Summer Bounty Boosts Mornings

Jul 11, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The broadcast networks have a surplus of prime promotional time right now, and two morning shows are benefiting.

NBC’s “Today” is getting more promos on summer nights than it does during the average in-season week in a bid to remind viewers that despite the recent flurry of media reports about a “threat” posed by ABC’s “Good Morning America,” no morning show gets more “gets” than the No. 1 morning show.

CBS’s “The Early Show,” meanwhile, is being allotted spots throughout the network’s prime-time schedule to promote the third-ranked morning show’s ensemble members as folks viewers could relate to-if they’d just tune in.

“The Early Show’s” aggressive image campaign and “Today’s” aggressive topical campaign are made possible by the availability of prime-time promotional real estate during the summer period just before the networks unleash their fall promotional campaigns.

For “The Early Show,” this is the first image campaign. “We’ve done plenty of topical campaigns,” said George Schweitzer, president of marketing for CBS, who described the on-air-only campaign as “big.”

Relatable Anchors

The “Early” spots, which ran more than 80 times in prime time during their first couple of weeks on the air, are designed to make each member of the CBS morning quintet more relatable. Julie Chen talks about spoiling her nephews. Harry Smith talks about not getting much sleep. Hannah Storm talks about cloning herself to handle her working-mom roles. Rene Syler loads up her grocery cart on an efficient trip to the market. Dave Price’s doorman tosses the weatherman an umbrella.

At all the broadcast networks, topical prime-time spots are generally confined to news programs during the regular season. At NBC that usually means prime-time spots being seen twice during the average week.

But this summer, with the available promo time, the topical “Today” spots are running two or three times per night. The NBC Agency is churning out 15-second versions for local NBC stations and 10- and 20-second spots for the network-along with 30-second spots for must-see excerpts from Ann Curry’s interview with Angelina Jolie and Katie Couric’s interview with “runaway bride” Jennifer Wilbanks.

“We’re starting at 6 in the morning and we’re here sometimes until 11 o’clock at night, and we’re doing that six nights a week. We’re making upwards of four promos for the ‘Today’ show every day,” said Frank Radice, New York-based senior VP of The NBC Agency. “They are getting the best stories, top-of-mind stories, the best gets. And we’re doing spots about them.”

There also are two new “Today” image spots that began running during the morning show in June. One stresses “Today’s” No. 1 status-it’s “the original, the first, the best”-and characterizes other morning shows as “wannabes.” The other spot boasts that when world leaders talk, they come to “Today.” Perhaps as notable: Both spots show “Today’s” front foursome with their current haircuts and weight and, for once, were not instantly dated by one of the “Today” family getting a new look as soon as it was shot.

The prime-time spots for “Today” and “The Early Show” are designed to cement impressions in viewers’ minds.

“We’ve done plenty of topical campaigns,” Mr. Schweitzer said. “I think everyone knows you get the news. Everyone knows you get the interview. What can you get more of that we can tell you that you may not know? An honest look at these folks and what they’re going to tell you about their lives.”

Jeff Kreiner, senior VP and creative director of marketing for CBS News, talked with each of the “Early” personalities to identify real aspects of their off-air personas for the luxe spots directed by Los Angeles freelancer Jon Behring. So Ms. Chen is flipping through “real-life scrapbooks, not ones created by an art director,” Mr. Schweitzer said. He added that CBS affiliates love the spots and also are running them in local time.

“Harry Smith said to me the other day, ‘People said to me, “I saw that spot on television!”‘ I said, ‘See, Harry. The magic of television: It works. It really works!’ They’re all very happy,” Mr. Schweitzer said.

“Good Morning America” had whittled “Today’s” lead to as narrow as 40,000 viewers at one point in late spring, but has dropped back dramatically since the May sweeps ratings period ended-along with the ability to tie in to original “Desperate Housewives” episodes.

For the week of June 13 to 19 the margin was 732,000 viewers, with “Today” averaging 5.6 million viewers to “GMA’s” 4.9 million and 2.5 million for CBS’s “The Early Show.”

While “Today” and its new executive producer Jim Bell may be able to breathe easier, the show is not taking things easy this summer, airing exclusive interviews with the rescue worker who found a missing boy in Utah; Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine; and Ms. Wilbanks just last week.

The promo makers have to keep up.

“We’re working harder to get the latest stories on that they can provide us. And I think that feeds on itself. That’s the key to the aggressive attitude we have now: topical news, stuff that’s top of mind,” Mr. Radice said.

And how long does “Today” get this prime promotional help?

“We will keep this up as long as we have to,” said Vince Manze, president and creative director of The NBC Agency. “There is nothing more important than the ‘Today’ show. I think we see it working.”