A Creative Approach to Sales

Taking a cue from another New York boss decades before, WCBS New York President/General Manager Peter Dunn is making advertisers an offer he hopes they can't refuse.

Reaching out to clients that typically have not advertised on television, Dunn's retooled creative services department pre-produces spots from ads they see in the newspaper, on the Web, even on signage at hockey games. The salespeople at the CBS O&O then bring the commercials on their sales calls, and tell prospective customers that all they have to do is sign up to have the ads run. “We want to give the sales department as much ammunition as possible,” says VP of Creative Services Bruce Erik Brauer.

Known as Print to Motion, the campaign was hatched last summer in a meeting between Dunn and Brauer. Station business was ailing, and the stock market was beginning its precipitous drop. Dunn felt he needed to drastically rethink the way the station conducted business—and better engineer sales to bring new clients to television. “New business is such an important part of the business,” he says. “I said, 'What can we do to get it to the next level?'”

An ad in 27 minutes

He challenged Brauer to turn a print ad for a local bank into a TV spot. Brauer said, “Time me.” Tooling around with the graphics and voice talent at his disposal, Brauer cranked out a broadcast-worthy ad in 27 minutes.

Encouraged by the revenue prospects, Dunn added sales responsibilities to creative services, instead of the department concentrating solely on promotions. The first few weeks were difficult as staffers trained for their new roles. “It's tough to change the culture,” Dunn points out. “It took a while to break the barriers down.”

Brauer says his department eventually warmed to the idea of taking on new responsibilities and tapping another section of their brains. Since the program launched, creative services has created a batch of spots numbering “in the hundreds,” Brauer says, and Dunn adds that sales has closed on about 75% of them. WCBS managers see the new department as an in-house agency—capable of creating not only spots, but Websites and even business cards, too.

Brauer employs storyboards, a stash of about 9,000 graphic images, and a voiceover agency to create the commercials, and often goes along on sales calls. He says the spots may not win creative awards, but the typical viewer would never know they were produced at the station, not at a pricey agency. “They're clean, they're legible and they're free,” he says.

Dunn says Print to Motion has played a substantial role in getting the station through these miserable economic months, and his fellow general managers within CBS are taking note—and often employing the model at their stations.

“We're taking their lead on that,” says KTVT/KTXA Dallas President/General Manager Steve Mauldin. “It's a clever way to get newspaper advertisers on board quickly.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.