopped with us to see how we’ve gradually changed over the past 18 months.”
Retailers have used their anniversaries to promote sales events long before Macy’s was founded in the 19th century, but at HSN there’s an added sense of urgency this time given the network’s flagging sales.
Network officials are mum on how much they are spending to create curiosity, but confirm media costs are in the low eight figures and include national cable and prime-time network TV through the summer.
The TV shopping pioneer, which started out as a Clearwater radio program in 1977, will introduce some product lines, show off its more colorful new look and dish up hoopla with a series of “surprises” for customers including discounts, celebrity appearances and $250, 000 in one-of-a-kind prize giveaways between now and New Year’s Eve.
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The network is trying to shake off a two-year slump of moderate to minimal sales gains. A former senior executive at Nike Inc. and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., Grossman was brought in to steer a revival. But so far the changes have not gained the traction with shoppers that her bosses at IAC/InterActiveCorp have in mind. After the network reported a meager 1 percent sales gain in the quarter ended March 31, chairman and chief executive Barry Diller rated the initial performance “poor” and said the turnaround will take longer than he expected.
To fine-tune the presentation and keep from chasing off regulars with sudden change, HSN eased in the new look over six months, including new sets, more engaging camera angles, new graphics color-coded to what’s showing and softer lighting that gives the picture an almost gauzy look.
Cameras focus in closer on expert guests and hosts who have been told to show products in use.
“For instance, instead of showing a model getting a makeover, we want to teach people how to do it themselves in a mirror,” said Michael DiCesare, a Hollywood celebrity hair stylist who sells a hair products line on HSN. “We can share a lot of techniques.”
Though HSN banned the hard sell years ago, show hosts have been trained to list and explain product features that customers want or think will solve their problems.
“It’s quite subtle. But we’re trying to make the customer feel comfortable, like we’re a good friend talking to them,” said Andy Sheldon, senior vice president of broadcast at HSN, a veteran of British TV shopping who once hosted a popular kids show in the United Kingdom.