CBS is obviously in a hyper-promotional mode for their new fall season starring Her Perkiness herself, Katie Couric. In case you’ve missed the early blitz of ads touting her arrival date as the anchor for CBS Evening News, she’ll be starting just after Labor Day on September 5. Les Moonves, the network’s chairman, told USA Today, with typical understatement, “No matter what you say, this is the biggest event of the fall.”
In order to make sure everybody knows about Katie, CBS sent their $15 million-dollar baby on a “listening tour” last week trying to learn what “real folks” — not to be confused with those in media munching $28 hamburgers at Michael’s — want from the evening news.
A “listening tour” sounds familiar, right? Well it should. It was organized by Matthew Hiltzik, Katie’s personal publicist, who just happened to have organized Hillary Clinton’s “listening tour” when she embarked on her senatorial campaign in 2000.
The press was barred from Katie’s well-publicized visits to a variety of cities, including Minneapolis, Dallas, Denver, and San Diego, where she went to listen to the folks, raise money for cancer research, and make nice with affiliates. Graciously, she did tell 200 reporters in Pasadena what she learned — which was helpful, since one would think that, after 15 years on Today, Katie would know what people want. Isn’t she getting paid $15 million bucks a year precisely because CBS’s research showed that she is what they want?
Katie, as expected, handled her news conference smoothly, and acted only a little ticked when a reporter asked her what she would be wearing. “You’re kidding, right?” she said. Sean McManus, president of CBS, snapped at the reporter, “Would you ask Charlie Gibson that question?” No, but then, ABC doesn’t expect anyone to tune into Charlie to check out his pinstripes. Don’t tell me the television press and at least half of the viewers — the ones that the ads for menopausal calcium supplements are aimed at – won’t be checking out Katie’s outfits, her hairstyle, jewelry, and, if the camera ever pans down, her Jimmy Choos. It was reported she wore an ivory pants suit to the press conference.
But promoting Katie is just part of it. Those marketing elves at Black Rock have been as busy as, well, as a rooster in a henhouse. CBS also announced this week it plans to advertise its fall lineup on eggs…yep, on their shells — 35 million of them, in fact, to be sold between September and October.
One might call it an advertising breakthrough.During the last years an Illinois company called EggFusion developed a laser-etching technique to imprint expiration dates on eggs to help producers reassure consumers that they were not getting old eggs in new cartons. The company’s founder, an egg producer himself, reasoned that if advertisers would help pay the cost, farmers and retailers would embrace this technology, since they — and his company too, of course — would share the advertising revenue.
CBS is their first big client. George Schweitzer, the head of marketing at CBS, said he liked the egg concept because of its intrusiveness. You’ve got to hand it to CBS executives: They are shameless, and they don’t give a darn if you know it.
Some of their planned potential slogans: “CSI: Crack the Case on CBS,” “SHARK: Hard-Boiled Drama,” and “CBS Mondays: Leave the Yolks To Us.”
But hey, are they really going to launch “the biggest event of the fall” without a little “egg-ploitation.” That just doesn’t seem fair. Can’t they think of a few slogans to promote their biggest chick? Their Golden Goose? How about “Katie: The News, Sunny-Side Up,” or “Katie: She’ll make Brian & Charlie Suck Eggs.”
No doubt all this promotion will pay off. Katie will draw lots of viewers to her program. The biggest question for her and CBS is whether, in her move from Today, she has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.
— Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies’ Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America and the upcoming How To Raise an American (out next spring from Crown Forum). Blyth is also an NRO contributor.