Mar 29, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Tom Wolfe spent most of the last decade on the trail of New York local cable ads. These days, as Court TV’s affiliate ad sales VP, the majority of his energy goes into campaigns crafted to make the metro sales trail an easier destination.
Before Court TV, Mr. Wolfe-not to be confused with the novelist and journalist of the same name-was an account executive for Time Warner Cable of New York and for Tele-Communications Inc.’s system (later sold to Cablevision Systems Corp.) covering portions of Westchester County. In both places, his acid test was learning how to sell a cable spot effectively.
“You recognize the core product. It’s the programming, stupid. Shows sell themselves. I’d sell the spots in good shows for premium rates, and they would sell,” he said.
Mystery Hunt for Clues
At Court TV, Mr. Wolfe is developing special campaigns in New York and elsewhere that link outreach with sponsor appeals. One is “Digital Fingerprinting Days,” launched in late 2002, in which children are fingerprinted at shopping malls. Parents are given information on sheets that contain their children’s prints and display safety tips and advertising. More than $2 million in local spot revenues has come in through the campaign so far, with Lysol strongly considering participation this year as a national supporter, Mr. Wolfe said.
Cablevision Systems’ advertising unit, Rainbow Ad Sales, may be the initial New York metro participant in “The Shopping Investigation,” the next campaign on Mr. Wolfe’s agenda. Systems in Denver and Philadelphia are testing the project, in which viewers go to one or more stores to find 10 clues in a mystery. The clues are noted on cards that are available at point-of-purchase in participating stores or on the operator’s Web site. Prizes are awarded when a player finds all 10 clues and notifies the store or Web site.
“It’s like an Easter egg hunt,” Mr. Wolfe said. Rainbow may kick off “Investigation” in New York as early as this month.
Mr. Wolfe still keeps tabs on New York sales, and said he’s sure 2004 will be a very good year. “The feedback I get is that the industry is moving, particularly on national spot,” he said. “Travel will be a good category, and toys will be huge.”