While social media is playing an important and growing role in promoting broadcast network TV programming, old-fashioned on-air campaigns are still crucial. At next week's PromaxBDA conference, the nets and their affiliates' creative directors will meet to discuss strategy for the big promo pushes leading up to fall's new season.
Old And New All Part Of Net’s Fall Promo Mix
The Big Four networks along with the CW and Telemundo will meet with creative services directors of their affiliates on Day One (June 25) of the four-day PromaxBDA Station Summit in Las Vegas next week, hoping to enlist their enthusiastic help in promoting the new fall schedules.
The talk will be about social media and event marketing, but also about old-fashioned broadcast promos — still the most effective way of insuring viewers show up for their TV appointments, the network executives say.
“To be a marketing nerd, research proves that on-air converts viewers better than anything else,” says Darren Schillace, SVP of marketing strategy at ABC Entertainment Group. “People who watch ABC will watch more ABC if we tell them what is on.”
Often, the networks focus most of their on-air promos on a few shows with lots of potential, like ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from Buffy the Vampire Slayer director Joss Whedon. One measure of the promotion’s success so far: Three months before it debuts, it has 515,000 Facebook followers.
“It’s like the no-duh show,” says Schillace. “Our parent company [Disney] owns Marvel and they are coming off a couple of billion-dollar movies. We want to be focused on the shows with the best chance for success. A couple of hits will benefit the whole network the way Lost and Desperate Housewives did.”
The NBA finals have proved to be a excellent promo platform, Schillace says. “We have the Bachelorette running this summer and we have good dramas in Rookie Blue and Motive. We will ramp up as we get closer to the fall.”
The key is reaching TV fans, says George Schweitzer, president of the marketing group at CBS. “We are not looking for people who don’t watch TV very often or who are not inclined to enjoy entertainment on TV,” he says. “There are millions and millions of TV fans, so we focus on them. We study various forms of consumer media behavior. Set-top-box data is one of many resources.”
This summer, CBS launched an on-air promotional campaign with musician will.i.am to promote its summer programs and its fall shows. The “Hello” campaign ties into his song of the same name with montages of several CBS shows.
While the emphasis remains on on-air promotion, social media are playing larger roles. With them, the networks can engage in virtual conversations with fans, often long before a series airs its first episode.
“We run a very aggressive social media campaign,” Schweitzer says. “Our press department is relentless about having stars and producers have their own Twitter sites. Chris Ender [EVP, communications] always says, ‘Enough is never enough.’ If a star can tweet out a picture of the first page of their script or tweet out the audio from the first day of the pilot, send it out. That is very effective.”
The story is the same at NBC.
“We had profiles for all of our shows up the day of the upfront [presentation in May] on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+,” says Sharon Allen, SVP of marketing strategy at NBC Entertainment. “We are part of the conversation. We are using those platforms to provide information and content. When we get closer to the premieres, we’ll have live tweeting and contests.”
The networks are also using free media by getting their stars in front of local TV audiences by having them stop by morning news show or simply calling in via satellite. And some are taking their promos to the streets with contests and events.
Fox’s campaign for its serial killer drama The Following with Kevin Bacon included ticket giveaways for the rock band The Killers.
Fox also sponsored the AIDS Lifecycle bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The ride raises money for AIDS research. Fox was there giving away Glee T-shirts.
And for its upcoming Seth MacFarlane live-action sitcom Dads, the network promoted it to men with a free hour of golf on Father’s Day at courses in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington and Houston.
Among other upcoming shows, NBC is working with its affiliates to promote The Million Second Quiz. The game show will air for 10 nights during a two-week stretch in September.
“We will have a play-along that will launch in advance of the show,” Allen says. “People who play will have the opportunity to qualify to be a contestant. If someone is doing well in an area, we’ll have the local station go to their home to surprise them: ‘You’re coming to New York.’ ”
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