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Syndication pitching its value to ad buyers

Nov 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Attention, Madison Avenue, there’s a new pitcher on the block.
Syndication, known for being both fractious and fractionalized, will be calling on top advertisers and agencies as one entity-the Syndicated Network Television Association, headed by agency veteran Gene DeWitt-to tout its aggregate advantages over the broadcast networks, telling young 20-something planners and buyers in particular, many of whom currently disregard syndication, that some of their favorite shows, from “Friends” reruns to “Elimidate,” are in fact syndicated.
“A lot of the young planners have told us, `Oh yeah, I watch “Friends” at 11 o’clock. That’s syndication?’ It sure as hell is,” Mr. DeWitt said.
“The feeling was syndication wasn’t getting into media plans and the syndicators didn’t know why,” Mr. DeWitt said. To find out, SNTA commissioned a survey of 150 planners, buyers and advertisers. “We determined that many advertisers and many young media planners were simply unaware of the attributes of syndication,” Mr. DeWitt said. “They had grown up in a world of network and cable.”
Planners are younger than they’ve been in the past, too, he said-one result of industry consolidation. Senior positions are often filled with planners who have only two years of experience, instead of the five to seven years required in the past.
Another result of industry consolidation is the disappearance of training programs that in earlier days would have taught the young planners Syndication 101.
“Today, the buyers work from specs that come down from the planners,” Mr. DeWitt said. “If syndication’s not on the [planning] form, it doesn’t get in the buy.”
Mr. DeWitt, however, doesn’t blame the planners for not doing due diligence. You know who’s failing?” he asked. “The syndicators, because the networks are calling on these people. These people don’t go to NATPE. … Cable has its own conference and then calls on these people all the time.”
So to catch Madison Avenue’s attention, SNTA is hosting the first National Syndication Marketplace in Manhattan next Feb. 25 and 26 and reaching out with a presentation touting syndication’s benefits.
SNTA will take that presentation, meant primarily for younger planners, to a target list of 34 advertisers and their agencies during the next six months. Those advertisers “spend a lot of money in national television, but relatively little in syndication,” Mr. DeWitt said, and they will include all the car companies, pharmaceuticals and big packaged goods companies, along with some financial service companies, retailers and fast-food restaurant chains. “We [will] suggest that people plan by target and genre,” not daypart, he said.
Highlights from the SNTA presentation are:
* Syndication is huge, Mr. DeWitt said-132 weekly shows, 24 movie packages and 29 specials.
* Syndication is bigger than any one television network, Mr. DeWitt said, with “more programs, more hours, more originals.”
* Syndication’s ratings are competitive with network ratings. This past July, when “Friends” on NBC was in reruns, “Friends” in syndication was the higher-rated show, according to the SNTA.
* Syndication’s reach is the same as network reach. “It’s universal coverage,” Mr. DeWitt said. “And [these syndicated shows] are on about the same number of stations as when they are on network. In fact, it’s the same stations.”
* Syndication clutter levels are less than or comparable to network, according to the SNTA.
* Daytime audiences skew younger in syndication than on the networks; syndicated movies skew younger than network films; and syndicated entertainment newsmagazines skew more upscale than network news shows, according to the SNTA. As for those hotly pursued younger demos, “When you target 18- to 34-year-olds, it’s fundamental that you use `Saturday Night Live’ and `Conan,’ but it hasn’t been fundamental that you look at these [late-night dating] shows,” Mr. DeWitt said. “If you’re marketing a soft drink or a fast food and you’re not in these shows, there’s something wrong.”
SNTA’s goal is to at least double syndication’s share of national television advertising dollars, which Mr. DeWitt estimated to be currently at about 8 percent.
SNTA’s eight member companies represent about 80 percent of all syndication dollars, Mr. DeWitt said. Its members are Buena Vista, The Heritage Network, King World, Paramount, Universal Domestic Television, Tribune Entertainment, Twentieth Television and Warner Bros.