As Jane Rockwell leaves the studios of Fox affiliate KDFW, she knows she’s put on “a good play” for new client Expedia.com during Good Morning Dallas. She arrived in town the previous day, having meticulously groomed an Expedia employee to banter on air with the local talent about affordable family vacations. “Fortunately, we had to do very little media training,” Rockwell says of the rep. “She’s a natural.”
During the segment, the rep explains Expedia’s gas-rebate program, touts special fares on jaunts to Vail and St. Petersburg and suggests road trips from Dallas. Rockwell handled the entire production — from copy and B-roll to spell checking the graphics and holding rehearsals. “We want to associate the brand with good information and an attractive spokesperson,” Rockwell says.
The Expedia rep was “very good, she’ll come back,” predicts Rockwell, who’s worked with the affiliate for seven years, mostly on behalf of travel and retail brands, including Hotels.com, Lands’ End and Kohl’s.
“At this point, for most clients, there has to be strong value messaging,” she says. “That’s usually the case with these local markets. We’re not going to go in with Prada.”
Rockwell, founder of See Jane Run TV Marketing, started in early 2001 with a single client, Mervyns. Her nascent company offered a novel concept: She produced, cast, wrote, supervised and shaped lifestyle segments for local news — experts talking about travel, fashion, recipes or money-saving tips.
Since then See Jane Run has produced more than 700 segments averaging four minutes in length on national shows such as The View, Weekend Today, The Daily Buzz and The Tyra Banks Show and on local news shows in top-30 markets. For the latter, See Jane Run segments offer a solution for producers with limited budgets and up to 15 hours a week of live programming to fill.
“We had to come in on a soft lifestyle umbrella that was appealing to producers and viewers,” she explains. “The layer on top had to be a generic, soft subject. I’ve always thought, ‘What would I, as a woman, be interested in?'”
Morning news watchers know the segments she’s talking about: the best boots for wet weather; how to travel like a celebrity; tips for age-appropriate dressing. SJR clients pay a retainer and, increasingly, a pay-per-play rate of about $10,000 per segment to get their products or services mentioned.
Although Gannett last year began selling sponsored minutes during newscasts in select markets, Rockwell says that potential competition gives her clients the freedom to be less subtle. The local hosts, she says, are more engaged when the segments are paid.
In any case, Rockwell and her cadre travel to each market with the trained “expert” and produce the live on-air segment themselves.
Rockwell says the idea is to get as much of the brand into a segment as possible “without it being too commercial. We go to the tipping point. We know just what the producers will tolerate and know what each individual market can bear by learning the personalities of the producers and news directors.”
There is a rigidity to the format she employs for clients such as Nestle, Cost Plus World Market and Marshall Field’s: teasers, an intro from the local host, a demonstration by the rep, maybe some SJR-produced B-roll, all followed by a “for more information” call to action. And voila: A live commercial delivering what Rockwell calls “a value-added message.” Clients get measurable ROI: SJR works with the broadcast monitoring service Cision to assign editorial value to the play, Rockwell says. Sometimes clients want only audience numbers.
Rockwell, who did a stint as a newscaster at Warner Cable in her native Boston before moving to California and entertainment PR, says the brand reps don’t hide their affiliation and banter with local anchors to get that important “third-party endorsement.”
“It’s not glam or sexy, but it is real stuff on a local level,” Rockwell says. “It’s honorable in an added-value way, and it feels good to me and feels good enough to people who watch. I know that if I put on a good play, everyone is going to be happy.”
Education: Studied clinical social work at Boston University and later did graduate studies at Simmons and UCLA.
Background: Rockwell, who won’t reveal her age, grew up in Boston. She started in PR at (then) Weber Public Relations, where the Green Mountain Energy Resources account took her to California to establish it as a “green” brand. Before founding SJR, she worked at Shepley, Winings & Hober and in entertainment PR for Freeman & Sutton.
Tough gig as a publicist: Rockwell represented the producers of Fox’s Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? when “every media outlet in the country was begging for an interview with Darva Conger.”
Hobbies: She was the only American to participate in the 2007 Egyptian Rollerblade Marathon in Luxor, finishing 20th.