Reps Use Personal Touch

Mar 28, 2005  •  Post A Comment

TV advertisers in Cleveland that are scrambling to rise out of an economic slump haven’t responded very well to cable ad sales promotions, but they seem to like getting to know their cable ad sales representatives, local industry leaders said.

Given the market, which is depressed but described by business leaders as a big city with a friendly, small-town feel, cable ad sales reps are finding it beneficial to take a personal approach with advertisers, said Nancy Fry, Adelphia’s general sales manager for the designated market area.

With Time Warner Cable-run interconnect Cleveland Media Connect now handling regional and national buys in the area, Ms. Fry said, she has switched her sales strategy to concentrate more on the mom-and-pop business owner who wants to advertise within 15 miles of his or her place of business.

“We have salespeople assigned to geographic areas, and they are to become involved in the community in the form of the Chamber [of Commerce] or the Rotary Club and activities like that,” she said.

Her 20 account executives have been assigned sales territories near their homes so their community involvement is personal as well as professional.

Interconnect members are even beginning to use zoned copy to market its account executives via cable TV within their geographic regions. “We are going to be running sales promotion spots that highlight the [account exec],” Ms. Fry said. “They will tell viewers, ‘If you want to advertise in this zone, come see me.'”

Ms. Fry said the campaign has worked well in early testing. “[Sales reps] are literally stopped on the street,” she said. “It reinforces to the salesperson that this really works and it gives them great ownership.”

More-traditional advertising promotions have not been particularly successful in Cleveland. “We do very few promotions. The advertisers just don’t have the money for them,” said Elizabeth McAllister, ad sales manager for family-owned Massillon Cable TV, an independent operator in Massillon, Ohio, and part of the interconnect.

Massillon Cable does work with advertisers on a children’s event every year. “We get thousands of kids and 70 or so organizations, a petting zoo and a movie,” Ms. McAllister said.

Cleveland, which comprises 34 percent of Ohio’s population, has a personality unlike that of other big cities, said Patricia Wren, president of the Cleveland Advertising Association.

“People are friendly and talk to each other on the street,” she said. “They talk to strangers. It is a warm, comfortable place to live. Very Midwestern.”

But sales strategies that work in other top DMAs do not necessarily work in Cleveland, where residents tend to be conservative in their personal choices, advertising professionals said.

A cable show like “Nip/Tuck” is too hip, young and edgy for Clevelanders, said Jeff Thomas, senior VP and director of media services for Stern Advertising in Pepper Pike, Ohio.

“When you look at our market indexing against the rest of the nation, it skews older and more blue-collar,” he said. That makes a difference in what the viewers and advertisers want.

For now, advertisers seem to want a personalized approach.