Upfronts 2009: CBS Sells Its Growth Story In New TV Ad Campaign

CBS Television is launching an unprecedented ad campaign selling the power of its own airwaves. The branding initiative is the first ever such broad stroke marketing campaign from CBS specifically tied to the TV advertising upfront which starts on May 18.

The effort titled, “Only CBS,” is aimed at reinforcing the notion that broadcast television, specifically the eye network, is very much alive and kicking. CBS is battling the common perception that broadcast television is in a long-term decline and that the future of profitable TV is with cable. CBS, however, is growing ratings, though it is not seeing a corresponding growth in ad revenue because of the recession.
TV spots broke Sunday in Face The Nation With Bob Schieffer and will continue in primetime shows such as 60 Minutes as well as daytime soaps and Late Show with David Letterman. The TV ads which feature a voice over discussing ratings growth are expected to run through to the beginning of upfront week.

The campaign will encompass not just TV but will include all-points across CBS Corp. such as the company’s 140 radio stations, CBS Interactive and out-of-home destinations. There will also be a national print element embracing such hallowed real estate as the front page of the New York Times. USA Today is also included in the buy.

George Schweitzer, CBS President marketing said: “We’re bringing all the resources of CBS and doing a pre-upfront positioning campaign. We’re seeing no medium reaches more people than network television and that only CBS reaches more people than any other network. We’re the only network that launched the season’s number one show, The Mentalist.”

He declined to say how many total impressions the campaign would deliver or the equivalent cost of those spots had they been purchased. “This comes out of promotional time,” he said, noting that it would not draw away from CBS TV’s airtime inventory.

Jo Ann Ross, CBS President sales added: “The reason we’re doing this is we read a lot about the death of [network] TV and the growth of cable networks. Coming off the year we’ve had if there’s a good story to tell and a way to differentiate ourselves this is it. It does make a huge statement to the buyers.”

“We are in challenging economic times and we want to make sure as we talk to all our constituents if there’s a value proposition to come to CBS first.”

CBS network is going all out to make the case that it is the only network to grow its ratings in all key categories versus last year. According to Nielsen data through April 26, season to date CBS is averaging a 2.9 rating and 3.85 million viewers in the 18-49 year old demographic, on the live plus same day metric. Last year it did a 2.8 and 3.7 million viewers through week 31 of the season.

However, in that key advertiser demographic, Fox, ranks higher on a 3.3 rating and 4.3 million viewers in that category, though it is down from last year. (Fox network aired Super Bowl in 2008.) CBS continues to place first in total households and people.

The most important metric is the C3 commercial rating, the currency on which the entire industry is bought. CBS says it is also ahead of last year in the 18-49 year old demographic. According to data provided by CBS (Nielsen does not release it publicly), the network trails only Fox.

Fox comes top on 4.15 million viewers, CBS takes 3.53 million while ABC is on 3.32 million and NBC is at 3.14 million.