WB Upfront Message To Advertisers: We're On The Way Back
This year's tone and execution was fresh and classy, evoking with buyers what it hopes will be the same emotion among viewers. It was a sharp contrast to last year, when The WB stood on the edge of what could have been further audience and share gains, only to falter badly when it took a few too many shows that went nowhere and mostly ignored the reality shows that every other network used to capture young adults. Under attack from MTV Networks and elsewhere for its share of the 12- to 34-year-old crowd and dogged by poor ratings, WB executives didn't shy from the several misfires this past season. But they didn't dwell on them either--instead sending, in essence, this message to the advertising community: We're on the way back.
If the message didn't have the plaintive yet earnest appeal of troubled ABC or the bluster of NBC, The WB did skillfully shift between restoring its signature series to the spots back to where they once belonged, keeping successful shows in the same place, and offering a mix of dramas, comedies, and unscripted shows that it hopes will jump start the network.
"The WB will not only survive, but thrive," said Jordan Levin, a seasoned WB hand who ascended Tuesday to become its chief executive. "Why? Because we have a good idea for a network. People know who we are, and they know what a WB show is."
Levin enlisted the help of the actors and actresses who star on The WB, who perched on both sides of the stage, awaiting the cue to introduce their show. "Everwood" leading man Treat Williams opened by announcing that the show would remain in its 9 p.m. Monday time slot. He was followed by "Smallville" superman Tom Welling, bearded and casual, making a rare upfront event appearance along with co-star Michael Rosenbaum. Also on hand were other WB stars, including "What I Like About You" teen Amanda Bynes, actress/singer Reba McIntyre, and Stephen Collins of "7th Heaven," who has attended many a WB upfront.
The presentation was designed to give buyers and advertisers the impression that The WB kept everything that once worked (and will again), while bringing in new shows that will satisfy its viewers.
"As long as we continue to create powerful, lasting memories and compelling characters and imaginative stories, then The WB will be an even stronger brand 10 years from now," Levin said. "I guess I can sum this all up by saying: 'It's the programming, stupid.'"
Levin showed clips from the network's two new dramas--"Jack & Bobby" and "The Mountain"--as well as reality-based programming that the network was slow to develop, but that Levin promised would be given due consideration now.
Bill Morningstar, chief of ad sales at The WB, starred with two other executives in silly and funny versions of The WB's popular shows. Morningstar noted the network's commitment to programming, and said that they wanted to be in the forefront of new models of connecting viewers and advertisers. He also acknowledged that this year had been a challenge, but told buyers: "Don't count us out."
Throwing aside upfront convention, The WB kicked off the event with what networks save for the end. Rocker Lenny Kravitz opened the event with three songs marking his association with "Pepsi Smash," which will go into its second year this summer.
WB executives made the most of their new surroundings, employing the Garden's announcer to introduce the executives in Knick-like style.