In Depth

Creative Promos Take on a Global Flavor

WJLA-TV’s Quinn Has International Outlook in Work

One of the four winners of the inaugural Marketing Maverick Awards, a joint venture by TelevisionWeek and Promax/BDA, is John Quinn, public affairs marketing exec for WJLA-TV in Washington.

Mr. Quinn is a two-time Emmy nominee who has been recognized by Promax/BDA for his innovative initiatives in the past. In 2007 he was asked to create multiplatform public awareness campaigns for the embassies of Germany, Taiwan, South Korea and Kazakhstan.

“I’m really excited about winning,” Mr. Quinn said of the Marketing Maverick Award. But, he added, “All I’m worried about is giving out too many ideas to our competition.”

Mr. Quinn’s reports promoted local interest in the international presence of the embassies in the nation’s capital. The ideas about how to do that were all his own; publicists weren’t pitching him with offers. “No, I was just listening to the news on TV and radio, reading the newspapers, following the news in general to learn what was happening on Capitol Hill as far as other countries go. When the heads of state from those countries came, I would try to come up with an idea to promote topics of interest from their countries.”

While it sounds simple, the ideas were much more refined. “It was thinking outside of the box, if you want to call it that,” said Mr. Quinn. For the German embassy, he realized it was the 60th anniversary of the 1948 Berlin airlift, which was being celebrated at Andrews Air Force Base. Mr. Quinn created an ad campaign to raise public awareness of how the heroic efforts of the U.S. and its allies saved more than 2 million people in Berlin.

“‘Friends Always, Germany,’ that was a heartfelt story and my favorite campaign,” said Mr. Quinn. “There was the big event at Andrews with the joint services open house, including an air show with the Blue Angels.”

As part of the Blue Angels flyover, Col. Gail Halvorsen, a veteran from the airlift, was invited back. “The colonel is really popular in Germany because he’s known as the Candy Bomber,” he said. “During the Berlin airlift he would drop little handkerchief parachutes that he made himself, with candy attached for the kids. So we created a spot for that, showing Col. Halvorsen back in 1948. At the air show, we re-created that by dropping candy to the kids at the show.”

In addition to airing on WJLA, Mr. Quinn’s spot ran on the German embassy Web site. “Then the news department interviewed Col. Halvorsen for our station, and it was shown on Pentagon TV and their Web site. It got a lot of coverage.”

The 12-week campaign was seen by 6,155,026 people an average of three times, and the Web component generated 3,877,026 impressions with more than 15,000 click-throughs to other Web sites.

Mr. Quinn’s most fortuitous promotion was the one involving Kazakhstan. He was tasked with mounting a campaign that coincided with President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s visit to the United States. The objective was to educate the public about Kazakhstan, its leadership role in Central Asia and its progress toward becoming a more democratic society. Thanks to the film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the country, the embassy and events celebrating the nation all were promoted.

“That’s a case where timing is everything. Our campaign was launched the same week that the ‘Borat’ movie came out. The president of Kazakhstan met with President Bush and they had a statue presentation in front of the embassy here,” Mr. Quinn said.

Meanwhile, “Borat” star Sasha Baron Cohen was desperately trying to get press for his movie. “He couldn’t get any. When our spots aired so many times, other stations and networks got the story and it was shown on ‘Nightline,’ the ABC network news, it was on Katie Couric’s show, it was everywhere,” said Mr. Quinn. “There was so much exposure about Kazakhstan and this movie that people caught on to it. That’s how Kazakhstan became an answer on ‘Jeopardy!’”