Saturday, August 08, 2009

NBC=Next Big Cutback?

The news that NBC O&O's are gutting their in-house promotions departments should come as no surprise. They're already cut back their news departments so much there's hardly anything worth promoting anymore.

From my perspective of having been laid-off in the past year, this sucks for those getting the ax, and my heart goes out to them.

From a marketing perspective, this could make sense. As an ever-growing number of viewers use TiVo and other DDRs, the traditional model of television promotion simply does not work. Tuesday night's, "....tonight at 11" promo is useless for those watching the show Thursday morning. The way people watch television has changed, and the vast majority of promotions departments haven't adapted. They still focus primarily on short-term topical promotion. New media, and social media are either unused, or an afterthought. To make matters worse, most in-house Creative departments have scarce experience with image and branding. Local television needs a new model, and if done correctly, this could be a good start. But, if you think this is going to be done correctly, think again. Here's why:
"In the new organization, creative services executives at each station will determine their local market branding campaigns and promotion strategies...."
There you have the problem in a nutshell. The prevalent notion in broadcasting is that branding is something you do with campaigns, logos and music. They don't get that a brand isn't something created in a campaign, but the overall experience. The best marketing can't sell a bad product for long, and right now the product is the problem.

Local television news has always been pretty dreadful, but the recent mass layoffs and buyouts have had a devastating effect. Forget lack of talent and experience, stations today are lacking in the warm bodies needed to function at a subsistence level. All the best marketing can do is bring customers through the door--once they're there, the product has to deliver or those customers won't come back. Right now there is nothing at any of the networks O&Os, or most other stations that are remotely watchable.

If NBC stations want to fix the brand, they have to start by fixing the product. If, instead of simply reducing head count and improving the bottom line, they replace the lost promotions positions with more people in the newsroom, this could be a good thing. It would be a good step toward putting a watchable newscast on the air. Sadly, I don't see that happening.

For years, NBC and all the rest have taken the customer for granted. You can only do that for so long before they all go away. Too bad they still haven't figured that out. Right now, the networks still have the mindset of R.J. Fletcher from UHF's Channel 8.

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