NAB takes its show on the road to explain DTV switch

The Congressional mandate that all over-the-air TV stations switch from analog to digital broadcasting by February 17, 2009, impacted 34.5 million households, according to Jonathan Collegio, VP of strategic initiatives at The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

Client: National Association of Broadcasters (Washington)
PR agency: Crosby-Volmer International Communications (Washington)
Campaign: DTV Transition Nationwide Consumer Education Campaign
Duration: February 2007-June 2009
Budget: About $14 million

The Congressional mandate that all over-the-air TV stations switch from analog to digital broadcasting by February 17, 2009, impacted 34.5 million households, according to Jonathan Collegio, VP of strategic initiatives at The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). NAB and Crosby-Volmer International Communications (CVIC) developed and implemented a two-and-a-half year education campaign to ensure consumers understood how to upgrade before the switch.

This February, Congress delayed the mandatory switch date to June 12. The team had to adjust messaging and manage confusion because, for technical reasons, various stations had to switch before June.

Strategy
The campaign would evolve in multiple stages across multiple platforms. Collegio says the first year was spent building the infrastructure to distribute the message.

“We knew broadcasters could reach viewers over the airwaves with 30-second spots, but we also knew we'd have to provide deeper information to be really effective,” he adds. “We wanted to use personal interactions through speaking engagements, road show appearances, and news stories to provide more in-depth information.”

Collegio says awareness levels were very high by the time Congress changed the date and most consumers had already upgraded, but the change still created complications.

“A splintering happened,” explains Rob Volmer, president of CVIC. “A metro area might have two stations in digital and four in analog. We needed market-specific messages.”

Tactics
The team developed a number of partnerships to help deliver messaging. These included the “DTV Speakers Bureau” (made up of members of the broadcast industry); a coalition of 241 members from organizations such as AARP and NAACP and businesses such as Target and Best Buy; a trained team of “DTV Answers Ambassadors” that traveled the country on a “DTV Road Show”; and the National Black Church Initiative. Volmer notes tactics included community speaking engagements, interactive games, and booths at conventions. The team also created a Web site, dtvanswers.com.

Printed collateral was translated into Spanish and 63 other languages. Web site information was in both English and Spanish. Volmer says the site and media relations were the primary tactics used to communicate the date change.

All Congress members were briefed and received toolkits with sample Op-Eds, speeches, presentations, and collateral materials to distribute. More than 10,000 state and local government officials were provided similar toolkits.

Media outreach targeted top daily newspapers, consumer magazines, community outlets, and African-American focused press. Radio and TV PSAs (in English and Spanish) ran from October 2007 to June 2009.

Results
SmithGeiger tracking polls showed consumer awareness of the transition rose from 25% at the beginning of the campaign to 98% by April 2009.

“Depth of awareness was also extremely high – more than 90% knew the switch affected antenna [service], as opposed to satellite and cable,” Collegio adds. “By June, 90% of affected households had taken action to upgrade. It's a remarkable achievement.”

Web site traffic topped 5.8 million visits (nearly 4.9 million unique visitors and more than 17.9 million page views). The Speakers Bureau reached more than 1 million people through 8,300 speaking engagements. Upwards of 25,000 churches were reached.

Media placements totaled more than 25,000. Blog hits exceeded 30,000.

Future
Collegio says NAB will work with CVIC on future campaigns, though nothing specific is in the works.


PRWeek's View
This NAB campaign was certainly one of the largest consumer education initiatives ever executed. As such, it was bound to come with its share of obstacles. This team did an outstanding job centralizing message creation and investing in the huge grassroots network to broadly disseminate the message. The date change from February 17 to June 12 presented a major challenge, but because the effort was effectively organized and tightly focused, the team was able to adapt quickly and keep the overall campaign on course.



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