Station Ovation: WNET Spoofs Reality TV

By Brionne Griffin, PBS Digital

Upon releasing round two of their #TVGoneWrong ads last week, WNET (also known as Thirteen), has the media world abuzz. Hold on, just stop right there. If you haven't carved out a few precious minutes from your day to watch the latest and greatest round of these trailers, go forth and consume this content right now. Go ahead, we'll be here when you get back...

meet the tanners trailer

Okay, how funny was that? While irrefutably entertaining, these ads also serve to illuminate the dire need for educational programming in a time when a large part of mainstream television is anything but. We recently caught up with WNET's senior communications and marketing director, Kellie Specter, to get the story behind these #TVGoneWrong spots from the station itself.
- - -

1. All right, so tell us, who had the brilliant idea?
We’ve worked with ad/marketing agency CHI & Partners for a couple of years and we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year. We asked them to come up with a campaign to reinforce our value as an alternative to the programming that’s currently on TV. Our specific challenge was, “Remind people that THIRTEEN is an island in a sea of madness.” They presented us with three ideas and the minute we saw this campaign, we knew it was a winner.
long island landscapers trailer

2. If these shows were real, which one would you watch?
I had the good fortune to be on the shoot for all three promos, so I’d have to say it would be “Long Island Landscapers”. The three actors were hilarious and they were ad-libbing and riffing off of each other even when the cameras weren’t rolling. I can only imagine what a full-length program would be like.

3. Are there any more in the works and can you talk about them at all or give a hint?
We have some ideas that we didn’t use…maybe we’ll sell them to a cable channel and use the money to support ourselves!

4. How well is the campaign going from your perspective?
We knew it would hit a nerve with people. And I wasn’t surprised at the attention it received online. But when I got a frantic call telling me to turn on the Today Show because they were doing a segment on the ads, I have to say, it was a really proud moment—for all of us. They were also featured in a segment on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. You can’t predict that kind of thing.

5. What advice do you have for other stations looking for innovative ways to advertise? 
I’ve never had an ad or marketing budget and I’ve been at WNET for a long time. So I know what a challenge it is to advertise. We engaged CHI & Partners to work for us on a pro bono basis and we all believed their work for WNET would be as good for them as it would be for us. They’ve already gotten calls from a few potential new clients who have seen the campaign. So my best advice would be to engage a great agency to work with you pro bono if you can, and then…challenge them!

the dillionaire trailer

Want more #TVGoneWrong? Watch previews for all the shows on WNET's site, then tell us your favorite in the comments below!
Station Ovation posts champion the most innovative station ideas around the country. If your station is working on an exciting initiative, event, or project, please reach out to us so we can feature you on our SPI blog!