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NBC viewer poll seeks to calm advertiser fears

Oct 15, 2001  •  Post A Comment

NBC is hoping the results of a poll underscoring viewer comfort level with regular programming and advertising during a time of crisis will help bring regular advertisers back to stay.
Like other broadcast networks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, NBC wrestled with scores of advertisers being reluctant to resume placement of their commercials, wanting to reshape their creative messages-and even steering clear of news programming altogether. Some advertisers who normally buy time in a newsmagazine such as “Dateline” have had difficulty staying in an extended “Dateline” dealing with the terrorist crisis, NBC executives said.
Even more challenging is advertisers’ ongoing work on their commercials suddenly being contiguous to sensitive breaking news coverage at any time. This has been true even with some advertisers on NBC’s all-news cable channels CNBC and MSNBC.
In an attempt to go a step further in calming concerns, NBC commissioned a nationally representative phone survey of 500 adults ages 18 to 54, conducted by Barbara Keleman and Associates/SRBI, from Sept. 27 to 30.
Billed as a check on “consumer behavior and attitudes” in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the survey found that viewers generally supported a return to regularly scheduled TV programming and advertising and had no trouble distinguishing between breaking news and ad-supported regular news.
A majority of viewers, 82 percent, said they feel it is appropriate to show ads on “Dateline”-almost as many as said it is appropriate in entertainment programs (88 percent). More than two-thirds (71 percent) felt it appropriate to include advertising in the “Nightly News,” while only 35 percent felt it is appropriate to include advertising in “breaking news about the conflict.”
Eighty-five percent of those polled agreed “TV advertisers should now return to a normal advertising schedule.” Some 82 percent of the respondents agreed that advertising helps to strengthen the economy.
NBC Network TV President Randy Falco said fewer than 10 percent of NBC’s regular advertisers have not yet returned to the fold. “We’ve been working with all advertisers on ways we can help them to feel more comfortable.” Of course, all bets are off if circumstances change in a dramatic way, executives of NBC and other broadcast networks say.
The survey results were mailed with a brief cover letter to hundreds of advertisers and agencies in an effort to calm advertiser anxiety.
Eight out of 10 of the 500 adults polled by telephone agreed with the broadcast networks’ decision to postpone the start of their new fall prime-time seasons, and 89 percent supported the start of the season less than two weeks following the attacks. Ninety-one percent of those polled agreed that Americans “should go back to their normal lives” and leisure time activities such as TV viewing.