'Doctors' Rx: Promo $
CBS makes contest of pushing daytime shows
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/20/2008 8:00:00 PM
The Doctors, starring emergency-room Dr. Travis Stork of The Bachelor fame, is no game show. But CBS is turning the promotion of the new series into one.
To encourage TV stations to make as much effort as possible to push the syndicator's strip, which premieres on Sept. 8, CBS is making things interesting by offering stations varying levels of promotional dollars.
“We are always trying to figure out new ways to incentivize stations to advertise our shows,” says Michael Mischler, CBS Television Distribution's executive VP of marketing. “If you have a show like The Doctors—which will run in daytime, not primetime or access—you have to come up with different ways to make sure you get stations looking at the show.”
The affiliate incentive contest, which was designed with the help of Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing firm Merry Media, pits stations in designated market areas one through 10, 11 through 25, 26 through 50, 51 through 100 and 100-plus against each other. Stations are encouraged to promote The Doctors on their own air as well as online, in print, on the radio and on outdoor venues such as billboards and buses. Each promotion will be assessed by factors such as length of promotion and daypart it runs in, and then assigned points. For example, a 30-second promo in primetime would earn more points than a Web banner or a 15-second spot in late night.
The winning station in the top 10 markets will receive $75,000 to promote The Doctors come the November sweeps, while the winning station in the 11-25 market segment will receive $50,000. The winner in markets 26 through 50 gets $25,000; the victor in markets 51-100 wins $10,000, and the champion in the small 100-plus markets can credit $5,000 to its November promotional campaign.
“We were really trying to figure out a way to cut through the clutter of the fall launch,” says Merry Aronson, president and CEO of Merry Media, which has also created a Doctors-based radio contest to help stations promote the show. “We decided that instead of a big consumer event, we would go to the grassroots level and reach the affiliates themselves. We thought that inspiring them to do a great job would be the best way to raise national awareness.”
So far, so good: “I have almost 25 years of experience in marketing at TV stations, and this is the most unusual promotional program I have ever heard of,” says Molly Kelly, director of marketing and promotions at Weigel Broadcasting's WCIU Chicago. “It will allow me to maximize my marketing plans to launch this brand-new show if I win, and I plan on winning. When CBS told me about this program at Promax [in New York last month], I said, 'Just put my name on that check.'”
While Kelly is fired up, CBS is smart to throw some extra motivation into the mix this year. TV stations typically have limited promotional time at their disposal, and they usually don't want to use it to advance lower-rated daytime shows. This year, inventory will be even tighter as the networks race to regain ground lost during the writers' strike and the presidential election kicks into high gear.
CBS is also cooking up plenty of promotional material to help stations with their campaigns. Besides the expected 15- and 30-second spots, the company has created a series of 25-second health tips, featuring Dr. Stork offering quick advice to viewers. The spots can be used during newscasts, as interstitials or on stations' Websites, and can be sponsored by local advertisers.
As Mischler puts it: “If they choose to sell that promotion, it can be a revenue source for stations.”
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