AM spots worth increasingly difficult sell

Placing clients on morning shows is becoming harder, but well-focused pitches increase visibility.

National morning shows can deliver a bonanza of impressions, but these days it's tough to get clients on. Nick Ragone, SVP and director of client development and media at Ketchum, says PR pros must “work harder and smarter” as these programs become “increasingly competitive.”
“There's pressure on producers to capture every dollar of ad revenue,” he notes. “They're wary of giving away brand mentions.”
Jennifer Cunningham, senior producer for Fox and Friends, explains that most PR pros are frustrated right now because the show is “all politics, all the time,” a trend that will continue through the end of the year.
“We're looking for big names – people involved and sitting politicians,” Cunningham notes. “If you don't have [that], show us that your client can talk knowledgeably about one of the headlines and be compelling.”
Cunningham also stresses the importance of selling her on an idea. “Don't expect me to read through your client's bio and determine why they would be important,” she adds.
Tammy Caputo, senior producer for The Early Show, says the economy is a big focus now. “Almost everything we do is focused on how viewers can get more for less,” she explains. “Always peg to... the news.”
Ragone adds that Ketchum has attached clients to existing events or stories, as opposed to only pitching PR programs they've created.
“We identify memes, which are stories that are getting a lot of attention online but might not have bubbled into mainstream media,” he says, adding that the agency has a specific group that looks for memes. “Then we figure out what brand we can get into that story.”
Jean Ziliani, VP/senior media specialist at Ketchum, explains that she recently got client ConAgra's spokesperson Ivanka Trump on Today after host Hoda Kotb made “a disparaging remark that Ivanka was a paid spokesperson and that she was pushing brown-bag lunches.” Ziliani says that Trump wasn't pushing brown-bag lunches, so she called the show's producer and got Trump on the show the next day to set the record straight.
While national placements are often the desired goal, local morning shows are also very valuable. Jane Rockwell, president and founder of See Jane Run TV Marketing, only works in local markets and only does “single vendor segments” – spots which feature only one brand. She notes that a recent survey the agency commissioned revealed that producers in the top 25 local markets get an average of 235 pitches a week and only 8% make it on the air. She says producers generally want “relatively soft” lifestyle segments focused on a topic, such as fashion, that typically include how-to tips and trends.
“Embed brand information organically within the [segment topic] so the viewer doesn't think it's an infomercial,” she advises.
While local morning shows have always been interested in value messaging, Rockwell says it's particularly important now given the economy. For example, her Coffeemate client recently did well in food segments explaining how viewers could make inexpensive bistro-style drinks at home.
She adds that it's important for national clients to have a local tie-in, and spokespeople should be “appealing, credible family friendly types with whom the audience can relate.”
Ragone and Rockwell agree that local shows are cost effective. “On a local show, brands can target markets and [have] a sole vendor segment,” Rockwell says.

Ragone thinks local market ground tours definitely are “worth the cost” because message quality and segment value are both greater than an SMT. “YouTube can turn local market segments into national segments if they do well,” Ragone adds. “Plus, most stations have their own blogs, and can deliver an extra 40,000 to 50,000 hits.”

Technique tips
  • Find ways to make clients relevant to current headlines
  • Pitch story ideas that help viewers get more for less
  • Sell your client or idea to national show producers
  • Miss opportunities to attach clients to memes
  • Forget that local morning shows are cost effective
  • Neglect local tie-ins for national clients on local shows

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