The Strategy Interview

Nancy Smith, vice-president, communications, for the Global Television Network moved to the Toronto-based service in 1986. She heads a staff of 22 ensuring every aspect of Global's public and corporate image is consistent and specific. Before joining Global, Smith spent eight...

Nancy Smith, vice-president, communications, for the Global Television Network moved to the Toronto-based service in 1986. She heads a staff of 22 ensuring every aspect of Global’s public and corporate image is consistent and specific.

Before joining Global, Smith spent eight years building a common marketing department at CITY-TV, and, later, at MuchMusic and MusiquePlus, the Toronto station’s video channel spinoffs.

Smith’s eclectic work history includes managing a pop singer, teaching high school, and marketing a New York-based publisher.

She is a co-founder of Canadian Women in Radio and Television and a board member of the Zoological Society of Metropolitan Toronto. Past affiliations include board positions with the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television and the Toronto Arts Awards, and committee work for the United Way, the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy and Toronto Women in Film and Television.

A writer and speaker at industry and community conferences, 43-year old Smith has two children, and is an avid skier and traveller.

Q. Does the Global network have a branding strategy, identifying the network by the types of program it produces rather than simply identifying logos or graphics?

A. One of the points I’d like to make is that branding is not a new concept to television. I headed City-TV’s promotion and marketing department for eight years. In the 70s we were branding television. It’s not something that was just invented within the last couple of years by some new people to television.

In fact what it is, is a take off of what radio had done for many years. It’s the question of viewer loyalty as it relates to television. Many people would tell you that people watch programs and viewer loyalty doesn’t count at all. If you look at the City experience, there is no greater proof that viewer loyalty counts a lot. Viewer loyalty and branding to my mind are one and the same thing.

Q. How do you brand yourselves at Global?

A. At Global we have branded ourselves always. Global had been a program driven entity and had used the line ‘Global’s Got It’ for years before I got here. Global’s programming is really premier programming as far as viewers are concerned. So that becomes a brand in its own right.

The thing that I worked very hard on was establishing a specific look, sound and feel for Global. We put together very simple packages so there was a consistent on-air style. And we created animation packages that were modular, that we could wrap around and thread through the shows. Our approach was that there was a seamless style to Global from the time you turn it on in the morning until the time you turn it off at night.

What that translates into is a feeling of comfort. We believe that there’s a comfort level with your television station and that’s what we set out to achieve.

Q. Do you think at some time the TV networks will be so branded they will become as recognizable to viewers as certain types of beer are to beer drinkers?

A. I think that probably exists in some instances already. When I was at City it was very important to us that when you flipped through the dial that you should sort of have a sense that you hit City whether you were looking at the channel number or not. And I hope that’s true of Global. We came up with a graphics look, we went to a rainbow. We wanted a sense of optimism and a progressive kind of feeling.

Q. Turning to technology, everybody is talking about 250 channel death stars, the all cooking network, the all comedy network. How is Global preparing itself for the advent of these types of services?

A. Again, this isn’t new. I chair something called BPME, which is Broadcast Promotion Marketing Executives, and it’s an international association with a large U.S. membership base. There are models that exist already in the U.S. where you have the 100 channel universes, where you have all kinds of niche stations.

Through this organization I see how people are marketing themselves, preparing themselves and positioning themselves. Every study shows that the public always comes back to five or six home stations. They graze, but at the end of the day you can’t underestimate that comfort level.

The thing that will make us distinct will be the sound, feel, comfort level, the programming that we carry that isn’t available anywhere else, which is why Canadian and information programming become so critical.

We [also] work hard in the community. We run promotions, we buy advertising on local radio stations and get involved in local promotions with newspapers and radio. We just did a moose calling promotion that we had great fun with for

Northern Exposure. This guy from Terra Cotta, Ont. who won, he’s on television. Here’s his moose call. It sounds a little corny, but it’s grass roots interactive television at its best and its the reason why you survive a 500 channel universe.

Q. How quickly do you expect TV to make the transition from a sales driven medium to a marketing driven medium.

A. I believe in some places it’s already there. Definitely it’s already there at Global, definitely it’s already there at City. I can vouch for both of them because that’s what I do. I’m not a salesperson. I’m a marketing person and in both those areas I know what they do. I think the leaders in the industry have already made that transition.