PBS Trade Campaign Might Be Better Tabled For Now



At a time when PBS is under siege by members of Congress looking to eliminate its federal funding, an ad campaign bearing its association might be smart business, but is ill-timed. While PBS makes the case that government dollars are crucial for its viability, the drawing of attention to other funding streams might be better shelved until the NPR-fueled, anti-public broadcasting tide ebbs.

Multiple Web sites have banner ads from the Sponsorship Group for Public Television (SGPTV), which sells national sponsorships for PBS programs, looking to drum up business from corporations.

The trade ad touts the chance for a PBS sponsor to reach a “quality audience” via the likes of “Antiques Road Show,” “Curious George” and “Frontline.” A click-through leads to an SGPTV site pitching marketers on an array of opportunities -- from 30-second spots, to a presence on tune-in print ads, to tickets to an event such as the Emmys to give to clients. It also offers case studies on successful campaigns run by the likes of Chick-fil-a and Liberty Mutual.

Why clue Congress in to some of the options PBS offers and successes it has had in garnering corporate dollars? While fighting back against moves to slash its funding, cry poor in a clever, reasoned way. Don’t note help received from an insurance company.

For that matter, PBS might do itself a favor by removing a prominent Goldman Sachs ad from its Web site. A Republican Congressman might wonder why PBS is doing business with the controversial Wall Street giant.

Nonetheless, SGPTV would argue the genesis of the trade campaign falls in line with the need for continued public funding. The genesis is advertisers have largely overlooked PBS opportunities, so sponsorships aren’t a cash-rich trough. 

“Public television hasn’t really been on (advertisers’) radar screen the way it should be,” said Suzanne Zellner, vice president for corporate sponsorships for WGBH.

SGPTV operations are run out of the Boston-based WGBH, a prominent PBS member station.

Among the case studies on the SGPTV’s sales site are one for Chick-fil-A’s affiliation with children’s show “Between the Lions,” which included more than 500 spots running per year, co-branded books and in-store signage.

There is also a detailing of Liberty Mutual’s involvement with “Antiques Road Show” that started in 2004. That program includes a booth at “Road Show” taping events and access to the mailing list of the attendees, allowing the insurer to follow-up.      

As a vehicle to gin up business, the SGPTV site is well put together. It’s easy to navigate and likely gets marketers and agencies considering or conceiving a slew of possibilities.

Pretty neat is an easy-to-use recommendation engine allowing advertises to match target audiences with shows. Users offer a preferred audience demographic based on factors such as gender, age and number of kids and SGPTV returns with options by genre.

The SGPTV sales team has four people. Zellner declined to cite how much revenue its operations generate.

The group raises money that goes to individual stations such as WETA -- which produces “Washington Week” -- to help offset production costs and takes a commission. PBS benefits as the dollars should lead to higher-quality programming it can distribute to its stations.

Zellner said the campaign launched before the recent NPR fundraising imbroglio and subsequent furor, which led to the CEO resigning. And she doesn’t think its timing will lead to any questions from federal legislators. House members presumably have better things to do than troll through ad-industry Web sites.

Still, it’s running after the House approved legislation that would cut federal PBS funding. PBS has been fighting back, releasing a study it commissioned showing 69% of voters are against a government elimination of funds, including a large percentage of Republicans.

Yet, while swinging back, why risk alerting Congress to potential corporate largesse.







1 comment about "PBS Trade Campaign Might Be Better Tabled For Now".
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  1. Chris Nielsen from Domain Incubation, March 21, 2011 at 4:53 p.m.

    Look, I like PBS, but this sacred cow does have horns you know...!?

    Time to cut the cord to PBS and here are my reasons in random (mild rant) order:

    - Program "sponsorship" has morphed from a short name mantion into what I consider mostly short ads complete with corporate slogan and URLs. I've been hearing quacking for years... and I think they have paid advertising.

    - MPR has an online music store, a for-profit venture, then helps support them as far as I know. They should do more to suppport themselves.

    - They run pledge drives and people send them money. Let those that support them take on the full burden and remove it from the backs of those that would rather not support something they do not use or do not agree with.

    - Back in the late 1980's I stopped donating to them because while I did listen, I heard that the funding for MPR was more than ample and the studios were lush with all the top level equipment you would find at any commercial station. When you are hitting up the general public including students and those with lower incomes, I think you should tighten your belt to match the lowest common denominator, otherwise they may resent how you spend their money, as I did.

    Lastly, why don't they just go commercial and be done with the high and mighty presense of not being commercial? This could be done differently from what other stations are doing, and provide more value not only to advertisers, but also listeners.

    Just as Google provides ads that relate to the content of a web site, NPR could play ads that closely relate to the content they are airing. Advertisers may pay a slightly higher rate for ads that are more likely to reach potential customers. And listeners should be more willing to support advertisers that are paying for the radio service they love and have been supporting all these years.

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