How To Look Younger On TV Newscasts? Change The Ads

How do you make an older evening newscast younger? Why, just run younger commercials, of course. Want even fewer advertising dollars than you have now? Run younger ads.

Charles Gibson of ABC's "World News" says all that pharmaceutical advertising--analgesics, dentures, direct-to-consumer drugs--is turning away younger viewers. He suggests younger-skewing ads.

Preaching the scenario that everything is content--news, scripted shows, reality shows, and the advertising messaging that runs in between--Gibson believes the whole package has an image. As we all know. few younger-skewing commercials--movies, video games, iPods, cell phones, or even many automobile ads--make it into the broadcast evening news.

In Philadelphia last week at the National Constitution Center, Gibson said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer: "When you put on ads mostly for medicines, you're saying 'We want an older audience.' I would like ads that say 'We have a younger audience here.' "



But Gibson really doesn't have a younger audience. The median age for all three broadcast news shows is the same--60 years old.

Getting young advertisers would take some doing. ABC would probably have to drop the price of those prime-time news spots to a quarter of their current fee. Even then it won't work. Maybe ABC will have to lower Gibson's salary to make ends meet.

Some younger-skewing advertisers might be convinced to part with some of their media dollars if the spots were efficient enough--in other words, cheap--or if networks could convince them that buying some older demos isn't so bad. Still, those advertisers would definitely need encouragement.

Network ad sales chiefs selling broadcast news would then have to plead the case to their bosses: "Would you mind if I didn't hit my sales goal this month--or for the next five years?" Is that okay with you, Anne Sweeney, Les Moonves, and Jeff Zucker?

You want younger news? Have a younger person on-air doing younger stories--or lose the standard White House/Washington D.C angle. No anchor should be behind a desk at a studio. Always have them in the field, where the news is. Older correspondents are fine. And perhaps add some unsteady camera activity. Get rid of the pretense--the formal opening, the talking heads, perhaps even some of the scripting.

Imagine some 25-year-old sitting at home watching and saying "Cool." That 25-year-old may not have enough money to buy a car, should you be inclined to run that ad. But he might have enough for an iPod, a cool new cell phone service, or tickets for "Saw III."

Anything short of that and you'll be back with your 60-year-olds, looking at why North Korea has become a nuclear power and why they should buy Aleve.

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