Global Television `Consumers watch shows not TV stations’

Rodger HoneSenior Vice-PresidentGlobal Communications, TorontoQ. What are you doing to brand Global Television?A. It's our feeling that consumers watch programs, they don't watch television stations, with the possible exception of news, and, even then, that's a program.DifficultIt's very difficult to brand...

Rodger Hone

Senior Vice-President

Global Communications, Toronto

Q. What are you doing to brand Global Television?

A. It’s our feeling that consumers watch programs, they don’t watch television stations, with the possible exception of news, and, even then, that’s a program.

Difficult

It’s very difficult to brand a station. If you are branding a product, you are attempting to articulate to your customer the kind of characteristics they will receive when they consume your product.

The difficulty with television is that our service, our product, changes every hour or half-hour, in the sense that the programming changes.

So, the first element of branding is to establish a programming strategy, a program philosophy, and if you are fortunate enough in your acquisition program, the programs you put on the air will match that strategy.

Ephemeral service

But to develop a ‘Global’ brand for what is essentially a very ephemeral service, or a cbc brand, or a ctv brand, is, in our view, difficult, if not impossible, particularly when you are attempting to be general-interest, mass-audience broadcasters.

That doesn’t necessarily hold true for the specialty services.

tsn can brand itself as a sports outlet, obviously. That’s the raison d’etre for specialty channels – to become vertically integrated products.

That’s not the case, in our view, for mass-audience, general-interest television broadcasters, which, by their very nature, are trying to be all things to all people.

Q. But what about cbc and its Go Public positioning? It seems they are trying to get across a message that you will see a different type of programming, whether that is news or public affairs or drama, on the public network than you will see on other mass broadcasters.

A. I recognize what they are attempting to achieve, I’m just not sure it’s working. I think if you were to ask the general public what the campaign meant, there would be some confusion as to what the catch-phrase Go Public means.

As I said earlier, as television broadcasters, we are dealing in a very ephemeral kind of situation in the sense that – and I’ll use the cbc as an example – they go from codco to The National.

Different products

So, every half-hour or hour, you are effectively putting a totally different product on the air. And you could be talking to a totally different group of consumers.

Q. That’s true, but both of those programs you mentioned represent an entirely Canadian point of view. If I were to turn to Global on Thursday nights, when you program The Simpsons and Seinfeld, to me that is what identifies Global, and I’m wondering if Global is trying to establish an identity based on that mainstream American type of programming?

A. Not necessarily. It just happens that those programs are very successful, mass-audience programs.

General interest

It’s not that we don’t recognize that the environment we are functioning in is continuing to fragment, but in terms of our view of how to deal with that fragmentation, it continues to be the business plan we implemented about 10 years ago, which is to attempt to acquire general-interest programming which is successful in the sense of a mass audience, and put that on the air.

That old phrase ‘Global’s Got It’ – and we’re not using that as often these days – was our attempt to say to people we have the most appealing mass-audience programming, whether that’s Seinfeld, or Cheers or L.A. Law or The Young and the Restless.

‘Specialty service’

The difficulty for a mass-audience, general-interest broadcaster is that each program is a different product. While I say that, I recognize that one of the best broadcast marketers in the world is [Toronto-based] Citytv. To a degree, they were a specialty service before there were specialty services.

[Citytv founder] Moses [Znaimer] understood that in the kind of marketplace Toronto was in the ’70s, it was valuable to focus on one or two genres of programming, like movies and strong local news.

Camera techniques

For Global, with a coverage area that runs from Ottawa to Windsor, [Ont.] and north to Timmins, [Ont.,] selecting Toronto as our focus was never really an option. So we’ve gone with a focus on strong, general-interest programming on the air and promoting Global as the place where you’re going to find that programming.

Q. How are you communicating that to your viewers? You said earlier you’re not using the phrase Global’s Got It as often as you used to.

A. I’m not involved in the day-to-day promotional side of the equation, but it’s my impression we haven’t been using it as often as we used to. One of the reasons being that we are attempting to promote our system as well as Global. We are part of the CanWest Global System.

Closest icon

But that is probably the closest icon we’ll use in terms of building a brand identity for Global.

Q. If your programming consists of the most popular, mainstream mass-market programs, how are you communicating that to media buyers and advertisers?

A. Primarily through the sales efforts at the agency level. To a great extent, because they have the numbers and the ongoing responsibility to track those numbers, they know whether we’ve got their programming or not. Whether you are going in and telling them or not, the proof is in the results. And fortunately, our results have reflected the success of our programming.

Target marketing

At the client level, we have not been as active in promoting that concept. One of the reasons being about five years ago, we began to sense the target marketing issue come to bear. Advertisers were increasingly interested in more segmented and targetted kinds of vehicles and or programs.

Advertisers are further removed from the executional side of the equation, but, like agencies, generalities or averages are less of a factor in today’s marketplace than they were 10 or 15 years ago. If they want women 25-54, they want to know the best programs to deliver, they don’t really care who carries them.

I can remember some years ago doing a profile on the program 60 Minutes, with the view of selling to advertisers the special nature of the 60 Minutes audience. Frankly, it’s so large that it’s got every demographic. There were no skews within the audience profile that were marketable. It was all marketable.

Successful programs

We did some interviews some months ago with clients and advertisers and one of the constant things that came back with regard to Global is that we’ve got successful programs.

Q. What you’re saying is they don’t care about your identity provided you have the programs they feel their viewers will watch.

A. And that the numbers support it.

Q. Are you using any new marketing tools, such as corporate sponsorships, to help you define Global’s identity?

A. We’ve got a project called Global Kids Club, and I can’t give you all the details, but it is conceptually like the ytv/Pizza Hut thing. We have two or three sponsors of the Kids Club. We are in the process of investigating appropriate extensions of that concept.

Promo products

One of the reasons we are doing market research is to try to see what kinds of promotional products we could develop and should be developing for the market. We are about halfway through that process.

Q. How is your marketing effort being allocated between viewers, advertisers and their agencies?

A. I don’t have any official involvement in promotion to viewers, but I would say 80% to 90% of our resources are allocated to promoting our program schedule to our viewers.

Q. Do you have any major changes planned in that regard given the introduction of new specialty services and Death Star satelllites?

A. Not necessarily. There have been various conversations around the coffee table with regard to enhancing our media effort at an appropriate time because, obviously, as the market fragments and there are new opportunities for viewers to choose somebody other than Global, it’s going to become a very crowded marketplace.

And just like in packaged goods or any other marketing situation, we have been having discussions in terms of how we are going to make sure our share of voice is heard.

But as I said, we’ve always had difficulty trying to come up with a ‘brand’ for Global.