Want a Showstopper Execution?

In today’s post, I share with you an article on showstopper executions written by the Research Director of Omnicom Media Group Philippines.

 

Want A “Showstopper” Execution?

Dan Ryan Catalan

A “showstopper” that’s what you call an advertising execution that is sweeping off the feet of many advertising practitioners.  It’s a sensational feat for an advertising agency for its brainchild to create public buzz or trend online.  It’s the kind of execution that gets told over and over, even a decade after as reference for best ad-campaign practices.

Given a thousand ways to skin a cat, the “best way” for some advertising practitioners is the most “innovative”, most “creative”, most “revolutionary” and other synonymous buzzwords in the advertising vocabulary.  Why not, even marketing practitioners can’t help but to marvel and be envious of these ingenious executions paraded in mass media.

On the flipside, it is also these coveted wows, which trigger to jump the gun on executions.  With so much excitement on a spontaneous idea, there is a tendency to pre-empt the planning process.  In some cases, the execution becomes a blinder, rendering the insights and strategic process as mere support or embellishment, and worse, a pro-forma.

Nonetheless, seasoned communication experts can discern.  Omnicom Media Group CEO, Nic Gabunada explains… “Off-hand, it won’t be fair to discount the creative process that agencies go through.  But it makes you think when the execution starts outshining the brand.  You may praise the agency that came up with the brilliant execution, but the brand ends up with the shorter end of the stick”.  He adds, “You can tell if the campaign is about awards or if it’s an authentic brand communication.”  This happens with advertisers naively falling into the game, too eager to be the brand that comes up with “next-in-thing”.

It is no secret that the process involving a total communications plan is long and arduous.  It involves multiple translations of thoughts—from consumer behaviour and brand equities to insights, from brand strategy to a creative material, from a creative handle to a media idea, from a media idea to executions.  Many times, the brand or marketing objectives get lost in translation.

Here are five nifty tips that marketing practitioners can employ to keep executions on track:

  1. Wear Your Brief Tightly:  Keep the brief printed and on-hand in every meeting and brainstorming session to keep tab of the brand objectives.
  2. Be The Consumer:  Compose your insight statements or insight setup for your advertising concepts, personally expressed from the target market’s point of view.   Of course, insights do not normally come straight from a consumer’s mouth, but stating the insights in the first person’s point of view will keep you consumer-oriented on your next steps.
  3.  Walk forward:  Working backwards starting from creative executions to consumer insight and brand objectives is a force-fit, and would not likely bring about a genuine consumer connection.  Insights about the brand and consumer should be the core of a strategy, not a creative idea.
  4.  Involve the Brand:  Always include the brand in crafting your strategy or concept statements. This should ensure that the brand is the focus of the plan or strategy.
  5.  Visualize the Media Idea / Strategy:  Creative handles are sometimes difficult or impractical to translate to media executions. Planners need to express the communication objective in an actionable/execution-oriented media idea.  However, this can steer one away from focusing on the brand.  Hence, a media idea or strategy statement should be supported by a “media concept”.  This concept articulates a clear vision on how the brand and its message will travel through different channels and reach the consumers effectively.

Impressive executions may be an advantage in cutting through the media clutter and amplifying brand messages, but an execution that is hollow on strategy and insight will be short in offering something substantial for the audience to sink their teeth into.

 

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Cutting Cable

In today’s post, I give way to an article released for public consumption by the research group of OMG Philippines. It talks about cable advertising, why some clients are still hesitant to include these in their media plans and argues that there are several reasons why it makes sense to put some investment on this medium.

 

Cutting Cable?
Relevance of Cable TV Advertising

What makes TV advertising so great is that media planners are able to plan for the best channel and program combinations, and report projected deliveries with the confidence of numbers. This is because of the sophisticated TV audience measurement being provided by Nielsen and Kantar Media. To this day, TV audience measurement is the most sophisticated media metrics, with 24/7 events monitoring and minute-by-minute viewership logging. Unfortunately, too many cable channels spread the limited cable panels (respondents) too thin to come up with a decent rating.

