[vzaarthumb:823673]Advertising and promotion staffs at the NBC O&O in Washington had to let viewers know of the changes to the station’s afternoon lineup. They came up with a clever play off of Ellen DeGeneres’ love of dancing to bring viewers to a local show, followed by Ellen and then to its three-hour 4 p.m. news block.
Every promo producer knows the anguish a blank screen as a deadline approaches. There’s nothing to do but hammer away at audience data, script and production elements until finally you emerge with a credible concept and a workable promo.
But every so often the right idea announces itself so clearly that the creative execution is a pure pleasure. Such was the case last spring when NBC’s Washington’s O&O WRC juggled its daytime lineup.
As VP of Advertising and Promotion Donna Weston sat down to brainstorm with her promotion manager, Heather O’Hara, the facts were not especially inspiring: Starting on March 1, locally-produced feature show Daily Connection would run at 2 p.m., followed at 3 p.m. by Ellen, leading into the three-hour news block, which everyone knows as News4.
Then it jumped out at them. March 1 … 2 p.m. … 3 p.m. p.m. … News4! One-two-three-four. A tempo. A dance beat. Just like Ellen’s trademark dancing. They were off and running.
“You can only write so much copy for a lineup promo before you become audio wallpaper,” says O’Hara. “We wanted something memorable, but also fun and light. Playing off of Ellen’s dancing was perfect.”
And that’s where creative judgment made the critical difference. Rejecting the obvious choice of combining clips of Ellen dancing with celebrities and audience members, O’Hara instead focused on reinforcing the lineup change and the rhythmic “one-two-three-four” in the copy. She pulled music from the Killer Tracks library and searched online for campy retro graphics from numbered dance step diagrams. “The spot was produced entirely in-house, like most of our promos,” says O’Hare. “I edited it myself using Photoshop and Final Cut Pro.”
The rhythmic repetition is entertaining and effective. The 30 second version cleverly bridges two similar :15s with a quick cameo by Ellen DeGeneres who says: “When you hear music like that, you have to take it seriously.” Then, boom! Back into the dance steps and copy.
“Right away, the spot created buzz around the station, which is always a good sign,” says O’Hara. But more importantly, it achieved the desired results with viewers. After the slight dip in ratings that accompanies most lineup changes, the audience quickly returned to normal levels, driving Ellen viewers to News4 as planned. “We gave it a long enough flight to make everyone aware, and the viewers came along,” O’Hara says.
But the Ellen Move promo earned a second life — as an award winner at the recent Promax Station Summit, where it brought home the Gold Award for best “Daytime Program Spot.” While that’s cause for celebration, there’s no chance that WRC’s promo team will rest on its laurels. Their daytime schedule is about to change again, as Nate Berkus has replaced Daily Connection at 2 p.m. Inspiration is certain to strike again, because in local promotion it simply must. But will the next lineup promo also be an award winner? Stay tuned.