CAMPAIGNS: NAB drive provides Americans clearer image of digital TV

PR Team: National Association of Broadcasters and Edelman (Washington, DC) Campaign: Digital-television education campaign Time Frame: August 2001-May 2003 Budget: $2 million

PR Team: National Association of Broadcasters and Edelman (Washington, DC) Campaign: Digital-television education campaign Time Frame: August 2001-May 2003 Budget: $2 million

As the FCC-mandated switch to digital television nears, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) knew it faced a daunting problem: Consumers thought they knew what digital TV was, but they had no idea. "People had televisions they thought were digital, but were just digital-ready," says Marty Machowsky, SVP with Edelman in Washington, DC, hired by the NAB to help educate the public. "Or they thought digital cable was digital TV. It's a great product people thought they were aware of, but they just weren't." As more and more stations were switching over to broadcasting in digital, the NAB felt the public needed to be educated about the future of TV, and what they had to do to get it. Strategy The NAB brought in Edelman to educate the masses about the promise and vision of digital TV, which offers television with film-quality picture, CD-quality sound, and other enhancements. "Our two primary challenges were to raise awareness of digital TV among consumers and highlight the role that broadcasters were playing in HDTV [high-definition television]," says John Orlando, the NAB's SVP of external government relations. "So our overall strategy was to take a look at the big picture, survey what had come before, and educate consumers." "We had to create a drumbeat of interest and excitement," adds Machowsky. Tactics The NAB and Edelman began by launching the campaign at the Consumer Electronics Show and developing a website, comprehensive media kits and, most importantly, setting up "Digital TV Zones" in Portland, OR, Houston, Indianapolis, and Washington, DC. In these four cities, all local broadcasters had made the transition to digital broadcasting, and there was strong interest among consumers in digital TV. "You can talk about digital TV all you want, but people need to see it," asserts Orlando. In each city, the NAB and Edelman set up large, wide-screen HDTV sets in high-traffic areas to expose digital TV to consumers so they could experience the difference firsthand. The NAB and Edelman also hosted "watch parties" at Capitol Hill bars to showcase digital TV to staffers of Congressional members, and to demonstrate that the NAB was leading the charge on educating consumers about the transition to digital TV. "Digital TV is something that has to be seen," explains Machowsky. "When we gave people a chance to experience it, then it became much clearer what digital TV was. It also became clear that they didn't already have it, but they really wanted it." Results Consumers' familiarity with digital TV increased 9% in Portland, Houston, and Indianapolis. And in Washington, DC, 66% were familiar with digital TV, as opposed to 61% nationwide, and 42% of Washington, DC consumers wanted to find out more, versus 36% nationwide. The development of digital TV zones and persistent media relations generated about 103 million TV, radio, and print media impressions in outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, the LA Times, the Houston Chronicle, The Indianapolis Star, and Oregon Magazine. The coverage also led to as many as 1,000 unique daily visitors to www.digitaltvzone.com, the website that the NAB and Edelman designed for the campaign. Future The NAB and Edelman want to set up digital TV zones in other parts of the US, and are still exploring which areas are the next logical locales. Part of the effort will focus on how broadcasters in different regions can put together digital TV zones themselves, says Orlando, to "explain what digital TV is, and what it means to consumers in the future."

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