[vzaarthumb:808168]When WNUV Baltimore wanted to garner attention for its 6-8 p.m. Simpsons-Family Guy block in the fall, On-Air Promotions Supervisor Stephanie Madara decided to use a parody of the Antonio Banderas-voiced Nasonex allergy commercial. The result is a 20-second spot that promises relief from sinus problems by staying inside and watching the two animated shows. It won the Promax/BDA Local Awards Gold for “Best Daypart/Block of Programs Spot” and boosted viewing by adults 18-49 and two male demos.
Off-network programs pose a perpetual conundrum for station promotion executives. On the one hand, their greatest strength is their proven appeal and familiarity. On the other hand, you’re promoting a bunch of, well, reruns. Sure, the syndicators provide all kinds of pre-built promos, shared IDs and ancillary media, but often that’s not enough — especially when those very same episodes are available elsewhere.
“Given the multitude of viewing options, standing out is a challenge,” says Peter Ferraro, promotion director at Cunningham Broadcasting’s CW affil WNUV Baltimore (DMA 26), part of the Sinclair-operated duopoly with Fox affiliate WBFF. “The obvious goal is to recruit new eyeballs and keep the ones we have coming back more often.”
And none of the syndicated fare on The CW Baltimore demands more local attention than its early fringe/access block alternates The Simpsons and Family Guy from 6 to 8 p.m. “We try to keep our programming top-of-mind with our viewers,” says Ferraro. “For this two-hour block of animated comedies, we needed to create something memorable. Whenever possible, we try to localize our creative with a topical approach.”
Brainstorming that elusive approach fell to On-Air Promotions Supervisor Stephanie Madara. After 15 years in promotion, nine of them at WNUV, she can sniff out inspiration from some unlikely sources. “In the fall we’re bombarded with commercials for allergy medications. So we came up with a concept that might work — stay inside and avoid allergies altogether.”
To drive home that point, Stephanie wrote a script that parodied the popular commercial for the allergy remedy Nasonex starring a Hispanic bumblebee distinctively voiced by Antonio Banderas. Stephanie even included a convincing disclaimer: The cartoon sitcoms prevent allergy symptoms “as long as windows and doors stay closed.”
But Madara’s clever concept was little more than wishful thinking without specific video. Fortunately Twentieth Television supplies stations with hours of pre-sorted video clips. “I’m very familiar with the Simpsons. I knew there was at least one episode where Lisa Simpson discovers she’s allergic to everything. Locating the Family Guy clips was more difficult.”
Sussing out the right visual or sound bite requires a mastery of key word searches. “I start off with the main idea and type in phrases and words that will work,” Madara says. “Then I look for clips that match the rough script. Once I find the clips I adjust copy for timing and phrasing.”
Satisfied she had located vivid scenes with clear actions and dialog, Madara edited a rough version of the promo in Avid Media Composer. She then focused on capturing the look and feel of an allergy commercial. WNUV Art Director Michael Drinks created the flowery pollen-infested vistas to underscore the seasonal misery. Drinks resized and composited the Simpsons and Family Guy scenes with his own animated flowers.
“We didn’t go so far as to create an animated bee in house because it would have taken too long,” Madara says. Still, the intrepid insect was well-represented by a convincing Banderas sound-alike, L.A.-based voiceover artist Richard Malmos, whose facility with dialects was well-established.
To complete the prescription, Drinks created a 3D “product shot” featuring the Simpsons and Family Guy in convenient capsule form — a “double dose” of each from 6 to 8 p.m. “Our Simpsons/Family Guy block is a major focus for us because it’s our lead into prime,” Ferraro says. “When we invest in quality syndicated programming, we strive for the big return.”
The 20-second spot goes by so quickly that it’s easy to miss such superb finishing touches as the pitch-perfect bucolic music Madara pulled from the 615 Music library, and the precisely-placed sound effects from Digital SFX that punctuate each sound bite and scene.
The result won the Promax/BDA Local Awards Gold for “Best Daypart/Block Of Programs Spot.” Even more impressively, year-to-year in October the spot raised viewership for the two-hour block by an entire share point among adults 18-49, and two whole points among men 18-49 and 25-54.
And that — let’s all say it together — is nothing to sneeze at.
Market Share/PromaxBDA Gold salutes the best on air promotion throughout North America, many of them winners of Local Awards from the PromaxBDA Station Summit in Las Vegas. Read other stories in the series here. Contributing Editor Arthur Greenwald, himself a veteran promotion manager, profiles these winning campaigns and the creative and strategic talent behind them. Want to suggest other future topic? Write to Arthur at [email protected]