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WTTG Washington Goes Racy With Promos

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Never mind all the hubbub over news outlets leaning left or leaning right. WTTG, the Fox O&O in Washington, is touting an entirely different tilt—and it is kind of risqué.

Over the last year or so, the station has rolled out a series of promos on-air as well as online that, by local-TV standards, border on racy.

The station’s weather promo, for instance, is built around insinuating obscenities, versus the usual fare of touting fancy radar systems and weather modeling. Against a Strauss waltz soundtrack, slow-motion footage of a guy stuck in a downpour is accompanied by the text “Holy _ _ _ _!” The wording “Oh, _ _ _ _!” pops up as another man is hit in the face with a snowball. And that kid stuck inside on a rainy day? He’s apparently thinking, “_ _ _ _ it!”

A spot released in early March shows meteorologist Tucker Barnes disrobing (well, taking off his shirt and tie, that is) as he makes his way to the set. The gag occurs when Barnes, upon baring his belly, learns he is supposed to be promoting the station app rather than his abs. The underlying message for weather-watchers: dress appropriately.

And another series, promoting the WTTG app, is built around the hashtag #TapThatApp—and all the double entendres that come with it. The promos feature confession-like comments from couples on their most personal tapping preferences—things like tapping “whenever I get the urge” or liking to “tap it first thing in the morning.”

Grabbing for Attention

“We know everyone is digesting content 24 hours a day and we need to do something that will make us stand out,” Scott Perkins, WTTG’s creative services director, told B&C. “We wanted to do something unique and unexpected that will grab you in the first couple of seconds.”

Station leaders said the spots are generating the kind of buzz they hoped for, particularly on social media.

The weather promo reached 350,000 Facebook users and has generated 214,000 video views on the platform, according to statistics provided by Fox. The year-old “Tap That App” campaign has reached roughly 254,000 Facebook users and generated 150,000 video views, Fox said.

Steve Schwaid, a VP with the consultancy CJ&N, said he gives WTTG “100% credit” for creating ads that break all that clutter out there.

Schwaid, though, said he is not convinced the larger TV-watching public is ready and open to the idea of the kind of racy ads WTTG is airing. Spots that work on, say, Comedy Central or even late-night TV are not necessarily appropriate for local broadcasters.

“People could be offended,” he said. “The one thing we have learned from this election is that we don’t always understand the values people have.”

In turn, it’s incumbent on TV stations to run such ads only at times when kids aren’t likely watching. “I don’t think I want to turn to my 6-year-old while we’re watching Judge Judy and have [her] ask what the ‘tap it’ people are talking about,” he said.

It also raises the question of whether a station’s journalistic reputation can be tarnished by such creative, he said.

Showing a Human Side

Paul McGonagle, WTTG news director, doesn’t believe so. He said that through efforts such as the promos the station is fostering relationships with viewers, who better relate to its journalists and personalities when they show their human side.

“We have a lot of personality in our newscasts. We hire real people, and real journalists, but people who don’t take themselves too seriously,” he said. “It’s a reflection of who we are as a TV station, and who we are as a news organization.”