TBWA\C\D Plans Starz Strategy

Rather than tout Starz Encore Group’s 15 movie channels, TBWA\Chiat\Day will promote the premium cable service by urging consumers to upgrade to digital cable, the agency and client said.

The San Francisco agency won the $40 million creative account this month after a lengthy review that included co-finalist McCann-Erickson, New York. TBWA\C\D’s first work, due in March, will urge consumers to upgrade to digital in order to have greater access to the client’s movie networks.

Media duties remain at Media Planning in New York.

Starz evp and chief marketing officer Mike Hale said the strategy has not changed. “We told them what we want to do, so the rest is up to the agency,” he said. “But we will stick with the message that we’re the best reason to get digital cable.”

Starz, based in Englewood, Colo., offers 15 domestic premium channels, including Starz! Family and Black Starz!. Some channels are available through standard cable, but most customers need to subscribe to digital cable to receive all the offerings.

Another objective is to position Starz as the definitive source for hit films, especially since HBO is now more closely associated with original series such as Sex and the City and The Sopranos.

“They’ve migrated away from hit movies,” Starz representative Eric Becker said of other cable channels. “By default, we’re now the standard. We’ve staked our whole business on the hit-movie category.”

TBWA\C\D, San Francisco, has category experience, having worked on the Game Show Network. Chuck McBride, the agency’s North American creative director, will lead the Starz account.

“The product offers us endless opportunities for creating memorable campaigns,” said agency CEO Carisa Bianchi.

Starz, owned by Liberty Media, was founded in 1991; its flagship channel was launched in 1994. Starz spent $16 million on advertising in 2000, and $20 million through August 2001, according to CMR.

Starz previously worked with The Richards Group in Dallas, which did not defend the account.