The highest rating Cable program among cable homes reaching 4.6% is lower than the margin of error of 5%* for the reporting household (panel homes), rendering any cable ratings irrelevant and immaterial as far as statistics is concerned. The low turnout in cable viewership casts doubt among some advertisers against the effectiveness of the medium in delivering brand communications to target audience.

Almost always, it finds its way under the scrutiny of advertisers who are having doubts on Cable TV’s contribution being compared to significant deliveries of its “Big Brother” (Free TV), which begs the question, whether to cut-down or totally cut-off cable TV placements. When in contrast, at 24% viewership, Cable TV is far more significant compared to print readership figures – broadsheet 12.7%, tabloid 13.3% and magazine 3%1.

Much as Nielsen offers other variables to make sense of the cable TV figures, throwing in Affinity, Adhesion, Loyalty, etc., we cannot deny that cable TV is a parcel of a total TV plan. We took the point of view of 4 key officers of OMG Philipines, and this is what they have to say on the matter:

  • Lisa Obispo, Head of Trading and Accountability for Omnicom Media Group: “Cable TV can pull down the overall efficiency of media buys, if not carefully planned.” Further, she adds ““When it comes to Cable TV, you have to look beyond the numbers. Communications planning is not about reaching the widest audience – it is about delivering brand communications clearly.”
  • Carla Cifra, General Manager of OMD Philippines: “Media planning is not only about a medium that can deliver the greatest number of impressions. OMD believes that an effective medium is one that serves the need-states of the target audience, and cable TV delivers strong in that aspect via programming that is tailor-fitted to the interest of the audience.”
  • MeAn Bernardo, General Manager of PHD Media Network: “We had to unlearn the old and traditional top programs or shop-list planning. In PHD, we always try make our media plans hard working by placing in channels where we can amplify the brand’s message by finding a good fit between the tone and value of the our message, and the value and characteristics of a particular medium to the audience. In that respect, the clear cut identity and programming of Cable Channels will be very helpful.”
  • Fen Marquez, General Manager of M2M Advertising: Communication planning is not only about garnering TARPs but generating demand for our clients’ brands. Our principle in M2M is to employ key vehicles with strong influence over the target market, and this is where Cable TV can be very reliable. Undoubtedly, Cable TV channels commands strong influence on the variety of interests that our target audiences are engaged in.”

We have identified some facts in support of cable TV in instances when its relevance is being put to question.

  • Pinpoint Targeting: Cable TV allows advertisers to reach target audiences squarely with tailored programming to serve the specific interest of certain niche segments of the population.
  • No brand flood: Cable TV is 45% less cluttered than FTV2. Less brands flooding the TV screen offers better branding and execution cut through for efficient memory hard-wiring.
  • Focused viewing: Cable TV has 12% less break minutes compared to FTA channels2, and break duration is likewise shorter by 50%. This means more content that viewers wanted to watch and less intrusive commercial breaks bringing more comprehension of brand communication.
  • Creative flexibility amplifies message: Most Cable media owners are more receptive to agency initiated executions, and allows collaboration between them, the brand, and the media agency for the most fitting approach.
  • Property ownership: With a ratio of 20:1 between Cable TV’s P28,000.00 versus Free to Air’s P573,000.00 per 30s rate card cost, advertisers are able to claim “ownership” of particular program airing on Cable TV. This allows strong association of the program with the brand, by having a common venue – creating affinity between consumer and brand.

Cable TV spots grew by 90% from 2010 to 2012, compared to only 16% for FTA1, which shows the growing appreciation of Cable TV advertising. The medium continues to evolve adopting new technology like digital and HD reception, pay-per-view programming, satellite facilities, etc.

There is always security in numbers, but in getting ahead, advertisers and media planners need innovative thinking and a lot of guts to take advantage of the unique characteristics of Cable TVs highly-specialized programming, niche targeting feature, minimal ad clutter, and flexibility of executions.

