In entertainment marketing, what’s past is prologue

That wise old marketing philosopher Yogi Berra said: “I don’t make predictions, especially about the future.” By looking back at some of the history of entertainment marketing and how people have responded to it over time, we can gain perspectives that help us in the present and future.

We’re heading into the Upfront season — the time each year when television networks host presentations in New York to introduce our new shows and fall schedules to the advertising community. Now is a good time to look back at our collection of vintage CBS print ads from the 1950s and ’60s to see what has — and has not — changed in since the Golden Age of Advertising.

Here are just a couple of the trends that stand out:


The decline of text
Before there was texting, there was text, and lots of it. Once the style of the day, print ads delivered long, rational theses in an attempt to woo clients and consumers. This two-page CBS newspaper ad (above), circa 1957, makes a bold statement in words supported by more words (in actual tiny footnotes) and a cartoon illustration. Today, print ads contain very few words; images do most or all of the heavy lifting when it comes to persuasion. Consumers are bombarded with so much information every day. The most simple, clear creative campaigns are the ones that break through. I love this one because the statement on the ad is as true today as it was 55 years ago. While the platforms for viewing, consuming and advertising have exploded, CBS still rules the roost.


Star power still sells
Celebrity endorsements have been part of advertising culture since the dawn of industry. Beloved entertainment personalities lend their names and faces to sell products and to promote their own shows and films. This vintage ad uses the huge cachet of Jack Benny “Famous CBS TV Star” to sell Certified Quality Service featuring CBS Hytron television and radio tubes. That was back in the days when CBS owned a television and radio manufacturing operation. While our business has changed dramatically since the days of Jack Benny, the importance of talent has not.

Eye on the show: The art & science of the TV promo


Even with all of the media choices available to viewers today, on-air promotion continues to be the single most effective way for TV marketers like CBS to get the word out about our shows. Yes, we also advertise on every media platform in every format — print, digital, outdoor, radio, mobile, social. But nothing has the same creative impact as the running our promos on the first screen.

Promos give people a free sample of the show. Research tells us that viewers like promos — they view them as entertainment content and program information that helps them decide what to watch. Anyone who’s waited to see the previews of what’s up next week can relate. Effective TV promos have three things in common:

They are simple.
That respected marketer of a concept — democracy — Thomas Jefferson, famously said: “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” It’s certainly true in our world. We go out of our way to tell viewers: “This is what this show is about” with as little confusion as possible. It’s harder and harder for the average media user to focus on the screens right in front of them. While elaborate graphic and cinematic devices can be exciting, they can also distract from the main message. We never want to hear “That was a really cool ad — but I’m not sure what it was for.” If we’ve done our job, people know exactly what the promo is for.

They tell a story.
That genius marketer of news programming, Don Hewitt, creator of “60 Minutes,” said to his reporters: “Tell me a story.” People don’t remember information; they remember stories. The impossible job that TV promos do each day is distill 30 or 60 minutes of a show into a few select words and images compressed into seconds. Effective promos reveal enough concept and plot for people to catch on and get invested, but not enough to satisfy their appetite for the show itself. They simplify the most complicated story lines into recognizable tropes: good versus evil, fish out of water, boy meets girl, and so forth. It’s not easy to do in 30 seconds, but that’s where the “art” comes in.

They are memorable.
That memorable marketer of hype, P.T. Barnum, knew how to get people “into the tent.” The call to action behind all TV promos is “WATCH THIS SHOW!” Tune in information is becoming increasingly complicated in this multi-platform, DVR-centric viewing universe so we focus on hammering home the names of our shows and the fact that people can only find them on CBS. Here’s a 60-second online promo for the new CBS show “NYC 22,” premiering Sunday, April 15, at 10/9 p.m CT. Take a look and be sure to tune in!

First screen first: Big event TV and social media


Taylor Swift won entertainer of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS.
(Credit: ACM on Facebook)

In a world of limitless choice, the appetite for big event television continues to grow. And as exciting and pervasive as social media chatter about television has become, it simply reflects — and often magnifies — the enduring power of what happens on the first screen.

For example, with more than 13 million viewers, the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS delivered a 4 percent increase over last year’s ratings. That’s the result of a vibrant country music community looking to connect with their favorite artists and each other during the live broadcast.

Together with the ACMs, CBS helped empower the conversation between this fervent group of fans offering a dedicated Social Media Reporter (2 Broke Girls co-star Beth Behrs) and extensive online and on-air social integrations before and during the broadcast. The result? According to Blue Fin Labs, social media mentions around this year’s show hit an all-time high and were up more than 330 percent from last year. A win on the first screen and the second screen.

The following night, ratings for the NCAA Championship on CBS were up 5 percent from 2011 with an average of 21 million viewers during the broadcast. And notably, the championship game generated nearly 1.5 million social media comments, which was seven times the number of comments made about the average March Madness game.


The Kentucky Wildcats are national champions. Final score: (1) Kentucky 67, (2) Kansas 59
(Credit: US Presswire/CBS Sports on Facebook)

These results come on the heels of strong ratings increases for the 2012 Super Bowl, Oscars, and Grammys broadcasts, each of which also delivered record social media activity as well. While it’s unclear exactly how social media affects TV, it’s very clear how TV affects social media: be it sports, news, primetime programming, or award shows, it’s the shared love of network TV content that inspires people to express themselves and connect with others on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

As TV marketers, we love the new level of engagement provided by social platforms. But we also remain focused — first and foremost — on creating the big event magic on the first screen. Because without the first screen, there is no second screen!