Citytv Striving to keep `local focus and flavor’

Victor RodriguezGeneral Sales ManagerCitytv, TorontoQ. How are you preparing for the arrival of new specialty services?A. It has always been the vision of [Citytv founder] Moses Znaimer to keep the [station's] local focus and flavor. Therefore, our marketing strategy to counter...

Victor Rodriguez

General Sales Manager

Citytv, Toronto

Q. How are you preparing for the arrival of new specialty services?

A. It has always been the vision of [Citytv founder] Moses Znaimer to keep the [station's] local focus and flavor. Therefore, our marketing strategy to counter the arrival of new specialty services will be to maintain our course.

We also have a great commitment to the development of local and regional advertisers. In comparison to the rest of the world, where everybody else is fighting for a bigger share of national dollars, our approach has been to maintain an equal balance between national and retail advertisers.

Q. If you liken the television market to a candy bar counter, where the consumer is faced with dozens of choices, what are you doing to make your brand stand out from the competition?

A. Your analogy of the candy bar counter, where the consumer is faced with dozens of choices, is a great one for Citytv. We see ourselves as the alternative. We’re not to everybody’s taste.

Our main thrust is to go after a specific viewer of a certain age and mindset, who lives, or wants to live, a certain lifestyle – a very downtown, hip lifestyle.

In a world where most stations are broadcasters, Citytv is a narrowcaster. We’re aware that we’re not everyone’s candy bar but how delicious some people find us. It’s corny, but true. People either love us or hate us.

The whole thing stems back to the early years, when Moses felt we didn’t have the money to afford the same type of programming that the conventional stations had. We didn’t have the money for the promotions.

We wanted to break through the clutter and the best way to do that was by branding Citytv as a unique experience.

I’m paraphrasing Moses, but it’s easy to buy programming. Any station can buy the M*A*S*H*s or the Star Treks, or the movies, that’s not what separates one broadcaster from the next.

It’s what you put between the programs, the little vignettes that we have, the local promotions that we do, that gives us our identity.

Know our schedule

People tune in to City because they know our schedule, they know what to expect. At 6 o’clock, you have news. At 8, it’s movies, at 10, it’s back to news again, and then on the weekend, you have music properties. You don’t have to go to the tv guide.

If you ask people in the street ‘What does Citytv do?’ they’ll answer, ‘News, movies and music.’

It was easy for [viewers] to understand what we were about, whereas with conventional stations, there’s no loyalty to them. The loyalty to a conventional station lies with what’s playing at a certain time.

Q. How are you communicating Citytv’s personality to your viewers?

A. Citytv has always stood out in look and style to other stations. We have a very informal relationship with our viewers.

Our CityPulse news anchors and reporters do not talk at the viewers. We like to think they are conversing with them as you would with someone at the dinner table.

Our on-air promotions reflect the fact that we are Toronto’s local television station. We have also taken this a little further by opening up our doors, so our viewers can actually come in and experience Citytv.

Camera techniques

Our camera techniques, the close shots that we have, it’s not that we have bad camera people cutting off people’s heads, it’s a style that allows people to identify us when they are flipping through the channels.

We also got away from traditional studios. The whole building is a major set. We have electronic hydrants hooked up to the control rooms and within two minutes you can shoot anywhere in the building.

This will be Citytv’s legacy to the television world. The studioless television station that is, at the same time, a gigantic studio.

Q. How are you communicating your identity to media buyers and planners?

A. We try to do it through our sales presentations by not taking ourselves too seriously.

We try not to dwell too much on the success of Citytv in terms of rating points and share of marketplace – even though we do very well at it – but sell City more as an experience, a vehicle you want your advertiser to be in.

I don’t want to boast, but we do have national advertisers and retailers that say to their agencies, ‘No, I want to be on Citytv. That’s our market, we like the image.’

It’s gotten to the point now where some national advertisers want us to create commercials for them, in the same flavor as Citytv, to create a seamless type of programming, so it’s difficult to differentiate between what is Citytv and what is the commercial.

As a matter of fact, we’ve made a presentation to their agencies as to how we can do this without really sacrificing the identity of Citytv. I think that’s fairly innovative, and no one has ever done that before.

Q. What new marketing tools are you using to create your identity?

A. We’re very much involved in the [annual 10-day] Toronto film event] Festival of Festivals. We’re a movie station and this creates a great marriage between movie companies and Citytv.

Toronto mosaic

We are involved in [Toronto's] CHIN [Radio-TV International] international picnic. Our on-air personalities are reflective of the Toronto mosaic. We are the first station to truly reflect the ethno-cultural makeup of the city of Toronto on air.

We promote the New Year’s Eve party from Toronto City Hall that’s become an institution now.

The DuMaurier jazz festival, because of our tie-in with music, is a natural for us.

All of this is giving back to the community.