On Air Promos



So you've made your promo, it's the greatest thing on the planet...and you wait with baited breath for it to run on air. And wait. And wait. And wait. Then it finally runs at 3am during late night 'Scream Theatre'. Only trouble is, the promo is for Sesame Street. What the hell happened there?
Every channel has someone who runs the traffic of the on-air spots...fitting them into breaks with commercials. When you've got someone who knows what they're doing, you can sense a flow to everything. If they don't know diddly, then the whole disjointed feeling helps people change the channel. Might not be their fault, they might work for managers who think they know better...but obviously don't. The base philosophy in promo scheduling is to help people forget they are watching television. Really. You want to create a seamless environment. As soon as your viewers get back to the awareness that they're in tv land, chances are they'll start flipping and you've lost them. And then no one sees your spot. Then no one sees the show. Then the advertisers stop buying. Then they start doing cutbacks...and when it comes down to between you and the station owner's kids...chances are you'll be pumping gas by the weekend.
So how do you stop this travesty? Talk to your traffic manager and try and get them to help your promo see the light of day...in the proper place. Explain to them your spot, better yet show it to them. Let them get a feel for it, right down to the pacing and the music. They will appreciate it, and in the end so will your viewers.
On the other hand, I've worked at a place where the scheduler actually called promos 'clutter'. He had absolute disdain for them. I'll never know why because I had to kill him. But he was the rare exception.
I'll ask the world's greatest authority Vince O'Brien to contribute in the future, but until then there are only a few rules I know of for promo scheduling...and most of them are basic.
  • Promo scheduling should take into account the broadcast times of the show being promoted. If the show you're promoting runs at 10:00 on Thursday, run the spot every day at 10:00. Chances are that if someone's watching at that time one day, that's the time they would normally tune in.  Doesn't have to be at the exact time...you've got a 1hr window (9:30-10:30)
  • On the day the show runs, run the promo as a lead in 3hrs, 2hrs, 1hr and 1/2hr before broadcast.
  • Create generic time (Thursday 10:00), tomorrow and tonight versions. Placement self explanatory (hopefully)
  • Look for similar interest programming. If you're promoting an action show, run it in every other action show you broadcast.
  • Do not run the same promo in consecutive slots, no matter how small your inventory is. Distribute them evenly across the schedule so that they do not run in the exact same time break every day.
  • If you have Celeb PSA's/Channel endorsements, run the buggers during anything that has these folks on air. (Don Johnson anti-drinking during a Miami Vice re-run). In reverse, never run a Celine Dion spot during a Metallica Marathon.
  • Understand the particular audience you are targeting and when they would be watching. Saturday morning block, promote during lunch or after school when kids would be watching. Don't run outside target blocks, you'll just be wasting your viewer's time.
  • Station ID's...up to you. ID's have a purpose...do not run them just because you have them. Run them because they work for that slot. Some places insist on running them top/bottom of the hour. Boring and predictable.  But if that's the case, make sure you have several choices. If you run and run and run the same one...it gets damn boring and then finally annoying in a very short time. You know you're working with someone with way too much time on their hands when they make a :15, :30, :45 and :60 of the same ID. Unless the ID fits, you've just made your audience aware that they're watching television and they'll reach for that remote.
  • A little deeper, we get to audio and visual styles. What your ultimately going for is a flow...so you don't go hardcore to Tellytubbies. You slide viewers along with a mix to get them there. Fast to not so fast to medium to slower paced. Crash and burn.

Scheduling in the right hands can be a science, a beautiful thing. Its up to you to help make it a reality.