Local TV marketers are navigating new territory so far in 2020, one few could have seen coming. How did they respond? Fourteen local TV creative services directors shared their thoughts and 42 examples of their stations’ marketing in the 5-part series, The New Us: Local TV Marketing In 2020.
TV stations have community events that they sponsor throughout the year to help those in need. In many cases, these events happen year after year. Except this year due to COVID-19.
But KXAN, Nexstar’s NBC affiliate in Austin, Texas, found a way to keep alive an event that’s been going on for 30 years.
“We figured out a way to do it and stay safe,” said Dax Dobbs, KXAN’s creative services director.
This year’s annual Fans from Fans Friday, a drive to collect fans for an organization named Family Eldercare, partnered with area Honda dealers at locations where people could drive up, pop the trunk and a few volunteers six feet apart, wearing masks, could grab the fans.
Usually, the event gets about 500 fans donated. This year, on a day when the temps were over 100 degrees, more than 1,000 fans were donated plus more than $100,000 was also collected.
“We had no idea if anybody was going to show up or not,” said Dobbs. “It showed me that if you can figure out a way to do it safely, people are wanting to help.”
In Lawton, Okla., Rob Thomas, creative services director for Gray’s ABC affiliate, KSWO, and also for KAUZ, its CBS-CW affiliate in Wichita Falls, said in terms of brand, “We are all about what’s local. While this pandemic is worldwide, what matters most if what’s happening right here in our communities.”
At KAUZ, Thomas produced a spot “that reminds people of the good things that the area has to offer, and that when those come back, we’ll be right in the middle of it. A way to give people hope.”
NOTE: Of the dozen or more CSDs that contributed to this series, most were interviewed on the phone. Several opted to write down their thoughts to questions I sent them and email them along with their examples.
Jim Hart, the creative services director at KNXV, the Scripps’ ABC affailite in Phoenix, sent in a well-thought out reply, some of which I used in Part 4 of this series. I thought his reply needed to be shared in total. So here it is along with his examples:
How has your marketing evolved in terms of the pandemic?
“At the start, I think overall it didn’t seem real to consumers and this couldn’t really happen to me? Early on we started with informational/educational spots to get the word out. This is REAL! We created several spots to address the safety of our community to get the word out about Covid-19. This was done very early in March as information was just becoming available.
“As the scramble to work from home began, we collaborated with our station group to develop two rather ambitious content and marketing opportunities. The first, to support local business to help during the economic impact of the pandemic. We were up and running fast with We’re Open Arizona.
“Very shortly after that, the second phase came into play. The Rebound, an overall umbrella campaign to brand our content and marketing initiatives for all things concerning the pandemic.”
Is the marketing softer?
“The short answer, it’s both. While we rolled in educational, We’re Open Arizona and The Rebound, we also tried to provide some comfort with softer more emotional spots.
“Very soon in the timeline, the ‘aha’ moment arrived. The marketplace was flooded with these softer, more emotional spots. I remember seeing a mash-up of all the ‘Here’s to you’/’In times like these’ spots. It was a wake-up call for us to pivot, and fast!
“I also realized we needed to focus more on quality versus the quantity of these type of spots. We really needed to breakout more. I am blessed to have a fantastic creative team, and a general manager that supports this strategy.
“Here are some examples of how we made the pivot on our emotional/softer creative.”
“Here are some examples of how we made the pivot on our new coverage spots with social distancing in mind.”
What are your plans going forward?
“The plan is to stay on track with messaging and address our core values, as we’ve done in the past. I’ve had a saying for years that I think best applies to what we do. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. By this I mean consistent, relentless execution of marketing will make a difference. I believe in our content strategies, so it’s up to us as marketers to be authentic and true to our brands.
“It’s important to note, everything has shifted beyond the pandemic and the news cycles have exploded. Police transparency, race, politics and in our market just recently, arson at the Democratic headquarters in Phoenix.
“Now, we are more back to our ‘roots’. We are now doing more “proving up” our coverage.
“Here’s a trailer version as the shorter versions are just hitting our air.”
“We have made tremendous progress into the OTT and digital space. Scripps has created 24/5 and 24/7 streaming tools that easily allow us to add local content and leverage the robust national content. We’ve created Facebook Live programs to help viewers navigate through the data and repurposed the content into our streaming schedules.”
Are you crafting messages about wearing masks or other issues related to the virus?
“To mask or not to mask, that is the question! We’ve had a lot of internal discussions about masks. We are back to our core values; “help make our communities a better place to live” and to use facts and science to prove it up. It’s an extremely divisive topic, but at the end of the day, we wanted to try a different approach to hopefully cut through the noise on this one.”
What about things like high school sports, especially football? And community events you may sponsor. How is the station reacting to those kinds of challenges?
“It’s evolving daily. From my perspective, I am again blessed to be with a company that puts people and their safety first. Yes, we are a business and we must create value for our shareholders, but thankfully our filter moving forward is how do we regain sponsorship opportunities and keep everyone safe?
“We’ve adjusted with more ‘virtual’ fundraising/community projects, passed on some projects we deemed unsafe even if it meant a loss of revenue. Moving forward, we are looking at everything — how we can make it work, how we need to adjust, and what we can imagine for the future. It’s incredibly critical as we look ahead to the ‘new normal’ in 2021 with integrated community partnerships.”
NOTE: I’ve talked to more than a dozen local TV marketing executives from all over the country to get a sense of where their station’s marketing is now and where it’s going in the future, all under the umbrella, The New Us. And if you have something you want to add about your station’s marketing during this uncertain time, let me know.
KNXV & KASW, the Scripps’ ABC & CW affiliate duopoly in Phoenix, Arizona has an immediate opening for a creative, motivated writer /editor/producer to join its award-winning creative services team. Medium to large TV market experience is preferred and strong writing and conceptual skills are a big plus. The station works with its team members to leverage and grow their current strengths, help them grow in areas of strategy and the business side as well. Click here for more specifics and how to apply.