Some TV stations are helping their local advertisers with deeply discounted or free — yes, I said free — advertising to keep their clients top of mind in their market.
It’s a cruel irony. As television viewership surges, paid advertising plummets.
At home in self-isolation, people are watching much more TV now, seeking entertainment, and the most up-to-date information in a rapidly changing world-wide pandemic.
Yet, normal consumer business is almost nonexistent in many categories forcing many local businesses to reduce or eliminate the money they planned on spending on TV stations.
Some stations are helping their local advertisers with deeply discounted or free — yes, I said free — advertising to keep their clients top of mind in their market.
“We wanted to demonstrate to our business partners that we didn’t just see them as a big pile of cash,” said Charlie Henrich, general manager of WHNS, Meredith’s Fox affiliate in Greenville, S.C. (DMA 38).
“We saw them as a vibrant business that is serving a purpose in our communities.”
To that end, the station is not charging advertisers.
Henrich said so far, more than 25 clients have taken advantage.
“We thought, let’s take care of the people that take care of us every single day — those are our business partners. So we are giving them the opportunity to go out and get their message out knowing that when this is over they are going to remember who had their back — Fox Carolina.”
The ads are “not trying to do anything other than to lift people up,” said Henrich, “and let them know that we are in this together and when things get back to normal that their businesses are still going to be there.”
At WYBN, a low-power station licensed to Cobleskill, N.Y., serving the Albany-Schenectady-Troy market (DMA 59), GM Dan Viles said he’s contacted most of his active clients and offered them free or low-cost options.
“We have had seasonal clients cancel,” said Viles, “but so far not one annual advertiser. We feel that grabbing the initiative is the smart move for sure.”
Viles said the options are “very basic but gets the work done quickly.”
In Buffalo, N.Y. (DMA 52), at Scripps ABC affiliate WKBW, Marc Jaromin, the station’s general manager, had a similar epiphany.
“As businesses were saying to us, ‘we have to close, there is nothing that we can do,’ we had the epiphany that now, we are your partner. We are not going to let this shut the community down and shut you down. We are going to do whatever we can.”
Jaromin invited his advertisers to come into the station lobby, where he’d have a camera and lights set up, or to send in a video shot on their phone.
“I want authentic, I want real. Don’t go try and produce this, whatever you can do, just let the community know.”
Jaromin said there were 21 advertisers who took his offer in the first week.
“We are a business incubator, we have a responsibility. We want to make sure that we come back strong.”
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