WSNet's Small-Town Effort Pushes 'Big City' Digital

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To help rural cable operators market their digital-cable offerings, WSNet plans to introduce the first consumer ad campaign for its newly branded Advanced Digital Cable service to affiliates late this month.

WSNet plans to unveil the new ad campaign, which employs the tagline "Isn't It Amazing," during the National Cable Television Cooperative's annual convention in Orlando, Fla. The effort is set to launch in the fourth quarter.

"A properly implemented digital-cable offering — even in smaller communities — is fully competitive with [direct-broadcast satellite] as a product," said WSNet senior vice president of sales and marketing Tim Evard. "Where it's not competitive today is in its marketing."

Evard will encourage the small cable operators that buy digital signal transport and customer billing services from WSNet to take advantage of its comprehensive marketing materials, which will include television spots, newspaper ads, billing inserts, door hangers and even truck decals.

"Continuity is the real key here," said Evard, who noted that rural cable operators can position their digital-cable brand over time by implementing the Advanced Digital Cable marketing plan on an ongoing basis.

"Whatever you do has to be done in the presence of DBS as a powerful competitor," Evard added.

WSNet will spend more than $1 million each year on creative work, Evard said. Participating cable affiliates will pay only for costs related to printing, and not for the creative, a spokeswoman noted.

REFRESHERS

The vendor plans to develop quarterly acquisition campaigns and to refresh other materials, such as billing inserts and cross-channel spots, each month. All the materials will be customizable with the local operator's name and phone number.

Los Angeles-based ad agency Klein & helped to develop the branding strategy and creative work. For the first campaign, which promotes "big city TV for the American countryside," WSNet and its agency traveled to Plum Branch, S.C., where dozens of digital-cable customers were interviewed about their television service.

"They do have big-city cousins who have been making fun of them," said Bob Klein, the shop's president and creative director. "Now they can make fun back."

The agency has not yet conducted scientific focus groups to evaluate the ads, he said.

The commercials play up digital cable's audio and video quality, as well as the medium's competitive advantages over DBS, such as the availability of over-the-air TV stations in small, rural markets.

The competitive landscape would become more challenging if the proposed merger between DBS players EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc. parent Hughes Electronics Corp. goes through, Evard conceded. EchoStar has vowed to deliver local channels in every market if given the government go-ahead for the merger.

"The possibility of that merger occurring is another reason small operators need to focus on marketing these services, not just offering the services," he said.

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