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Radio: Living and Breathing in the New Digital World

For today’s post, I am reproducing a talk I gave during the 38th Top Level Management Conference of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). The conference was held at Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay City from November 14-17, 2012 and had His Excellency President Benigno Simeon Aquino III as  Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker.

The Conference Theme was SWITCH ON, TUNE IN, TAKE OFF IN THE NEW DIGITAL WORLD, which tries to the reality that Radio is now operating in a digital world. The topic assigned to me to cover as  resource speaker was Radio: Living and breathing in the New Digital World.

I am providing a link below to the visual copy of 13-minute talk in two parts:

 

Or you may also want to check the transcript below:

 

Good Morning Dear Colleagues.

Thank you very much for inviting me to this year’s conference.

You have asked me to give my thoughts on radioin the digital world.  I have four main points to share with you today:

My first point echoes this session’s theme: Radio is very much a living and breathing medium. The digital world presents radio with new business opportunities. It is up to you the media owners, of course, how to seize and monetize these opportunities.

In this day and age of information technology and cyber superhighways, people are still listening to radio. Sophisticated inventions in data sharing have not eroded the charm of tuning into the medium, not necessarily via the airwaves and the standard radio sets, but via other means of distribution and through new devices.

Radio, continues to offer two things that no other gadget can give: Human Connection & Practicality.

ON Human Connection:

Consider this:

Why is it that whenever we hear our songs being played on-air, they sound a thousand times better? Because the mystery and randomness of radio excite us every time.

Why is it that when radio DJs read our thoughts aloud we feel a certain rush? Because it’s always a warm feeling to know we belong, we are recognized, we are part of something, and we are heard.

On Practicality:

Radio will never die for it will continue to serve specific needs. Tablets can be a good source of news and information, but unless you have a driver, you can’t browse websites while clenched on the steering wheel. With a car radio, you just turn it on and you’ll hear the latest news from broadcasters while you’re traveling from point to point.

In times of calamities, when nothing’s left but a lighted candle and your transistor radio, essential news and announcements can still come to you.

Simple circumstances, but enough to show that radio will stay relevant and needed.

My second point is this, FOR RADIO TO CONTINUE to be a living and breathing medium, IT HAS TO FOLLOW ITS AUDIENCE WHEREVER THEY MAY BE.

Your audiences have started to live a double life: Offline and Online.

They now have the devices to do so: mobile phones, desktops and tablets.

They also have better ways to connect. Wi-Fi connection is widely accessible, and telcos are revamping their networks to provide more powerful data plans.

Gone are the days when a radio station’s coverage is determined by the power of its transmitter and antenna systems. Today’s technology makes possible for radio programs to be heard beyond the borders defined by the NTC, even beyond the country’s borders. It is now possible for radio stations to follow target audiences wherever they may be, anywhere in the world.

Therefore, for radio to continue to be a living and breathing medium, it has to be accessible via this generation’s devices: mobile phones, tablets, personal computers – on top of the usual personal radio sets.  Audiences should be able to listen to radio programs not only via the airwaves, but also via the mobile or online networks.

Moreover, radio programs must not only be made available real time via live streaming but also for later listening via podcasts.

To be sure, quite a number of Philippine radio stations are now present in the World Wide Web. Digital appendages of radio stations have already broken down geographical barriers and time-zones, tapping a new market that could have never been realized in years past.

For example, via the iPhone app Radio Philippines, I could still listen to a Philippine station for my daily dose of news and socio-political tsismis even if I am abroad. And in Manila, I could still tune in.

Also, podcasts provide me the convenience of listening to my favorite radio shows at the most convenient time.  to provincial radio stations to keep track of developments in my home town.

My only lament though is this: Most of these efforts are not actually initiated by the radio stations, but rather, by enterprising consolidators who make a reasonable business out of streaming live content of various radio stations.

My third point is this:  CONTENT HAS TO ADJUST FOR RADIO TO CONTINUE TO BE RELEVANT

Several years ago, “Unilateral” is the best way to describe the interaction radio talents had with their listeners. This one-way street grounded the basic format of any radio show: play some music, raise a single topic to engage the audience, deliver the news and air some paid commercial spots.

