The newest employee at WNDY Indianapolis gets introduced to the market this week. This individual—undoubtedly young, well-scrubbed and exceedingly peppy—is the winner of the MyNetworkTV outlet's first annual The Face of MyNDY contest.
Some 200 hopefuls auditioned for the station host job, responsible for representing WNDY at community events, introducing on-air programs and movies, and running chat rooms and blogs. More than 75,000 online votes and a panel of local celebrities whittled the list to five, and station management announces the winner this week.
Jeff White, the president/general manager of LIN's WISH-WNDY duopoly, says a strong news station, such as WISH, has several familiar faces and personalities to front the brand. But WNDY, whose sole news output is a half-hour newscast from WISH at 10 p.m., is different. “The Face of MyNDY gives the station a stronger local identity,” he says.
Putting a face on its MyNetworkTV (MNT) and CW affiliates, and even some Fox outlets, has been a priority for LIN. The broadcaster kicked off the campaign with the “Face of Fox” contest at WUPW Toledo three years ago. In late October, KNVA Austin named a joke-cracking, tae kwon do-practicing Texan named Terrell Shaw “The Face of The CW Austin.”
LIN Executive VP Scott Blumenthal says the idea harks back to his childhood, when what he calls “true independents” had on-air hosts for everything from horror movies to children's programming. “It allows the station to make a bond with the audience,” he says.
Other broadcasters have found success with the concept. CW affiliate WBUW Madison tapped a recent college grad named Emmy Fink to front “Buzzed Into Madison” segments during its The Daily Buzz syndicated morning show. MNT affiliate KASY Albuquerque has “VJ” Jenny Marlowe; the station recently concluded a “Win a Date With Jenny” contest, and has put portions of the promotion on its air. (Both WBUW and KASY are owned by Acme.)
WNDY executives say that they picked up pointers from watching the campaigns at other LIN stations. “We let them be the beta,” says WISH-WNDY Director of Creative Services Scott Hainey. “We learned what worked well for them and benefited from their experience.”
LIN is also using the contest to help rebrand the station, whose tag will shift from “MyNDY” to “My Indy TV” to better emphasize its Indianapolis cred. Besides MNT programming, WNDY offers fare like Better Indiana (Meredith's syndicated Better program offers local inserts) and high school sports.
WNDY has promoted the Face campaign both on air and online. “MyNDY, Channel 23 wants a fresh face,” prompted WNDY.com, “and we've got a one-of-a-kind contest to find it. We're looking for someone who will be the face, the voice and the personality of MyNDY.” The first audition was held in October, open to people 21 and over. Television experience is not required, and perhaps not even preferred. WNDY management wants the face of WNDY to be just that—not a former anchor at another station, for example.
The five hopefuls are Alli, a recent Ball State grad who calls herself “the poster child for Indiana”; Betsy, an actress/model with a taste for skydiving; Chris, who graduated from Indiana State with a theater degree and says he's into “intensive stunt training”; Kelly, a lawyer and former Miss Indiana; and Scott, whose hosting skills are honed while warming crowds up at Indiana Pacers basketball games.
The five were called on to not only interview with station executives and sit through screen tests, but show off their writing skills as well with some blogging.
The winner makes his or her on-air debut Jan. 5, gets up to $25,000 for the year (it's officially a part-time gig), and must relinquish hosting duties at the end of the year for the next face of the station, whom they'll help select. “They won't get rich off it, but they'll walk away with a great resume reel,” Hainey says.
According to Blumenthal, there's even a modest revenue angle to the campaign, as sponsors are brought in to host Face events, such as an area shopping mall hosting an audition. He expects The Face of MyNDY to reach the same level of success the campaigns have found at other LIN stations. “We haven't had a bad one yet,” he says. “It's fun, it's exciting, and it offers a bonding element to the community.”