During the heyday of network sloganeering, NBC was “Proud as a Peacock,” CBS was “Television You Can Feel” and ABC was “Still the One.”
In the 1970s and ’80s, such sunny, vague catchphrases were considered key to a network’s public image. Each year at broadcasters’ affiliates meeting, networks would unveil their new fall slogans with grand flourish.
“Everybody had slogans and used them aggressively,” said George Schweitzer, president of CBS Marketing Group. “[CBS would] unveil ‘Reach for the Stars’ at the meeting, and they would bring out their stars, and show their star-filled promotions, and people would cheer, and they’d bring out Richie Havens to sing the new theme song, and all of a sudden there was a chorus line of people on stage.”
Then, in the late ’80s, things changed. Lifetime executive VP of research Tim Brooks, then working at NBC, remembers a day when network Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff asked his marketing group to name last year’s slogan.
“And nobody could,” Mr. Brooks said. “And Brandon said, ‘Exactly.’ Slogans were used more for self-gratification than for the audience.”
After that, NBC and the other broadcasters gradually cut back on emphasizing annual slogans.
A few years later, in 1993, NBC took the then-unusual step of branding a single night, Thursday, as “Must See TV,” which quickly became part of the pop-culture lexicon and was synonymous with the most successful night of television.
“But it’s a question whether ‘Must See TV’ drove viewership to Thursday nights, or whether it was purely the popularity of shows like ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld,'” Mr. Brooks said.
Today broadcast marketers create slogans for individual shows (such as NBC’s recent “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” campaign for “Heroes”). They occasionally slogan nights (Fox’s “Animation Domination” campaign last year for Sundays) and, sometimes, their entire networks (in 2005, ABC launched “Only on ABC”).
Mr. Brooks noted that on cable, sloganeering still is considered key to standing out. Networks including USA (“Characters Welcome”), TNT (“We Know Drama”) and Spike TV (“Get More Action”) take their slogans as seriously as the vintage broadcasters ever did.