This format has triumphantly endured the early surges of technological inventions, with listeners then calling in or paging in their responses or song requests (remember Pocket Bell and Easy-call?).

There also came the early days of the mobile phones where radio stations entertained “text” entries, but the cost attached to it became a limitation in itself.

These one-sided formats are now becoming less and less attractive as people got overwhelmed by the digital tide. The idea of online communities sprung forth as interaction-based sites prospered across the web, and people got addicted to it.

Radio just had to keep up, and it did quite impressively well. Finding out that their audiences now value closer interactions and the feeling of belongingness, local broadcasters knew they had to tweak the format: utilize not only their station websites, but more importantly, leverage the influence of social networking sites.

The mechanics of doing a radio show now includes the reactions and thoughts of listeners who tweet and post relentlessly, without censorship and free of charge. It’s as if two shows are happening simultaneously: the actual show in the airwaves and the other one on Twitter and Facebook.

Digital not only widens the market, it also enhances the whole radio experience; it gives a new dynamic and life to it. The on-air discussions of listeners’ texts, tweets and Facebook comments have become as essential as playing requested songs. Notably, half of twitter trending topics in the morning are topics from radio shows airing on different frequencies.

My fourth and final point is this:  IN ORDER TO SURVIVE FINANCIALLY, RADIO MUST CONTINUE TO PROVIDE ADVERTISERS THE REQUIRED NUMBER AND QUALITY OF AUDIENCES DESIRED BY BRANDS.

We all know this is easier said than done. The secret is to keep your ear to the ground and never lose sight of your audience.  And both advertisers and broadcasters have to respond quickly upon each discovery of an opportunity.

Moreover, what works for the advertisers now, may no longer be what they want to have tomorrow.

We all remember how this evolved:

It used to be plain and simple airing of the advertiser’s 30-second radio commercial. Then, they started discovering other ways of marketing their brands via radio: AOBs, brought-to-you-bys, announcers’ and Radio DJ’s discussions, and events to accompany spots.

Facebook and Twitter have now evolved into some sort of a digital arm of any radio station. On-air promos and ads would always have a “follow” or “like” element into it, encouraging listeners to visit and join the online communities of these brands.

The use of “hashtags” has become a common way for listeners to be heard and recognized by radio shows they regard as communities where they belong. For broadcasters, Twitter’s trending list has become a gauge of popularity.

Moreover, digital savvy advertisers do not only settle for the usual on-air exposure, they now clamor to get digital exposure as well.  And stations with their own websites can take advantage of this reality:  since they can now offer additional media values through their official websites: Page-skinning, Banner Ads, and a lot more unique executions to cater to different advertising needs.

 

To recap,

Radio is not dead and provided it makes adjustments given the current improvements in technology, it will continue to attract the next generation of listeners and advertisers.

How can the radio station owners ensure this happens?

I pointed out 3 action points:

  1. be where your listeners are, be present offline and online
  2. adjust content taking into consideration social media interaction; and,
  3. show advertisers that you have the audiences and that these audiences engage in conversations relevant to the equities the advertisers’ brand associates itself with.

Some of you have already done all these, but for those who have yet to do this, or are in the process of doing it, we may be able to help.  

Thank you very much and good morning!

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Political leaders can learn much from Dolphy

  He Entertained Generations of Filipinos                           

Dolphy during an ABS-CBN Trade Event in August 2004

 If there is one artist who has touched the lives of several generations of Filipinos, Dolphy's name would be one of those at the top of the list. He would even rank higher than those who have already been accorded National Artist Awards.

When we were kids, he is one of the two stars we talked about in our households and in our playing grounds – the other one being FPJ. We laughed at his jokes, talked about episodes of his TV shows and saved money in order to watch his movies. We re-tell his jokes and even try to emulate some of his antics.

During my professional life, I had the privilege of working up close with Dolphy. He was a big star at ABS-CBN. His shows topped the ratings charts and raked in a lot of revenues for the network.  He was generous to a fault – he gave cash to extras, to acquiantances and to relatives who wait for him duringthe  tapings of his shows, He earned a lot, but  he also  shared his blessings to a lot of people.

