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Brainstorming Ad Sellers Generate Idea Leads

It may not be Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau seems to have come up with a game-show formula that works-"30 Great Ideas in 60 Minutes."

The concept involves sales executives giving brief suggestions for more creative ways to generate sales. CAB vice president of local sales and marketing Kevin Barry and director of local sales Gary Tietjen introduced the "contestants" and wielded a The Gong Show-like gong to keep their spiels under 60 seconds.

This time out, the CAB duo even wore masks bearing the likeness of Gong Show host Chuck Barris.

While it will never get on the air, that session did attract a sponsorship from Game Show Network in its second outing at the CAB Local Cable Sales Management Conference in Denver last month.

Like the Coors Brewing Co. commercial that says, "Tap the Rockies," cable executives tapped into CAB Local for ideas. Here are a baker's dozen:

  • Conduct "a one-day sale" to create "a sense of urgency" about a system's avails, then work the phones to tell all clients about it, said Henry Graham, general sales manager at MediaOne Group Inc. in Bingham Farms, Mich. The system's own sale in March generated $500,000.
  • Similarly, offer six new customers introductory sales packages that will run eight weeks each at lower rates, said Josh Caplan, director of sales at Staten Island (N.Y.) Cable.
  • "Make the promotion fit your clients," advised MTV Networks affiliate ad-sales manager Jeff Arthur. For example, he proposed pitching a bank to promote "taking a bite out of interest rates" as a tie-in sponsor of Discovery Channel's "Shark Week."
  • Go off the beaten path. One unusual buy came from Karen Lambert, local sales manager in Colorado Springs, Colo., for Adelphia Communications Corp.'s Adelphia Media Services, who sold six sponsorships for an "ugly kitchen" contest linked with Home & Garden Television.

Ralph Dunkelberg, ad-sales director at Time Warner Cable, chimed in with a report of selling a bakery on cable by having it give away a free loaf of bread to those who mentioned its The Weather Channel crawl sponsorship. The bakery begged off after the 300th request and bought a $60,000 annual schedule, he added.

  • Attract local accounts with creative co-branded network-promotion tie-ins, said Tony Farmer, general sales manager at Insight Communications Co. Inc.'s Insight Media, which sold 16 sponsorship packages tied into The History Channel's "Great Race" touring event.
  • Similarly, Turner Entertainment Networks manager of local ad sales and marketing Elizabeth Chunn suggested getting a yearlong list of community events from your chamber of commerce, then brainstorming partnership ideas with cable networks.

Time Warner Cable ad-sales manager Lynette Langer-Keagle suggested screening a classic film or an original movie, sponsored by Turner Classic Movies or A & E Network, with ticket donations going to charities.

Bob Fahner, local sales manager at Charter Communications Inc.'s Charter Media Services, advised linking with Nickelodeon's live "GameLab" promotion, which lured six new clients for Charter.

  • Try to reduce reliance on automotive by concentrating efforts on new categories. Invite executives as guest speakers to address how best to land their accounts.

That idea came from Mary Kay Johnson, local sales manager at MediaOne of Bellflower, Calif. The system's "Building for Tomorrow" initiative cut its auto share from 30 percent of business two years ago to 18 percent.

  • Draw more minority business by hosting a reception with minority leaders or tying into festivals of interest to ethnic segments, said Tallulah Anderson, BET Networks' national director of local ad sales.
  • Develop a mentoring program to train new account executives, said Susan Hagaman, general sales manager at MediaOne of Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Emphasize customer service in all of its forms, said Jim Birschbach of Birschbach Media Sales & Marketing. The onetime ad sales vice president at Tele-Communications Inc. also joked, "You might even want to consider wearing a bow tie" (his firm's logo and his own longtime personal trademark).
  • Link an account's product or service to relevant programming on a network, said Steve Houck, vice president of affiliate relations at National Cable Communications. NCC's Chicago office sold a termite-eradication firm on a $1 million schedule around HGTV.
  • "Practice needs-based sales," said Kevin Cates, national and regional sales manager at Cable One Inc. in Bartlesville, Okla., which means that buys contribute to account objectives.
  • "Throw a party," said Joe Slavin, vice president of ad sales for Charter Media Services, adding that its annual ESPN/National Football League reception for 400 clients at the Rose Bowl or Santa Anita racetrack has proven to be "a great relationship-building event."