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NBC Stars Welcome New Affiliate

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NBC sitcom stars are packaged up and ready to ship in a new billboard campaign from AKQA for KNTV, soon to be the NBC television affiliate in the Bay Area.

On Dec. 31, KNTV in San Jose, Calif., will become the area's NBC affiliate, a designation that has belonged to KRON in San Francisco for 52 years. KNTV, which is moving from channel 11 on the dial to channel 3, will be known as NBC3.

After a review this summer, KNTV tapped AKQA in San Francisco to craft an ad campaign alerting residents of the impending change. A number of other Bay Area shops also pitched the creative portion of the project, sources said.

McCann-Erickson in San Francisco handled the media portion of the campaign, which includes hundreds of billboards throughout San Jose, San Francisco and the East Bay. All told, media expen ditures are estimated to be more than $5 million.

Bay Area publications have reported speculation that NBC actually wants to purchase KRON and nix the KNTV deal. But Kirk Citron, chief strategic officer at AKQA, said the agency had not been told to discontinue its work, nor had the media buy been stalled. The campaign launched last week, according to plan, and is slated to run through the first of the year.

Citron said AKQA decided early on to use NBC celebrities in the ads. "The idea was that people don't necessarily watch a network, they watch their favorite shows," he said.

For the ads, then, AKQA photo graphed actors from NBC sitcoms such as Frasier, Will and Grace and Friends.

In one ad, for example, David Schwimmer (Ross from Friends) is immersed up to his shoulders in a brown cardboard box filled with plastic foam peanuts that's perched on a dolly. Copy reads: "NBC is moving, January 1, 2002."

The ads also feature the name of the new station, NBC3, and the venerable peacock logo.

Although the ads are "slightly irreverent," they are also "simple, charming and fun," Citron said.

Erika Taylor, a representative from KNTV, called them "very simple and uncluttered." Despite the brevity of the copy, she said, the ads do a good job at capturing the celebrities "on the move."