In the late 80s and the 90s, he was Channel 2's most popular and bankable star, His popularity was so high that he could have easily won any electoral contest.  When I read about his famous words : "Madaling tumakbo, pero paano kung manalo?, I cannot help but admire the man even more. His problem was not whether he will win, but whether he can give justice to his elective position if he wins.

Today, the country bids farewell to its King of Comedy. We bid him goodbye and remember him not only with fondness, but also of admiration.

I am also taking the liberty of posting a letter written to the editors  of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on July 3, 2012 by Harvey Keh,  Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship by he Ateneo de Manila School of Government. I think it describes what every politician can learn from the man.

What Every Politician Must Learn from Dolphy

As the nation continues to pray for the immediate recovery of our beloved comedy king Dolphy, his principled stand against running for public office can serve as a good lesson to those who are now contemplating and planning to run for an elective public office in the upcoming 2013 elections.

If one would recall, there have been several instances that Dolphy has been urged to follow in the footsteps of other actors and actresses who have tried their hand at politics. Surely, if Dolphy decides to run for senator or even a higher post, I am sure that he would have a very big chance of winning, given the wide support that he enjoys among our people.

Yet, he has always said in so many words that the problem isn’t really whether or not he will win but what he will do after he wins and assumes a government position. This is a good lesson in humility that many of our political leaders should learn. Up until today, we have many local and national leaders who continue to run in the elections without even thinking whether or not they have the necessary skills and competencies to perform well in these government posts.

Sad to say, many of them run and do everything to win for no reason other than satisfying their lust for clout and power and advancing their own personal interests. It is refreshing to see that in Dolphy we see a man who knows and accepts his limitations and knows fully well where he can really excel at and where he can best serve the country.

I hope that we will have more leaders in our country who will discern and reflect first on their intentions, and whether they have the necessary skills for the position that they aspire after, before they decide to file their certificates of candidacies.

Let us remember that it is not only through government that we can be of service to our country and fellow Filipinos. The life and laughter that Dolphy shared with all of us is a concrete example of sharing one’s life and talents with others.

 

 

Really, let all those with political ambitions realize that it is easier to be elected but difficult to give justice to an elective position. Serving the people is not a tea party. It is a responsibility one has to take seriously.

MABUHAY KA, MANG DOLPHY!

 

 

 

 

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The First Serious Challenge to TV Patrol’s Supremacy

Weakened by Predictability and a Daily Soap Series
From 1987 to 1995, TV Patrol lorded over competing programs in its time slot.  The word DOMINANT is an understatement to describe the extent at which  the newscast’s leadership position in the early evening block. On an average day, it captured sixty to seventy percent of  TV viewers, higher if there was a big news story. It anchored ABS-CBN’s primetime ratings with the bulk of ABS-CBN’s primetime audience comprised of viewers of the news program.
But in the mid-90s, TV Patrol  faced the biggest threat to its supremacy as the following factors come into play:
  1. Predictability brought about by too many sponsored segments. With high ratings, advertisers lined up to buy commercial spots and booked these for long periods of up to one year.  All of TV Patrol’s  major segments were fully sponsored. Because of these commitments, the producers were contract-bound to produce and air  contents associated with a sponsored segments even as the situation called  for a longer treatment  of  another news item. For example, a sports segment is aired even if there is no significant sports news item or issue that is worth airing.  The sequence of TV Patrol’s segments became so  predictable that audiences who surfed to other channels knew when to switch back to the news program to catch up on the TV Patrol  segment they want to watch.
  2. Counter programming via an evening soap gained traction.
    Villa Quintana Logo (Image from Wikipedia)

