In December 2017, WBZ launched an extensive on air and social media campaign built around its 70 years of service to the city.
This past May, WBZ’s late news was No.1 in both households and adults 25-54, the first time since May of 2009, according to the station.
In fact, WBZ is the only station that is up in households, viewers and adults 25-54 in every newscast, 4:30 a.m., 5 a.m., 6 a.m., noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11p.m.
Peter Masucci, WBZ’s director of creative services, said that although this has been a sustained effort since December, “it’s always hard to determine the correlation between an on air campaign and where ratings are, but this campaign really resonates with people.”
I know from experience that suggesting a marketing campaign that looks back isn’t always well received by the management team. “It’s not easy to say we are going to dedicate the next six months to looking back,” said Masucci.
But after seeing Masucci’s plan and getting answers to some tough questions, the campaign went forward.
One of the first challenges was to make sure the station could find the resources, the footage and the stories that could adequately tell the story from 70 years ago to today. Someone had to pick through hand-written newscast logs to track down the archived content in a myriad of formats.
“It was like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Masucci.
That “mammoth process” started a year before the campaign ever hit the air, and Masucci said Sean Barnacoat, WBZ’s promotion director, took on a lot of it.
“Things within the last 20 years are kind of archived within our system digitally which was a little easier, but everything else isn’t,” said Masucci, and just took an enormous amount of time and hard work.
“But he [Barnacoat] had a passion and allowed us to find things that are really difficult to find.”
When you work in local television, the one constant you see is change. Network affiliations change. Channel numbers change. Ownership changes. General managers, news directors, marketing directors and on-air talent change. The name of the station itself sometimes changes. And marketing messages certainly come and go.
But if you can imagine how the viewers in a market see your station over 70 years, there’s a sense of permanence there that can be explored and cultivated.
And the one advantage WBZ had through 70 years was never changing its call letters, its birth name if you will.
“It all comes down to branding and those call letters often times are the brand name,” said Masucci.
“There really has been a consistency here from the time when I was growing up to now in terms of what the station stands for. They never went through any real stages where they were gimmicky, so there is some sort of truth and honesty to connecting the legacy here just for the consistency that people like.”
What did viewers think?
So consistently impressed by the content WBZ | CBS Boston turns out. This series of commercials is so spot-on local and feel-good. — Matthew Simko
Wow. That is some incredible effort there. It’s clear WBZ truly values its heritage. — Tim Mischka
But there’s a danger that focusing on your legacy, that power of nostalgia, will come off as resting on your laurels.
“You obviously can’t just look backwards, but you take that nostalgia and then you find new ways to kind of carry that over into the future which is a lot of what we also try to do, look forward and continue the legacy. When you get those two together, people really respond to it.”
Keeping a marketing campaign fresh when the premise is well-established is key.
Masucci said after the launch of the 70 years campaign, the station did a “this-week-in history” and then 70 days prior to the anniversary, “we did it every single day.”
“They are stories that were important to people who were around here in pop culture, politics, sports, but all through the eyes of WBZ bringing you these stories because they were the exact packages that we ran back 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. So that was sort of a constant that every single day we had something that would be sort of sharable and people could respond to.”
One spot that got rave reviews from viewers took some risks, recreating a 1-minute promo that ran in the 1980s shot for shot, but using current talent.
“The day we posted that, we just got inundated with a bunch of comments,” said Masucci.
Holy crap that is really awesome. They picked the right promo to redo — One 4 All is one of my favorite promos ever to begin with — and they completely nailed the execution.
That was great! One of the best promos back then — and now, today. — Jerry Gibbs
It’s always good to reflect and recognize those responsible for the success of an organization, past and present, especially in a time where the past is undervalued if not overlooked. — Al Fusco
What a nice reflection of all that really changes is the style. Nice job!! — Chris Kearney
Love this…brings back a lot of warm memories from my favorite Boston Station! — Melissa Hammel
One comment described the spot as “a bottom of the 9th World Series Game 7 walk off grand slam!”
Masucci admits he loves the campaign. But gives the news department credit for partnering with creative services to create content that aligns with the messages.
“You can have a great marketing campaign, but if your product isn’t there …” said Masucci, leaving the rest hanging in the air.
“I think that’s where we made our biggest strides.”