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Quirky Promo Puts WRAZ In Sync With Community

The launch is still a few months away, but WRAZ Raleigh management is hard at work prepping a unique community program that owes a debt of gratitude to Fox staples Glee and American Idol. Following the success of its inaugural high school Lip Dub contest earlier this year, Capitol Broadcasting’s Fox affiliate will kick off Lip Dub 2—bigger, presumably better and driven more by social media than the first—when Idol announces its final 24 contestants in February.

WRAZ’s Emmy-nominated Lip Dub( invites local high schools to submit a video, shot in one take, of students lipsyncing and cutting loose to popular songs, with the winners bringing home a total of $17,500. The concept was inspired by Glee, say station execs, where schools compete with each other, but not in sports. For WRAZ, the idea is community outreach, unique content and revenue all in one. “We came up with it on our own,” says Tommy Schenck, station VP and general manager, “and it took on a social media life of its own.”

Lip dubs have become a YouTube staple; several have views well into the millions. NBC’s The Office acknowledged the trend by starting off its 2010 season with a Dunder Mifflin staff performance set to the Isley Brothers' “Nobody But Me.”

WRAZ went big on the first Lip Dub, with four promos on Super Bowl Sunday: in the pregame, game, postgame and during the post-Bowl Glee episode. “They were four phenomenal hits,” says Kevin Kolbe, WRAZ creative services director.

Lip Dub provided content for sister station WRAL (which produces WRAZ’s newscasts) and was a way to connect with an elusive age group. Nearly 9,400 users—presumably teens, for the most part—registered to vote or comment on Lip Dub.

WRAZ management says the forays into schools offered the station something of a focus group for teens and their issues. “We saw it as a way to have a connection with a market that’s hard to reach,” says Schenck. “It’s typically hard for stations to get into schools.”

That the initiative made some cash was almost incidental. WRAZ brought on Goodwill Community Foundation as presenting sponsor for Lip Dub 1, but was willing to do it whether or not the project was underwritten. Schenck won’t reveal how much sponsorship goes for, but says the fee was on the “high end.” “It delivered a good ROI,” he says, “but that wasn’t the goal.”

Lip Dub may have legs beyond Raleigh-Durham. WRAZ’s managers say it was mentioned by the network at Fox’s annual affiliate promotions meeting last summer. (Fox did not comment on WRAZ’s Lip Dub.) Schenck says other stations have inquired about licensing the concept.

WRAZ’s managers expect the 2012 competition to easily surpass the 33 schools that entered this year. A few rule tweaks include allowing users to vote and comment via mobile devices. “That’s big,” says Brian Bisges, WRAZ sales promotions coordinator, “considering the audience we’re talking about.”

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