Affiliates of the new broadcast nework are working hard to let viewers know what it is (and isn’t), and what will be on this fall.
That’s what Steve Rifkin, director of marketing at soon-to-be Hearst Argyle’s WKCF Orlando, Fla., is trying to avoid at “WB 18, the future home of CW 18.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â WKCF broadcasts that phrase every chance it gets, so that when The WB switches to The CW in less than three months, every viewer will know exactly what to expect.
“We just want people to know that they can rely on us for what we currently have as well as a few extra shows,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Rifkin says. “Our plan is to make the transition as smooth as possible from one thing to the other.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Many stations already are working hard to inform their audiences that the change is coming. Others are a little hamstrung waiting for the new network to approve their plans, which usually include incorporating the station’s logo into the new CW logo. But by September, all should be ready to go.
After The CW was announced in January, many broadcasters thought owners CBS and Time Warner would change the name to something that made more sense, that was a bit more marketable. But when the companies later conducted a market-awareness study and learned that nearly 50% of people surveyed already knew what The CW was, they decided to stick with it.
At The CW’s first upfront in May, Dawn Ostroff, CW’s president of entertainment, told advertisers that the national branding campaign will have “a fun, vibrant look and a cool new feel that speaks directly to 18-34 year olds.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Appealing to their individuality, the new network’s tagline is “free to be.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
In one of its more innovative twists, the network has created “content wrapsÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â— brief, advertiser-sponsored segments that will air each night of the week during commercial breaks.
Tuesday night will be girls’ night, featuring Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, so the network might do a three-part mini-show featuring a man and a woman on a blind date. Throughout the segments will be opportunities for advertisers to showcase their brands and products.
The CW also is committed to emerging digital platforms, including online and mobile. Fans will be able to create their own promos and commercials for the new network and display them online, and they will be able to blog and chat on The CW’s Web site. Moreover, every show on The CW will have plenty of digital extensions, making the shows available to fans practically anytime and anywhere.
While the network preps for fall, stations are conducting multi-phased marketing campaigns all summer long to get the word out.
Phase one was the buy-in by the station staff. “We had to reinforce that we still have great syndicated sitcoms, that we are the country’s No.1 WB affiliate and that the make up of the new network will be very similar to what it has been,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â says WKCF’s Rifkin.
Phase two, which has been running since the end of May and will continue through the end of July, is letting viewers know that the switch is coming. While everyone in the industry has heard about the new network every day since its surprise announcement at NATPE, many viewers have still never heard of it.
Tribune’s WGN Chicago, one of The CW’s key stations, is making light of that fact by running promos in which people-on-the-street are asked, “What is The CW?ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
“We’ve found a few people who know exactly what it is,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â says Joanne Stern, the station’s director of creative services. “Other people say things like ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œCheez Whiz’ or ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œCool Whip.’ We mix those all up into some fun spots.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The promos, which WGN just started running this week, are shot in recognizable Chicago locations, she says. “It brings everything back into our neighborhood.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Other stations are counting on event marketing. That’s the strategy of many CBS-owned CW affilates, says Tom Reniszewski, vice president of programming and marketing for the CBS TV Station Group. “A lot of what we do at our stations is viral,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â he says. “It’s the same successful approach we took for our UPN stations. For example, in Tampa, we do a lot of things with the baseball team, the Devil Rays.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Phase three will start at the end of July or the beginning of August and inform viewers specifically about their favorite shows, when they are coming back and where they will air. That part is tricky, says Chad Leabo, promotion manager of Hearst Argyle-managed KCWE Kansas City, Mo., because you don’t want to confuse viewers with too much information.
“We’re just trying to keep it simple,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â he says. “It’s really easy to do too many things when you relaunch a network.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Leabo should know: He’s relaunched KCWE three times since he’s worked there—first as a WB affiliate in 1996, then as a UPN affiliate after Sinclair won the WB affiliation in Kansas City in 1998, and now as a CW affiliate.
Broadcasters from stations that have won CW affiliations after being WB or UPN affiliates say they are looking forward to having a solid primetime lineup across the board after years of having several shaky nights on every schedule. Now the key is blending a new network into station’s strong local brands. “The really good, successful stations are branded well,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Rifkin says. “In this day and age, with fragmentation, you have to be known for something.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â