    In 1995, GMA-7 introduced a daily soap opera against the first  30 minutes of TV Patrol.  The show was Villa Quintana, a co-production with Viva Films.  It is a story of young lovers, Isagani Samonte (played by Kempee de Leon) and Lynnette Quintana (played by Donna Cruz). It followed a popular plot:  boy and girl very much in love with each other despite the feud between their families. In the end, they will die (suicide) for love.  Villa Quintana failed miserably during its first few months on air, but since it was a co-production with another company, GMA -7 cannot just cancel the program. In the meantime, because of  the predictability of the sequence and the length of segments in TV Patrol, viewers had a chance to take a peek at Villa Quintana.   And some of them liked what they saw and  eventually become followers of the  soap.  Thus, Villa Quintana, after several weeks on air, started to gain traction and hit a double-digit audience share level. This was the first time a competitor of TV Patrol hit such shares levels.Moreover, it showed that TV Patrol can be beaten, not by a news program but through a daily soap opera.

  3. The entry of Marimar.
    Marimar - the most serious challenge to TV Patrol in the mid-90s (image from Wikipedia)

    Marimar was introduced into the Philippine programming scene by an advertiser, Procter & Gamble, who peddled Televisa soaps into the country in exchange for free spots within the program.  It  was first offered to ABS-CBN but at a price which the network felt was so exorbitant compared to what was spent producing  its afternoon daily soap opera Mara Clara or its evening serials. It was also rejected by GMA 7,   so that  P&G partnered with RPN 9 and aired Marimar at the slot opposite the second half  of TV Patrol and GMA’s early evening newscast.

    Marimar was the first program that challenged and almost toppled TV Patrol’s supremacy of the early evening time slot. Its story developed quickly. It  has a fast pacing, and offered new elements such as a talking dog and a carefree, beautiful character played by Thalia. The audience loved the novelty that Marimar offered.

    Marimar caught the Philippine TV industry by storm. It ate up not only the ratings of TV Patrol but also those of  the entertainment programs after the newscast.  RPN9  cashed in on the program. They overloaded the program with commercial spots, so that the 30-minute episode extended well over an hour. The total running time of commercial spots within Marimar were longer than the program content.  Initially, the audience doesn’t seem to care. They love the new soap and continued to watch it, day by day.

    Moreover, P&G has several Thalia soaps in its inventory. With the success of Marimar,  the telenovelas of Televisa have become hot properties up for grabs by the highest bidder. For the first time, not only TV Patrol but the whole ABS-CBN primetime block is facing a serious challenge.

     

ABS-CBN’s Counter-Attack 

To be sure, ABS-CBN was not caught flat-footed with the developments.   ABS-CBN Research and Business Analysis, which I headed then,  had been providing top management with a regular monitoring and analysis of the shifts in audience preferences and of  the week on week viewership of various programs. In various memos and personal briefings we pointed out the threat faced by our early evening  slot. We also discussed extensively the development in various management and programming meetings.  As head of research I had very long discussions and strategy sessions with the chief programmer of the network, Freddie Garcia.

There were reasons, internal to the network, why it  failed to react quickly to the threat(maybe in future blogs, I will write about these). Nevertheless, we agreed on the following principles as a working bases for the subsequent network moves:

  1. Evening soaps is now a reality. We need to have one evening soap to counter Marimar.
  2. We have to stop TV Patrol’s predictability. It should not be tied up to airing pre-set segments day-in and day out.
  3. We have to buy all the other Thalia properties and similar telenovelas.

 

And the programming moves were as follows:

