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Outback Jen gives local sponsors a `Survivor’

May 7, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The CBS affiliate in Medford, Ore., has found a way to capture the “Survivor” hype while creating another revenue stream from local advertisers.

KTVL-TV has been airing 30-second and one-minute locally produced Outback Jen spots on three times a week during prime time and 17 spots in other dayparts the rest of the week. KTVL Production Manager Jennifer Beres plays the made-up television character Outback Jen, who was raised by kangaroos in the Australian Outback.

The week before “Survivor: The Australian Outback” debuted, KTVL aired its first spot. Each week during the series’ run, the station introduced new spots the day after the network show-on Friday during prime time-for a total airing of 17 weeks. Three major sponsors signed on to the segments: regional retailer Bi-Mart, Klamath Cellular One and local bank Klamath First Federal.

In the first spot, Ms. Beres introduced herself to viewers as their “Survivor Update Guide.” During her reports, she would usually stand in front of one of the sponsors’ buildings and pretend to call her fictitious mom on a Klamath Cellular One phone.

The day after one particularly poignant “Survivor” episode, during which the network’s castaways received e-mails from home, Outback Jen did a spot from the tissue aisle of Bi-Mart, telling viewers she was stocking up on tissues because the previous day’s “Survivor” was such a “sob-a-thon.”

“It’s gossipy tidbits and funny things-and it’s making sure that the clients are showcased,” said KTVL General Manager Susan Kelley, who created the idea, using story lines to introduce products from sponsors. Ms. Kelley said the commercial spots also functioned as promotions that cued viewers when to watch the next episode.“We produce commercials all the time-the distinction is this is product placement,” Ms. Kelley said. “It’s presented as a little tale or vignette-and in the midst of the story, clients are featured. I’ve not seen product placement done locally. It’s a category that, if the networks can do it and if it can be done in movies and TV shows, it can be done locally.”

Ms. Kelley, who formerly was a news director, at KOCO-TV, Oklahoma City, said it wasn’t appropriate to use a news personality for these creative spots. Ms. Beres happened to be in the right place at the right time to snag the on-air gig.

“She had the misfortune to be standing in my office when we were thinking about this, and she was wearing a `Survivor’ hat from the original episodes, and I said, `You’re it,”’ Ms. Kelley said.

Now, Ms. Beres is a local personality, with some viewers confusing her with Jerri on the network show. She’s made personal appearances for the station as well and gets a lot of fan e-mails.

KTVL is owned by Freedom Communications. In a partnership with Clear Channel, Outback Jen did segments for all five local Clear Channel radio stations every Thursday morning during the series. Clear Channel co-hosted the finale party last Thursday night at a local bowling alley.

Ms. Kelley calls the revenue from these spots “brand-new money,” meaning a new revenue stream for the station. Telerep receives a commission from the spots because one sponsor, Bi-Mart, is a Telerep client.

Now that “Survivor” is over, Ms. Kelley is thinking of other creative ways to find sponsorships, such as minute-long financial updates that are sponsored and play outside of news.

“We think there’s a tremendous amount of revenue untapped locally as well as for some national clients,” she said.