Stations Missing Multicast Ad Opportunities

The city of Concord, Calif., has banded together with local auto dealers to commit up to $80,000 to a multimedia ad campaign promoting buying cars at home. So who’s getting that money? Not a single TV station. Instead, Comcast Spotlight, which divides the area into 22 mini-markets with targeted advertising. With most TV stations still not sure what to do with multicast channels, it would seem to me that it’s somewhere between plausible and possible to reorient them toward serving a geographic segment of a station’s market. 

What’s good for General Motors is good for the country. That’s the old saying. But in a town like Concord, Calif., where car dealerships are a major source of business, it’s just as true that what’s good for the local Mitsubishi dealer is good for the city. That goes for the Ford or Acura or Buick dealer, too.

That’s why this month, the city of Concord is coordinating its first-ever “Buy Your Next Car in Concord” campaign. It will use direct mail, Internet, radio, newspaper and TV to encourage locals to buy a car from the dealer down the street. The city council approved spending up to $40,000 on the campaign. Fourteen area dealers are chipping in around the same .

In Concord, located about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, those car dealers create more sales tax dollars than any other business category, at least $3.5 million in the last year. That’s about 17% of the total local sales tax revenue. So, in a real sense, Concord wants to move those cars off the lots.

“It’s the first time I’ve heard of something like this happening, when a city would get involved like that,” says Mark Stone, the general sales manager of Lehmer’s Concord Buick GMC. “It helps [that] the city is involved too, because it’s hard to get 14 dealers to agree on the message and all that.”  

Alas, in the sprawling San Francisco market, the car dealers and the city concluded it didn’t make much sense for them to use TV stations, even though they made a pitch for the business. The market is so big the dealers and the city figured that buying time on the stations wouldn’t be efficient. “We’d be diluting the message,” said John Montagh, Concord’s redevelopment manager. 

So the group went with targeted commercials and a schedule planned by Comcast Spotlight, which divides the San Francisco area into 22 mini-markets with advertising.


Bummer. With most TV stations still not sure what to do with multicast channels, it would seem to me that it’s somewhere between plausible and possible to reorient them toward serving a geographic segment of a station’s market. 

A station could brand its RTV or Cool TV channel after a portion of the market they serve and then sell it that way and integrate it into a website. Why couldn’t a San Francisco station devote a multicast channel to serve, say, the East Bay? Why couldn’t a Philadelphia station devote a channel to the 600,000 people of Bucks County?    

As it is now, stations treat the multicast channels with the same disregard those old booming AM stations once treated their FMs. Eventually FM overwhelmed those legacy AM stations with the same kind of targeted approach TV stations should use now. Lots of those AM  stations now limp along. It’s hard for me to know — not being particularly religious or Hispanic, I never listen to them.

With state governments suffering, cities are going to be increasingly saddled either with cutbacks, or finding ways to increase their revenues, and that’s not going to be a temporary situation. This would seem like a perfect time for stations to suggest similar campaigns like the one taking place in Concord. Not only are stations able to help businesses, they’re also able to help the communities they serve — and profit from them.

Many stations already profit from campaigns to get people to shop in historic districts and the like. But they have the opportunity to do it on a continual basis.  

Brandon Mudd, the Comcast sales manager for the East Bay region that serves Concord, says his office has done similar campaigns, like a “stay-cation” effort made by some communities when the recession and high fuel prices were keeping vacationers close to home.  

A new study from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance says that in communities with “Buy Local First” campaigns, retailers experienced a 5.6% increase in 2010 revenue, compared to a 2.1% increase for others.

Other statistics in the survey show upticks in commerce in communities that sell consumers on the idea of buying from neighborhood merchants. Getting a community to buy into those stats would seem a first step toward getting them to help fund a TV ad campaign.

“The city is trying to help the dealers, and that helps the city. They’re all part of the same team,” says Jeff Twibell, Comcast senior account executive who is handling the Concord dealers’ account.  

Like a lot of other cities, especially in debt-heavy California, Concord is challenged by the slowly recovering economy. In November, voters approved a half-penny sales tax increase to help the city get by. That’s after Concord cut its payroll by 25% and changed pension and health care benefits for employees. Last year, the city of 125,000 also sponsored a workshop inviting residents to tell city fathers what they were willing to live without.

Montagh hopes that if the car campaign is a success, the dealers will be motivated to form their own association so that they can continue coordinated sales efforts when they want to. This campaign might show them what that could look like

The ads will begin officially in a couple of days, coinciding with traditional Presidents Day promotions. Concord spokeswoman Leslye Asera said consumers will be told explicitly that by buying a car in their own community, part of what they spend “goes back to helping them have the things in Concord they want. It’s really a win-win for everybody.”

Among the winners, of course, is Comcast.

The loser is broadcast  television, which really doesn’t  even play the game. I guess they’re making enough money.

Market Share by P.J. Bednarski, all about TV sales and TV sales people, appears every other week in TVNewsCheck. Bednarski is longtime TV reporter and a former top editor at TV Week and B&C. If you have comments on this column or ideas for future ones, contact him at Read earlier Market Share columns here.

Comments (6)

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Alison Bressler says:

February 7, 2011 at 9:15 am

When it doesn’t work due to cable’s fragmentation and low viewership… all will cry the blues that television doesn’t work… but in reality they didn’t even try television… oh well we’ll be there to help them with their GOB sale like always…

Shaye Laska says:

February 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Cable has more boots on the street, gets professional sales consulting help from some firms, just like broadcast, and cable sells the “potential” not the hard cold reality. Most cable spenders that we meet don’t even know that their ads will not appear on dish households. Lets clear the air here in 2011.

Brad Dann says:

February 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Really, are we really going to the tired old bash cable spiels? In case you don’t know Comcast is selling spots on Regional Sports Nets in Chicago for Dish and Direct TV, other nets and markets are a matter of time. The article was suggesting a way for broadcast to compete with cable geographic targeting capability. It’s something smart broadcasters will consider.

Ellen Samrock says:

February 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I wonder if these car dealers even wanted to buy from KTNC-TV, whose COL is Concord? Seems like there is a perception problem that goes deeper than just ‘not wanting to dilute the message.’

Kathryn Miller says:

February 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Using branding and promotional announcements to geographically “segmenting” your audience (when everybody, even outside the targeted area can watch the channel) is one approach. Imagine how much more “targeted” (for the viewers and even those car dealers in Concord) a multicast channel offering content and advertising of interest to people considering buying a new car would be “in the media mix.” Is that something your local cable channel would do? I suspect the car dealers in Concord don’t just sell cars to people walking to the dealership or on a bus: in other words, their marketing area might not efficiently match up with those 22 cable TV zones. Look at all those “Auto Trader” publications at your neighborhood grocery and convenience store. Are those ads really the most efficient way to sell cars? Why don’t the new car makers use them? How hard is it to show a user-generated (or dealer generated) video that the seller has paid for?

Shaye Laska says:

February 8, 2011 at 8:10 am

Car dealers across the country are increasing the scale of their sales “footprint” (read: Broadcast). Decreasing it, they’ve painfully learned, leads to slower sales and lost market share. That’s from comments coming form the dealers themselves. Sadly, the factory reps sent to educate the dealers still live in a pre-Recession/Internet mindset about local marketing…oh, and by the way have another agenda.