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Court TV Takes ‘ROI’ for a Spin

Mar 29, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Court TV is taking media buyers for a ride.
Instead of the usual PowerPoint presentation followed by cocktails, Court TV is revving up what it’s touting as the industry’s first mobile upfront presentation.
Last week, the Court TV bus, covered in a bright blue wrapper reading “The Investigation Channel,” picked up a dozen members of Optimedia’s TV buying and planning staff in front of its headquarters on Hudson Street in downtown Manhattan.
After they climbed aboard and checked out the refreshments left for them, the Optimedia staffers were treated to a ride around the block, where a Court TV tour guide said they would “see things you’ve never seen before” and “a Court TV you’ve never seen before.”
The presentation was designed to drive home the mantra “ROI,” which Court TV wants buyers to think of as “Return on Investigation.” At different points in the rolling presentation, ROI also stood for “Return on Involvement,” “Return on Innovation” and “Return on Integration.”
When viewers put on blue cardboard 3-D-style glasses, lights on the overhead luggage compartment spelled out “ROI.” As the bus passed certain streets, passers-by held up placards extolling ROI.
One passer-by “interviewed” by the tour guide was invited to join the bus ride after she said she watched the channel. The woman, clearly within the 18 to 49 demo, knew the Court TV programming lineup suspiciously well. “Those shows are totally addictive,” she gushed.
TV screens above the seats showed clips from Court TV’s prime-time lineup, including “Forensic Files,” “Psychic Detectives” and “House of Clues,” as well as future specials, including Russell Simmons’ “Hip Hop Justice.”
In the only serious, numbers-driven part of the pitch, Court TV account executive Siobhan Hapgood pointed to numbers from Nielsen Media Research indicating that, at 20.3 minutes, Court TV is No. 2 among cable networks in the length of time that the average viewer stays tuned-and that number is double the cable average. That translates into viewers watching through commercial breaks. Court TV pointed to another study showing that 95.4 percent of its 18- to 49-year-old viewers stayed tuned in during spots-clearly a benefit to ad buyers.
After the half-hour spin, Joe the driver pulled back up in front of Optimedia’s building and the buyers took their gifts from the overhead compartments and went back to their offices.
Charlie Collier, executive VP, ad sales, for Court TV, who sat quietly during the tour, said four or five presentation have already been made on the bus and that another 15 to 20 will be made over the next 15 to 20 weeks.
With so many networks vying for attention, a short meeting like this allows Court TV to “make a maximum of three points and entertain them in an organized way,” he said. “Every one will remember the theme “Return on Investigation.”
The bus tours will be followed by more intensive individual meetings with buyers that delve into specifics about the marketing objectives for each of their clients, Mr. Collier said.
“That’s going to stand out in the myriad of upfront presentations that we’re going to see. It was off the norm,” said Bob Flood, senior VP and director of electronic media at Optimedia. He applauded the fact that the whole spin took only a half-hour of the agency’s time. “They kept their message short and sweet.”
Because Court TV has turned to this new ad-friendly strategy recently, its ad prices are lower than its competitors. “It makes them somewhat of a bargain,” Mr. Flood said. “Being relatively new on the block, they have to be more creative, more assertive and aggressive in terms of developing more strategically focused campaigns.”