PromaxBDA: Making A Great News Promo

This is the second in a series of articles previewing the finalists in the 2013 PromaxBDALocal Awards. The winners will be announced at the PROMAX Station Summit on Thursday, June 27, in Las Vegas. The category today is News/Information Program Spot, which is any video created to promote a news, information or current affairs program, etc. The finalists are WJBK Detroit; KPIX San Francisco; WPFO Portland, Maine; WGN Chicago; CP24 Toronto; and CTV-BC Vancouver.

What makes a news promo stand out from the competition and attract viewers? Here are six examples that are worthy of consideration. They are the finalists in this year’s PromaxBDALocal Awards.

The end user. We don’t see or hear from them much in television marketing. Think of all the people who watch your news programming every day. What if you could step into their world while they’re watching and talk to them? Every viewer has a story to tell.

“People really do have an emotional connection with CP24,” says David Johnson, VP creative and promotion for CP24, a 24-hour local news channel in Toronto. “It’s a part of Toronto. Wherever you go, it’s always on — barbershops, gyms, bars, laundromats.  It’s not appointment viewing; it’s like a companion.”

To promote CP24’s morning program, Breakfast, which airs from 5 to 9, starting an hour earlier than anybody else, Johnson wanted to capture viewers’ affinity for the show, what he called their “effortless loyalty.”

“So we went on line and asked people to tell us where they watch Breakfast.”

The results are sincere and authentic. “We shot it like a documentary, with a very unrefined look. It was more about what they said than how it looked,” Johnson says.


His office is the street.

“He’s very Detroit,” says Keith Stironek, VP creative services for Fox O&O WJBK in the Motor City (DMA 11).

Stironek is talking about Charlie Leduff, a Pulitzer Prize-winning print journalist and New York Times best-selling author who recently made the switch to television reporter at the station.

 “I watched his work for a few months before we did the promo. I wanted a read on his energy. He has a very unique style. He’s very street savvy and a master story teller.”

Stironek wrote the copy for the spot and then listened to hundreds of cuts of music from the station’s First Com library until he found just the right one.

“I played the music for my producer, and we talked about what we wanted to see,” Stironek says. “They came back with a few surprises, but they made sure they got a shot of his boots.”

The boots Leduff wears, his trademark, were hand-painted by his wife, a local artist.

Leduff is the author of Detroit — An American Autopsy.

Thanks to new technology that fits into a backpack, many reporters in newsrooms across the country can now tell their stories live from anywhere a backpack can go.

“KPIX was the first station in the market to have it,” says Rob Genolio, brand manger for the CBS O&O in San Francisco (DMA 6).

So how does it work? Don’t expect to learn that from the spot Genolio created.

Rather than explaining how the bells and whistles of the backpack technology work, Genolio focused instead on how KPIX’s viewers benefit from it.

“It’s about the guy, not the gear,” Genolio says.

The guy is Ken Bastida, KPIX news anchor and reporter. “We wanted to show how Bastida could use the technology out in the field to provide live reports wherever the story might take him in the 5 p.m. news.”

The spot was shot with a Canon 7-D outfitted with add on lenses that were able to provide really tight shots with depth of field. The camera was rigged to the side of the van for some shots, other exteriors were captured by shooting out the sunroof of another car.

“Musically, the spot really draws you in,” Genolio says. The music is from Megatrax.

In a world dominated by late news viewing at 11 o’clock, the No. 1 reason viewers watch a newscast at 10 is the time, in my opinion. It’s get your news, get your weather and get on with it.

“We have the only 10 p.m. news in the market,” says Barry Dodd, production manager for WPFO, Corporate Media Consulting Group’s Fox affil in Portland, Maine (DMA 80), “so it made sense to push the earlier time.”

So with a wink and a nod, Dodd wondered how viewers who watched at 11 are able to cope. The third spot in this campaign is one of the most inventive, fun, unconventional, original and creative concepts I’ve ever seen.

When was the last time you used, “right on, man” in a news promo? Sweet indeed.

How many of you have seen investigative news promos with the staged, clichéd shot of the reporter meeting his Deep Throat-like contact in a dark alley as fog rolls in?

This isn’t one of them.

One of the challenges of promoting your investigative franchise is keeping it in the minds of viewers even when there might not be an investigative story airing.

“We created a template or donut spot that focused on the results,” says Tom Vodick, creative services director for Tribune’s CW affiliate WGN Chicago (DMA 3).

Now after a WGN investigative story airs, Vodick tweaks the spot by adding fresh content from the most recent story. This gives his investigative franchise a consistent message that’s kept fresh each time a new story airs.

And any time you have a shot of a legislator standing in the state house lauding your station’s expose while citing your call letters, use it and use it often. What I really like about this spot is the addition of the social media comments from viewers.

You’re the new morning newscast in town — up against already established morning news programs. So what do you do to make your news team stand out from the rest?
“We promoted what they do best,” says Jim Olsen, promotion and creative services manager, at CTV-BC Vancouver, British Columbia.

And what they do best are traffic reports. “Vancouver has the second worst traffic congestion in North America,” according to Olsen.

The very eye-catching spot he created has no announcer, many three-frame edits and a cast of more than 100 people. Olsen says the timeslot showed a year-to-year share increase of 33% over the previous program.

The inspiration came from a spot his team saw on the Promax daily feed by an Israeli network for its version of Big Brother.

Market Share by Paul Greeley is all about marketing and promotion at TV stations and appears every Monday. Read other Market Share columns here. If you have some ideas or stories you want to share, please let me know. You can reach Paul Greeley at [email protected] or at 817-578-6324.

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