Quebec puts on the blitz

Montreal: In mid-August, two weeks before the new fall tv season hits the airwaves, the general consensus is that all promotional stops will be pulled.Everywhere, on the sides of buses, in subway cars, in specialty and general magazines, newspapers, and, of...

Montreal: In mid-August, two weeks before the new fall tv season hits the airwaves, the general consensus is that all promotional stops will be pulled.

Everywhere, on the sides of buses, in subway cars, in specialty and general magazines, newspapers, and, of course, on tv, Quebec’s big and small tv networks will trumpet catchy slogans and the faces of their leading personalities.

At tqs, Public Relations Co-ordinator Michele Boucher says, ‘We make enormous efforts to be as visible as possible.’

With its popular programming slant, tqs tends to opt for mass circulation advertising, although this year Boucher says the network will keep its advertising options open.

Boucher says a ‘contest strategy in support of the fall launch’ is under consideration, possibly involving tqs’ top early evening draws, Sonia Benezra and La Guerre des clans.

In the past, tqs has organized eight ‘thematic’ weeks, centred on its mid-evening Cinema TQS showcase. Sponsors kicked in with cars and holidays as prizes.

At Reseau des sports, Marketing Vice-President Claude Laberge says marketing is event- and property-oriented, not corporate.

rds uses outdoor billboards in September and April, and print advertising in mass circulation tabloids Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Quebec.

Laberge says campaigns are timed carefully, adding rds uses ‘a Japanese marketing technique.’

By that, he means rds backs off when the richer, conventional networks are in the midst of a marketing splurge, entering the fray only when the clutter clears.

He says ‘forced viewing,’ in which viewers have to watch a program in order to correctly answer a contest question, is also a popular rds marketing tactic.

rds recently launched La Revue des sports, a glossy monthly magazine with a retail-based distribution of 100,000.

The publication takes its lead from established broadcast-related publications such as Primeurs, the Super Ecran pay-TV movie magazine, and Feature, the English-language The Movie Network/First Choice magazine.

Other specialty channels, including TV5 Quebec/Canada and MusiquePlus, are also active program promoters.

Much of the 10-station tva network’s publicity is expected to key on young viewers and new shows.

More than 20% of tva’s programs are new this year.

In large part, these shows have been conceived for, and targetted to, younger viewers, firstly the 18 to 49-year old group, and, secondly, the 25-54-year olds, says Guy Crevier, Tele-Metropole vice-president sales and marketing.

tva brings its programs, and clients, to the public through a range of activities: on-air and non-tv advertising, sponsorships, touring and producing programs at shopping centres and other points-of-sale, and via promotions and contests, Crevier says.

A recent example of a successful tva contest is ‘Ou est Charlotte?’ (‘Where is Charlotte?’), a long-distance calling promotion sponsored by Bell Canada.

Public broadcaster Radio-Quebec pursues an ambitious advertising strategy in its attempts to reach the public.

Regular weekly newspaper columns raise the profile of some of Radio-Quebec’s more popular public affairs shows.

Le Journal de Montreal publishes a weekly column reporting on issues raised on Droit de parole, Radio-Quebec’s long-running in-studio debate show; while La Presse has a column based on the ‘money matters’ program Question d’argent.

In Quebec, even a broadcaster with a ‘cultural and educational’ mandate, knows how to draw a crowd.

Radio-Quebec’s award-winning miniseries, Bombardier, pulled in more than one million viewers as a result of a promotional tie-in with sponsors Banque Nationale and Chrysler, and media outlets Telemedia AM/FM radio, La Presse and Le Soleil.

Viewers were invited to participate in a contest with snowmobiles as the top prize.

Two Radio-Quebec youth shows generate a great deal of promotional and merchandizing activity – Passe-Partout and Le Club des 100 Watts.

For example, in December, Smarties is organizing a big lip sync contest to mark Le Club’s 1,000th show, Desroches says.

In Quebec, bigger-budget programs, often dramas telecast in primetime, benefit from promotional contests organized through ad agencies on behalf of their clients.

Daypart programs may also benefit from similar efforts, but, typically, they are organized internally by the networks.

The 1992-93 season’s three top rated shows – Shehaweh and Scoop II on Radio-Canada and Au nom du pere et du fils on the TVA Network, all benefitted from major sponsorships and contests.

Pierre Delagrave, Cossette Communication-Marketing vice-president, brings another perspective to the discussion.

‘A single [extra] rating point is worth lots of money,’ Delagrave says.

He calculates it can earn a network between $3 million and $4 million a year, while top primetime shows, with gross ratings in the 25 to 30 range, can increase their performance by as much as 25%, through increased advertising.

By spending an additional $50,000 to advertise a 13-week drama series, a broadcaster can bring in up to $1.5 million in added revenue, Delagrave says, adding, the show must have merit, and the advertising should be ‘part of a rapid start strategy.’

While pointing out that the volume of on-air advertising by Quebec tv broadcasters is indeed impressive, Delagrave says broadcasters should look at increasing their weight in other media, mainly because it is relatively easy changing viewing habits.