PBS Confronts Cable Challenge

‘Stay Curious’ Spots From Fallon Are Effort to Shed ‘Elitist’ Image
CHICAGO–The Public Broadcasting Service wants to shed a perception that it is “elitist” with the help of a whimsical campaign from Fallon Minneapolis, a network representative said.
The ad approach resulted from research showing that the Alexandria, Va., broadcaster was perceived as more inaccessible than many competing cable channels, said Tom Epstein, vice president of communications for PBS.
“While people had a great deal of respect [for PBS], there was a perception that we were a little elitist,” he said.
Television spots directed by documentarian Errol Morris take a lighthearted approach to depicting people’s quest for knowledge, said Bruce Bildsten, a group creative director at the agency.
“We show people satisfying their curiosity in a really creative way,” he said. “They’re charming little stories of satisfying curiosity.”
One spot depicts a child removing a plastic-wrapped video camera from a dishwasher to see what the appliance looks like from the inside while operating. Another shows a man cutting and pasting photo booth pictures in a flip-book to make it appear as if he were singing an aria.
The spots end with the tagline, “Stay curious. PBS.” which epitomizes all PBS programming, Bildsten said.
The new campaign succeeds the campaign tagged, “If PBS doesn’t do it, who will?” created by former agency Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, in 1995.
Fallon won the account in February after an informal review. PBS recently upped its advertising and marketing budget to $25 million, Epstein said.
The spots will begin airing on local PBS stations in July.
Fallon’s new tag will be employed in all PBS communications, from its Web site to ads for individual shows, Epstein said. PBS’ more aggressive marketing efforts result from the changed landscape of television since the programmer’s last positioning.
“There has been a proliferation of new channels, and we need to be more aggressive in identifying who we are,” Epstein said. K