  1. Freddie Garcia negotiated with P&G and got the rights for Thalia properties.Predictably, P&G  bundled these with several other telenovelas of Televisa. The price was exorbitant  but it was a paltry price to pay versus what would have happened if another network will have gotten hold of these properties and programmed them versus ABS-CBN’s primetime slot.
  2. Then, he instructed the production group headed by  Charo Santos to prepare Mara Clara for its transfer to primetime pitting it against Marimar.  Mara Clara started airing in 1992 and was a Monday to Friday afternoon series about two girls who, by a twist of fate, each lead the life that should have been the other’s, and only a diary can put an end to the mess.  It was daytime’s most popular program, rating even higher than the top evening programs at that time. It also has strong following among women – mostly housewives, who were not about to give up the television to anybody specially if they were watching their favorite shows.  I told Freddie these core audiences will follow Mara Clara to primetime.  And if we will make its pace faster  and not overload the program with commercials it will beat Marimar! (which it did)
  3. The third move is to cut TV Patrol to 30 minutes. The strategy was to initially do away with segment sponsorships to make the newscast more fluid and less predictable. It will also use only one anchor. Most of the guys at the news department did not agree with the changes. I attended that meeting with the anchors, reporters, producers and other key staff of the program and I almost fell off my chair when after hearing the objections of most of the people in the room, FMG said something to the effect of  “pagbigyan nyo ako sa decision ko na ito. If this will not work, I will resign!” .  The changes was scheduled to start April 1, 1996.      And so it came to pass that on  April Fools Day,  April 1, 1996, Noli de Castro became the sole anchor of the newscast, and  TV Patrol’s airing time was cut to 30 minutes. (I told some of my staff then that there is a built in justification for the the move: If it  will not work, we can easily claim that it was just an April Fools Day joke).

 

Fortunately for ABS-CBN,  the counter programming strategy worked.  We had the other Thalia telenovelas in our inventory so there was nothing the other channels can offer viewers. After Mara Clara,  ABS-CBN TV production started producing a lot fo 30-minute primetime soaps, the first of which were the back to back tandem of Mula sa Puso and Esperanza. TV Patrol retained its leadership, but we can longer say with certainty that it anchored ABS-CBN’s primetime..

But the TV landscape has already changed.  Daily series has become a new feature of early evening programming. A typical weekday evening primetime programming would have three distinct blocks: an early evening newscast; a daily telenovela or drama block; and, a once a week program or movies.    Today,  the once a week program block has been replaced by even more daily dramas, telenovelas or koreanovelas.

 

 

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TV Patrol’s Early Years – Key Success Factors

 

TV Patrol's 25 year logo. (Image from Wikipedia)

One of the most interesting media development I was fortunate to have monitored, studied and analyzed  was an early evening news program which anchored the rise of the then fledgling ABS-CBN to the number 1 position in the Philippine TV industry.  Here is my take of what made the program a success:

 

The Birth of TV Patrol

On March 2, 1987, TV Patrol first went on air.  It  was launched as an out-and-out tabloid-style newscast. From March 2 to July 3, 1987,  it was 30 minutes long and was expanded to 60-minutes in July 6 of the same year. It had less of the hard news and more of the entertainment, more of the  blood and guts. It featured anchors Noli de Castro, Mel Tiangco,Robert Arevalo (who was replaced a few months later by  Frankie Evangelista), and Angelique Lazo.

With animated use of colloquial Tagalog, a healthy dose of editorializing, and winning segments such as Pulso, Mission Expose, Lingkod Bayan, Pulis Report and Star News, the show appealed to the CDE sectors like no news show had ever had. There was also  a conscious effort to support the news with videos no matter how raw, bloody or graphic these videos maybe. Occasionally  there were live reports from the field, but mainly audio feeds betraying the newly-established network's lack of equipment.

 

Success Factors

What made the show successful?

A key success factor was a hungry and determined news team.  Whatever  the struggling network and the news department lack in resources, was more than made up by the ingenuity and the sheer determination of the whole team: top management, anchors,  reporters, cameramen, writers, and the other newsroom staff, to the extent of even using their own resources if only to come out with a good story every 6:00 o'clock on weekday evenings. 

Second, the program concept and design filled up a glaring gap in the news market. In a survey we conducted on the news audience, programs and personalities conducted during the first quarter of 1987, we identified six key attributes viewers anted in a news program:   Moreover, the qualifiers behind each of the attributes, revealed clear directions as to the contents of a newscast the audience would want to watch namely: 

  1. Credibility:  It is credible if it is not propaganda; if it reports on what is really happening in the country. It reports on crime, corruption, abuses of those in authority, problems not attended to by the government; reporters are in the scene of where the story happened.

  2. Clear delivery of news: Delivery is clear if it is in a dialect the viewer could understand (Tagalog) and if it is delivered in a clear, loud voice.

