MEDIA STRATEGY OF THE WEEK: Sick humour lures ER viewers back after ten years

E4 and C4's media strategy was shaped by the creative concept, Emma Barns says.

Dramatic injuries, plenty of hospital politics and a good helping of gore: from mid-January, the US hospital drama ER is back on our screens and, in a combined campaign from Channel 4 and E4, lapsed viewers are being told that ER is as good as ever.

"ER is still a fantastic series but, now it's ten years old, it isn't as top of mind for viewers as some of the more recent US imports. With the 'Next stop ER' campaign, we wanted to get noticed by people who haven't watched the show in a while and get the show talked about again," James Walker, an account director at 4creative, Channel 4's in-house creative agency, says.

The creative work depicts accidents that have happened or are about to happen, providing the "Next stop ER" strapline that runs on all the ads. "The campaign was led by the creative concept and we wanted each medium to reflect this," Paul Gilshan, a media manager at the planning and buying agency OMD UK, says.

Activity began with ten-second trails on E4 and Channel 4 featuring a car crash and a helicopter crash. These ran from Boxing Day until 2 January when they were replaced by 20- and 40-second versions.

The main thrust of the campaign is outdoor and includes a 96-sheet special-build site, running on London's Cromwell Road, on which a mounted helicopter looks like it has crashed into the poster. Construction was by Russell Signs.

A national six-sheet poster on bus stops, "head butt", features a "smash" in the glass. A tube and national press campaign depicts spoof ads for products such as "DIY eye surgery". Posterscope bought the outdoor to focus on areas with high numbers of digital viewers, the campaign's target audience. It was also positioned to target people planning their evening's entertainment on their way home from work.

Celebrity magazines such as Heat were used in the week of the show's launch with an ad featuring the former daytime TV hostess Vanessa Feltz punching a photographer. National press and radio ads were used heavily on the first day of transmission as the final push to drive people to view that evening.

The show broke on E4 on 15 January and on Channel 4 on 21 January and these transmission details feature on all the ads. "We wanted to plug the smaller window between the E4 and Channel 4 showing," Rufus Radcliffe, the head of marketing at E4, says. "It makes it more of a network message."

In Campaign last week Channel 4's chief executive Mark Thompson's said this year's Channel 4 schedule would include plenty of new and eye catching dramas. The heavy promotion of such a traditional Channel 4 show doesn't seem quite in line with his thinking.

However, Radcliffe argues that the campaign is "not a message about Channel 4 or E4, it's a message about ER. From an E4 point of view, particularly, ER is an incredibly important show and a big part of Thursday nights."

While the outdoor and press was specifically for the show's launch, TV trails will continue to support the series for the first few episodes and possibly for its entirety. "We have to establish routines for our viewers. We can't just advertise the first episode. We have to really hammer it home," Radcliffe says.

Client: Channel 4/E4

Media: TV, press, outdoor

Agencies: 4creative, OMD UK, Russell Signs, Posterscope

Media idea: Get ER talked about again while reflecting the creative idea

in the mix of media bought