by Steven Hale
If you, like the rest of the country, have been turning the dial to NBC each night to watch what already happen in the Olympics earlier that day, perhaps you've noticed WSMV's surprisingly enjoyable promotional campaign. Along with mercifully breaking up the stream of political attack ads that led up to last week's elections, the 30-second spots inspired some talk around the coffee pot here at SouthComm World HQ. Mostly things like, "Am I the only one who caught myself chuckling at these WSMV ads last night?" or "Do you think they really have a dog in the studio?'
Unlike the more typical local news promo approach — There's our trusted local anchor walking down a hallw ... Oh hey, look, now the co-anchor is walking with him ... and there's the weather guy! — Channel 4's promos are the type that suggest there might even have been a creative team behind them. And indeed, there was.
“When I took over the station a year ago, I kind of got my team together and said ‘Hey, this is Music City, it’s a cool place to live and work and that should be reflected on everything we put on the air,’" WSMV general manager Doreen Wade tells County Life.
Wade says it all started when she met with the band Switchfoot at a local show to work out a deal that allowed the station to use their song "This is Home" in a promo. The end product (which I could not find on YouTube) shows the station's on-air talent right at home around the city, and leaves you with an overwhelmingly sentimental feeling and an urge to give Tom Randles a hug. (By the way, I profiled Randles for this year's People Issue.)
That spot, and another shown below, have given way to several more lighthearted serials.
"Our attempt really is just to show our personality a little bit," Wade says. "Most of our on-air talent, they’re out in the community and people know them, but I think it’s great that we’re able to poke fun at ourselves a little bit."
To execute the vision she enlisted Brian Hallet, who Wade describes as "too much an artist to get caught up in just shooting news video," and Matthew Hilk, the station's director of news and creative services.
Both Wade and Hallet, who directed the promos and co-wrote them with Hilk, confirm our suspicion that the spots were heavily inspired by ESPN's famous SportsCenter promotions.
"That's exactly what we're going for," says Hallet. "Showing people that we're human. That we're not just a serious station but we can also make fun of ourselves."
Wade also confirmed another guess, born out of our journalistic instinct: That the timing of the campaign might have had something to do with the beginning of the Olympics and the extra eyeballs that come with it.
Luckily for us though, they won't stop with the closing ceremony.
“This is not it. We’re just getting started,” says Hallet.
Perfect. Now we wait, in hopes that this will touch off the rivalry between local stations and result in dueling promo campaigns and, maybe, even an all out local-news brawl a la Anchorman.