Who gets top billing at CNN these days? The Time Warner network has put it in writing.
A new ad campaign making the rounds in two New York newspapers and two trade publications offers what may be the first official look at Jeff Zucker’s CNN: a network where primetime mainstay Anderson Cooper holds sway along with former “Good Morning America” news anchor Chris Cuomo and former ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper.
The print ad is topped by CNN’s familiar logo, which is accompanied by the phrase “Allow Us To Reintroduce Ourselves.” Directly below stand the faces of Cooper and Cuomo, with Tapper and Kate Bolduan, the CNN correspondent set to co-host a new CNN morning show with Cuomo.
Other faces long associated with CNN take up spots lower in the grid. While Wolf Blitzer’s visage appears directly under Tapper’s, medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, veteran foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour and the thoughtful Fareed Zakaria all appear lower in the lineup. Even Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef who will host a weekend program on CNN’s air, gets his face above the fold in one execution of the ad that appears in the New York Times.
How have things changed? In 2004, CNN ran a humorous promo effort for its web site that made use of Cooper, Blitzer, Amanpour, Lou Dobbs and Paula Zahn. In one of the spots created for the campaign, Amanpour lectured a fellow office worker about the proper way to say “Iran” and “Iraq” – “No, it’s ‘ee-ran,’” she said. “It’s just one of my bugaboos.” The campaign drew a comparison to promotional efforts by ESPN that depict that network’s popular sportscasters hanging out at its headquarters.
CNN declined to make executives available for comment. The ad is slated to run in the Times, the New York Post, Advertising Age and Ad Week, according to a person familiar with plans for the campaign. The ad will also appear online through mid-May, this person said, to coincide with the coming “upfront,” when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming season.
TV networks run promotional campaigns all the time to burnish their programs and performance among viewers and ad buyers. But the CNN effort may be the first to codify the network’s positioning after a bevy of personnel and program changes put into effect since Zucker, the former chief executive of NBC Universal, joined the cable-news unit in January as president.
Since Zucker’s arrival, CNN has hired Tapper and Cuomo from ABC; announced the launch of a new morning progam featuring Cuomo and Bolduan; scaled back Cooper’s nightly appearances to one from two (he had been hosting two different hours each night during the week); installed Tapper at 4p.m.; and launched an experimental program at 10 p.m. featuring ad man and MSNBC habitué Donny Deutsch.
CNN’s challenge has been explained time and again. While it is often seen as the TV-news outlet of record during seminal news events, its primetime ratings have dwindled in the face of competition from Fox News and MSNBC. Despite the viewership issues, CNN’s business operations – which comprise international operations and a presence in airports – represent meaningful cash flow for corporate parent Time Warner.
Better ratings in primetime and across its schedule, however, would give CNN more leverage when dealing with advertisers. Meanwhile, better-watched programming would lend the network heft in trying to negotiate better programming fees from cable and satellite operators.