In Depth

CBS Campaign Touts Net’s Value

Effort Emphasizes Growth, Program Strength

CBS thinks it can use advertising to sell advertising.

With upfront week approaching, the network has launched a national campaign using its television, radio and Internet outlets to push an “Only CBS” message, selling itself as a unique media property: the only broadcaster showing growth.

Commercials began airing Sunday on CBS shows including “Face the Nation With Bob Schieffer,” “CBS Sunday Morning” and “60 Minutes.”

CBS also bought ads on the front pages of the May 4 New York Times and USA Today’s Life section.

The campaign is scheduled to run until CBS’ May 20 programming announcement at Carnegie Hall in New York.

“We’re putting our mouth where our mouth is, so to speak,” said George Schweitzer, president of CBS’ marketing group.

“We sell millions and billions of advertising and we know how effective and efficient it can be,” he added.

Mr. Schweitzer said the TV ads are running in what would normally be promotional time, as opposed to the ad time CBS sells to sponsors.

He said he couldn’t put a dollar value on the promotional time being devoted to the campaign.
“We feel like promoting ourselves is a good investment at this time of year prior to the upfront,” Mr. Schweitzer said.

The campaign is designed to distinguish CBS from both its broadcast competitors and from the cable networks, which are looking to siphon off ad dollars with cheaper rates.

“We’re doing a short-burst campaign of our own prior to the upfront with a very simple message that we are different from everybody else. We’re the only network up [in the ratings], we reach more people than anybody and our stuff is good and we’re the place for smart advertisers,” he said.

Jo Ann Ross, president of CBS Television Network Sales, said the ads back up what her sales team has been telling clients and buyers since the beginning of the season.

“We’re on a roll. We’re the only network that’s showing growth. We’re the only network that has positive stories across the board. There aren’t any soft spots,” she said. “It’s a good story, so even though we reinforced it in the presentations that we do throughout the year, I think it’s a really smart move to differentiate CBS from the rest of the pack.”

The campaign is designed to reach decision-makers.

“There’s a lot of chatter out there this time of year,” Mr. Schweitzer said. “People say all these different things and make claims, and we have several very simple messages that are unassailable, verified by Nielsen, and we want to make sure that when the money is being spent that CBS is at the head of the pack.”

CBS says it is No. 1 in total viewers and adults 25 to 54, that it’s the only network posting year-to-year gains in viewers and both the 18-49 and 25-54 demographics, and that it has 21 series that have posted time-period improvements over last year, including the season’s top new series, “The Mentalist.”

Networks rarely run national ad campaigns in consumer media to try to drum up advertising sales. Instead, marketing dollars are spent at lavish upfront galas featuring open bars and colossal shrimp.

But in recent years, the networks have been cutting back on those festivities, making the presentations more business-like affairs.

“I believe advertising has more impact than shrimp, and you can take that to the bank, although the jury is still out on little hot dogs,” Mr. Schweitzer said. “Pigs in a blanket are very persuasive. I would not be definitive on that.”