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From Homespun Growth to Client Retention

Real Deal: When managers of Comcast Spotlight in Colorado first ran the numbers on real estate advertising, things looked grim. Of roughly $50 million in estimated annual real-estate advertising for the Denver area, $43 million went to local newspapers and just $250,000 to local cable. But this year Comcast is budgeting for several million dollars in real estate advertising. The secret? Showcasing advertiser-subsidized video tours of homes and housing developments within the company’s on-demand TV platform and a companion Web site. Filmed in high-definition and sortable by builder, location or price, the home “tours” and a related half-hour home show have opened up a promising new ad category, says Comcast Spotlight Colorado VP and GM Kurt Kennedy. Comcast averages 10,000 views per week and is selling ad packages that span the on-demand platform, plus the Web site and traditional 30-second commercials that invite viewers to sample the digital tours. An equally great idea: finding the right person to manage sales for the new product. Comcast recruited Denise Ziegler, a 14-year veteran of the market who was director of real estate advertising for the Denver Newspaper Association, which operates ad sales for Colorado’s two largest daily newspapers.

Timing Route: The opening kickoff for ESPN’s 2006 NFL football season is about two months away. But for OnMedia in Des Moines, Iowa, the local commercial time associated with the upcoming season is like a speedy wide receiver with an open lane to the end zone: long gone. Rather than send his AEs into the market with customary summer sales packages for NFL inventory, Bob Montgomery, the senior director of OnMedia’s Des Moines office, instructed his team to lock up deals for the ’06 season back in January, when NFL playoff fever was running high. OnMedia not only secured modest rate increases but was able to convince its incumbents to buy into broader, related packages built around NFL coverage, which moves to Monday nights on ESPN this year. A key tactic: sending a letter in January to advertisers complimenting them on smart business decisions for advertising in the NFL package, and displaying fresh ratings results from ESPN’s game coverage. “Almost all of our advertisers renewed,” Montgomery says.

Churn Busting: Questions over invoices and infrequent communication with clients can be big contributors to client churn. To counter the problem, AEs at Cox Media’s Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla., operation hand-deliver invoices to their clients and answer questions on the spot. Plus, Cox sends to all new clients a letter from the general manager introducing the staff, and follows up with surveys asking them for feedback on recent spot production work Cox Media has performed. (Those who fill them out get a coupon for a free pay-per-view movie from Cox Communications.) The frequent-communication program has contributed to a reduction in client churn to 13% from 28% in the first year, according to Cox Media officials who shared the numbers at the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau’s recent Sales Management Conference.