  3. Graphic Videos: They want video support for most of the stories aired during the newscasts and they want the video shots and interviews of those involved in the news. Moreover, they don't mind seeing the blood and the gore for as long as it is a true video of the crime that is being reported.

  4. Fights for me: Listens to my complaints and helps me bring it to the attention of higher authorities.I could go to them and they will help me with my problems as regards police, military and other government abuses

  5. Provide Public Service: Provides help when in case of calamities. Helps me get free medical services and medicines.

  6. Provides News About my Favorite Stars:  gives updates on what is happening with my favorite stars.

 

As to which newscasts on air has these attributes, the survey analysis revealed that there was a big gap between what the audience wants and what was aired by the TV networks. I was then the General Manager of Pulse Research Group — the research firm that conducted the the media survey, and upon reading the topline results  I remembered making a comment that it is high time for any of the TV networks to set up a mass-based TV newscast.  The leading newscasts then were in English. There were only a few stories about the stars and celebrities. And there was hardly any public service item on the story line-ups.

The main segments of TV Patrol filled the market gaps: Lingkod Bayan for public service; Star News for reports about the audience favorite stars and personalities;   Mission Expose featured abuses and shortcomings of government officials and more importantly gave the audiences a message that the program fights for them and helps them face up to abuses by those in power; and,  Pulso provides the newscasts editorial stand on the pressing issues of the day.  
 
Moreover, the use of Tagalog as a medium and the booming voice of the lead anchor  are ingredients that made for a clear delivery of the day's news. 
 
A third factor is that the other networks were weakened by changes in its top management and the departure of key personnel. Right after the EDSA revolution Channels 4, 9 and 13 were taken over by appointees of the revolutionary government.  Some of these appointees had  limited television experience.
 
There was also an exodus of GMA-7's top level  network managers towards ABS-CBN. This group was composed of  pre-Martial Law ABS-CBN employees who heeded the call of Mr Eugenio Lopez Jr and came back to help rebuild the station.  Among these are Freddie Garcia and his Sales and Marketing team, along with key engineers left GMA and joined ABS-CBN, bringing with them the years of network experience and the goodwill earned from years of relationship with advertisers, film suppliers and various on-air and off-air talents. It was Freddie Garcia Garcia who thought of the TV Patrol concept after the ABS-CBN's first attempt at an early evening newscast (Balita Ngayon, anchored by Robert Arevalo and Mel Tiangco) did not cause a stir in ratings and in revenues. 
 
 
Ratings Dominance

TV Patrol caught the industry by storm. It was embraced by the TV audiences so that every night, 60% to 70% of TV viewers were tuned in to the program. Nevertheless, the advertising community initially balked at putting their ads on the program because of its tabloid character. But the audience numbers was substantial enough to ignore and revenues eventually started to  come in. Eventually, TV Patrol became the first TV news program in Philippine TV that generated profits.

More important for the network, TV Patrol provided a substantial lead-in audience for the rest of the evening's programs. In id-1987 , when I examined the ebb and flow of various network programs, i observed this trend and bodly predicted to my then boss Rosie Chew, ABS-CBN will evntually lead the evening primetime ratings, overtaking the primetime leaders  IBC 13 and GMA 7.  Which was what happened in 1988.

 

25 Years Later

A lot has changed since then. TV Patrol now has 18 regional editions, and viewership spanning the globe. It now uses state of the art equipment and is making use of whatever modern technology that money can buy.  It has faced strong challenge by rival newscasts. In fact,  during some survey periods and in some broadcast areas it has yielded the top spot to competition.  Throughout its 25 years of being on air, it has undergone several changes: segments, logo,  anchors, time slots and even its behind the camera personnel.

I have joined the network in 1990 and have left them in 2005. I was not just a witness to the various changes that happened to the program; in some instances I recommended some of those major changes.  There is a lot of  behind the scenes stories that makes for a good blog post. In the meantime, let me congratulate the men and women behind the TV  Patrol, whether they are still with the network, are now with its competitors, or are working/relaxing outside of network life.

 

 

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