TVB Fights Drunk Driving

This holiday season, local broadcasters will do something they've never done before: join forces nationwide to fight drunk driving.

Between Christmas and New Year's, more than 100 stations will air public-service announcements (PSAs) produced by the Television Advertising Bureau, a trade group for local broadcast sales, and the Ad Council, a nonprofit advertising organization. Dubbed "Project Roadblock," the initiative is distinct.

It illustrates an unusual show of cooperation between rival station groups and market competitors. The effort will culminate on New Year's Eve, when the spots will get additional emphasis.

So far, Clear Channel Communications' 36 stations and Nexstar Broadcasting Group's 46 stations have enlisted. Individual stations from Belo Corp., Cox Broadcasting, Hearst-Argyle, Hubbard Broadcasting, Liberty, Tribune Broadcasting and Viacom also are participating. TVB President Chris Rohrs hopes to have several hundred stations by the time the campaign is launched.

If the campaign reaches that level, the value of the ad time could exceed $100 million. (Some stations will opt to run the PSAs from their ad inventory, while others will use time allocated for promotions.)

Of course, local broadcasters often create their own PSAs that speak to national and local concerns. But the collaboration is a first. Nexstar Broadcasting CEO Perry Sook can recall a few instances when broadcasters in a particular market have collaborated on a PSA, such as after a natural disaster. "But there has not been anything with this impact on a national level," he says.

Project Roadblock came to fruition last fall, when Rohrs was searching for ways to weave together a national PSA campaign with member stations. Rohrs serves on the Ad Council's board and secured the group's creative cooperation.

The campaign uses a series of seven spots from Ad Council's "Innocent Victims" series, which poignantly identifies victims of drunk-driving accidents. "The Ad Council's spots are always well-done," says Sook. "By giving them additional reach and frequency, we can enhance the message."

This is the Ad Council's first coordinated campaign with local stations. It has done one campaign across TV properties before, a PSA on youth-violence prevention that ran on broadcast and cable networks on the one-year anniversary of the Columbine High School tragedy. "Project Roadblock has the power to be even bigger," says Ad Council President and CEO Peggy Conlon, because it features numerous spots and will air on stations nationwide. The effort also involves the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration.

Each 25-second spot will carry the message "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk" and ends with a five-second tagline that includes the TVB logo and the message "Project Roadblock: Local TV Puts the Brakes on Drunk Driving." Local stations can customize the ads by adding their logo and Web-site address.

"This is a chance to ramp up the power of spot TV," says Rohrs. "We can get more reach this way."