Fragmented News Promotion: Why Less is More

By Graeme Newell 

So the newsroom has kicked butt and delivered some fantastic coverage on a news story that directly reinforces the brand position. It’s time for a proof-of-performance promo. Your promo department instantaneously creates a POP and blankets the airwaves. So how long should it run? A couple of days? A week? A month? At most stations, the answer to this question is quite random. Most news staffers would set the run at no more than a couple of days. Most promo departments would tell you at least a week.

At most stations, a “gut check” is about as scientific as it gets when deciphering the complicated science of advertising saturation levels. After the promo has been on the air for a given amount of time, we “feel” it’s run its course and is ready for retirement. Most stations badly underestimate the run times and badly overestimate the saturation levels for promos.

There are several reason this happens. First, is our mindset about news itself. News is an incredibly perishable product. Yesterday’s newspaper is something to be used to line the cat box. New is always better in news. POPs that showcase yesterday’s news story just feel old and tired. Most newsrooms consider re-airing a news story just plain old laziness, and that mindset is applied to news advertising as well.

Remember that advertising is not like news. In many ways, the turnover guidelines are diametrically opposed. In advertising, repetition is your friend. Advertising has “the rule of three.” This Madison Avenue tenet says that an ad must be seen three times before it is even noticed by the viewer. Three times is the minimum. Studies at the Kellogg School of Management show that certain kinds of ads can be seen up to 25 times before they lose their effectiveness.

Second, round-the-clock monitoring of our own on-air product insures that most everyone in the station will see the ad a zillion times. In-house staff will have an exponentially higher exposure to the ad. No one in the audience watches our product as much as we do. That warps our perception. Here is a good rule of thumb–when you have seen the ad so many times that you are ready to go down to the promotion department with an ax, that’s about the time the ad is starting to be effective.

Hard gross rating point target levels should always determine the number of on-air campaigns and their duration on the TV station’s schedule. Most television promotion scheduling systems are far too seat-of-the-pants. This perception problem has only gotten worse in the past few years. Continually shrinking network and syndicated numbers have made our on-air promo schedule much less generous and far more inconsistent.

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Graeme Newell is a broadcast and web marketing specialist who serves as the president and founder of 602 communications. You can reach Graeme at gnewell@602commu