A Creative Approach to Sales
WCBS tries novel way to drum up new biz
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/11/2009 2:00:00 AM
In this story:
An ad in 27 minutes
Taking a cue from another New York boss decades before, WCBS New York President/General Manager Peter Dunn is making advertisers an offer he hopes they can't refuse.
Reaching out to clients that typically have not advertised on television, Dunn's retooled creative services department pre-produces spots from ads they see in the newspaper, on the Web, even on signage at hockey games. The salespeople at the CBS O&O then bring the commercials on their sales calls, and tell prospective customers that all they have to do is sign up to have the ads run. “We want to give the sales department as much ammunition as possible,” says VP of Creative Services Bruce Erik Brauer.
Known as Print to Motion, the campaign was hatched last summer in a meeting between Dunn and Brauer. Station business was ailing, and the stock market was beginning its precipitous drop. Dunn felt he needed to drastically rethink the way the station conducted business—and better engineer sales to bring new clients to television. “New business is such an important part of the business,” he says. “I said, 'What can we do to get it to the next level?'”
An ad in 27 minutes
He challenged Brauer to turn a print ad for a local bank into a TV spot. Brauer said, “Time me.” Tooling around with the graphics and voice talent at his disposal, Brauer cranked out a broadcast-worthy ad in 27 minutes.
Encouraged by the revenue prospects, Dunn added sales responsibilities to creative services, instead of the department concentrating solely on promotions. The first few weeks were difficult as staffers trained for their new roles. “It's tough to change the culture,” Dunn points out. “It took a while to break the barriers down.”
Brauer says his department eventually warmed to the idea of taking on new responsibilities and tapping another section of their brains. Since the program launched, creative services has created a batch of spots numbering “in the hundreds,” Brauer says, and Dunn adds that sales has closed on about 75% of them. WCBS managers see the new department as an in-house agency—capable of creating not only spots, but Websites and even business cards, too.
Brauer employs storyboards, a stash of about 9,000 graphic images, and a voiceover agency to create the commercials, and often goes along on sales calls. He says the spots may not win creative awards, but the typical viewer would never know they were produced at the station, not at a pricey agency. “They're clean, they're legible and they're free,” he says.
Dunn says Print to Motion has played a substantial role in getting the station through these miserable economic months, and his fellow general managers within CBS are taking note—and often employing the model at their stations.
“We're taking their lead on that,” says KTVT/KTXA Dallas President/General Manager Steve Mauldin. “It's a clever way to get newspaper advertisers on board quickly.”
bruce erik brauer - 2/16/2011 8:56:16 PM EST
I wonder about this on a number of fronts...
Aren't small and medium market stations already going after those folks in the newspapers? If not, why not? My guess is that a lot of them already have been using the papers for prospecting, just like they use billboards and every other medium.
I suspect that NY and a few other massive markets have ignored those folks up until now, 'cause they just didn't need them....or the clients couldn't afford the air time. So, for them, it's an untapped market. I'm not sure that's the case everywhere.
Someone noted that doing a radio spec spot could get a sale. Maybe so, and maybe WCBS can do a really nice TV spot in 27 minutes...but at some point, the lack of creative is going to backfire. Getting these people on the air is one thing...but will they stay there? Or will these quickie spots have an enormous burn rate and leave the clients asking; where are all those customers you promised?
At a time when TV is more challenged than ever (and clearly speaking from the Creative side of the aisle) I'm not sure this is the moment to abandon solid creative for down and dirty. Wasn't it just a few months ago that the Sales Department was telling me we "have to do better spots!"
Larry Fenwick - 5/16/2009 2:53:08 PM EDT
Amazing what can be accomplished when the economy gets tough. In this case, old world spec spots meet new world technology (voiceover via internet, inhouse digital graphics and footage library) and poof, 30 minutes to make a solid ad. With anything even approaching a 50% close ratio let alone 75%, why wouldn't every operator do this. Here's to the good ol' new days!
Will - 5/12/2009 10:39:28 AM EDT
Peter Dunn deserves major kudos for this initiative. It is a fantastic idea. Those goofballs at Channel 4 are destroying the place - and meanwhile Dunn and his news team are whipping WCBS into shape. I could never watch ABC - I was always a loyal NBC viewer. But now, I've switched. Their shows are very well done. And I seriously have no idea which ads they're doing there - can't tell the difference between the fancy stuff from big agencies and the local stuff. Way to go, Channel 2!
The Concierge - 5/11/2009 11:00:29 AM EDT
Brilliant. Just like the old days. Back when I was an entry level sales rep at WAYV radio in Atlantic City, NJ, that's the way we sold. Bring the potential client a spec spot and let them hear their name, location and contact information. Sold! Can sales reps that have never sold this way react?
Rick - 5/11/2009 10:03:24 AM EDT
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