C4 plans 'Housewives' blitz

Channel 4 is investing almost £1m in an off-air campaign to promote US drama series Desperate Housewives, which is a highlight of the channel's 2005 schedule.

The 22-part series of hour-long episodes will debut on 5 January at 10pm. It will air without a sponsor after Channel 4 failed to secure the £1m minimum price it had been seeking.

The show would have been covered by Renault's sponsorship of Channel 4 drama, but following the car maker's decision not to renew its deal, all dramas are now being sold to individual sponsors.

C4 head of sponsorship David Charlesworth claimed a number of big brands had expressed interest, but it had decided to put the show out unsponsored, rather than sell it short. It is hoped that potential sponsors will become more enthusiastic once they see the early ratings.

The series has been a big hit in the US, achieving record ratings and attracting a third of all female viewers.

The off-air campaign breaks on 30 December with heavyweight national outdoor advertising, using 48-sheet and 96-sheet poster sites. This will be supported with press activity in January.

Gatefold ads will appear in glossy monthlies such as Marie Claire and InStyle, with full-page ads in most celebrity weeklies, including Heat, Hello! and OK!

National newspaper readers will be targeted through Sunday Times Style and The Observer Magazine. On-air trails began on 20 December.

The campaign, the first to incorporate the new Channel 4 idents, was created by 4creative, with media planning by Michaelides & Bednash and buying by OMD UK.

Channel 4 has high hopes for the series, a dark comedy billed as American Beauty meets Sex And The City, which traces the secret lives of a group of housewives.

The first episode opens with the suicide of a woman who subsequently provides an after-death commentary on her neighbours' lives.

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