PBS Gets the Commercial TV Treatment

ATLANTA BaylessCronin has won two creative assignments from PBS, the agency said.

The Omnicom Group shop in Atlanta faced off against an undisclosed Boston agency in a review to create new advertising for Frontline, the network’s signature public affairs program.

BaylessCronin will also handle an assignment for Flashpoint USA, a series of news and public affairs specials hosted by Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill.

The challenge for 2003, according to agency creative director Devon Suter, is to make Frontline a habit with casual viewers. “Everyone’s heard of it and say they watch it, but it’s not a destination,” Suter said.

Suter said the key was to remain simple with visual solutions he presented in five campaigns to PBS. “The thing about Frontline is it’s very opinionated in its objectivity,” Suter said. “It comes from distinct but various points of view. They also have no deadlines and take the time they need.”

The agency’s winning idea was to play on what he called the standard television concept of timely urgency that commercial stations use. “Tonight! See J. Lo!” said Suter. “But this is real, this is something you should actually watch.”

Because the show is often moved around the PBS schedule, Suter said ads could not be too specific in their urgency.

Full-page ads breaking in mid-September editions of Time, U.S. News and World Report and The New York Times will carry the tagline “Tonight on Frontline,” followed by a one word topic such as “Objectivity” or “Honesty.”

“One idea I liked was ‘Frontline, the other 58 minutes of the story,’ ” said Suter, who said the phrase would be used as a tagline in upcoming ads.

Previous advertising was created by Allen & Gerritsen in Watertown, Mass., which developed a campaign for Frontline‘s 20th season.

Financial terms of the creative assignments were unavailable.

PBS is headquartered in Washington, D.C.