Cosmic Cocktail in 2 weeks: Get your ticket today before they sell out.

Putting Discovery Channel on map

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The message appears on electronic signs atop Manhattan phone kiosks, on posters in seaside towns of Great Britain, in television and magazine ads spanning the globe. For the Discovery Channel, three words say it all: "Explore Your World."

Chris Moseley, Discovery Communications Inc.'s senior vice president for marketing and communications, likes the sound of the slogan she chose and the message behind it -- no frills, no glitz, the antithesis of Madison Avenue hype.

The Baltimore native liked it so much, she put it in ads everywhere, on T-shirts, on toys in Discovery stores, on Discovery videocassettes, on Discovery CD-ROMs.

The Bethesda-based cable network specializes in nonfiction historical and nature programming -- from the people behind the Normandy invasion and the submarines of the deep to the chimpanzees in the rain forest, the Alaskan bears, the hippos and crocodiles.

Today, five years after Ms. Moseley joined Discovery and persuaded reluctant executives to sink millions of dollars into an aggressive marketing campaign, the results have vindicated her.

The Discovery Channel name ranks second only to the venerable National Geographic among media brands known for quality, according to a study this year by Total Research Corp., which measures consumer recognition of brands. Discovery outranked heavy-hitters such as AT&T;, IBM and the Wall Street Journal.

That success prompted Advertising Age recently to name Ms. Moseley one of its "Marketing 100" superstars for building brand names.

Still, in advertising circles, the Explore Your World slogan wasn't exactly universally praised. Ms. Moseley recalls an ad executive critiquing it. "He said, 'Explore your world -- you know it's not exciting; it's not boring. It doesn't do anything for me but it doesn't do anything against me.'

"He sat up there and chopped up what we had done, and I can take it because the bottom line is I really don't care what those folks say. We know our viewers really are responding to what we are doing."

Others suggested tinkering with the line to tailor it to different programming. Ms. Moseley would hear none of it. Look at General Electric and its now-famous "We bring good things to life," Ms. Moseley says: "Does G.E. say, 'We bring good toasters to life?' "

She didn't budge.

Nor did she when her bosses questioned the wisdom of spending big money on a long-term marketing campaign.

A former broadcasting promoter and advertising copywriter who got her start in marketing doing promo spots at WBAL-TV, Ms. Moseley insisted that a high-profile campaign would significantly boost viewership and name recognition.

"The broadcasting person in me was like, 'We really had never gone out and told people what we had,' and I said, 'If you push it, there should be a payback,' " she recalls. "No one really thought it was true."

Daniel Fischer, Discovery's senior vice president for research, remembers the network's reluctance to embark on the long-term, multimillion-dollar campaign.

"This was a very hard pitch to get through, and Chris should get a lot of credit for this," Mr. Fischer said.

"She said, 'You need to advertise for a minimum of three years before the advertising really pays off.' This is a difficult argument because it's a much easier financial model if you can say, 'I'll spend a million today and earn a million tomorrow.' "

The first real test came with the launch of a campaign for the Discovery Channel's special on "Submarines" four years ago. Heavy advertising in the Army Times, the Navy Times, the Air Force Times and on radio yielded the highest prime-time rating ever for Discovery.

Now, Discovery spends $20 million annually on advertising, which has paid handsomely in higher ratings and higher ad revenues from the likes of Jeep/Eagle, Pennzoil, MCI and Dodge.

The network that began in 1985 with a staff of 19 and 156,000 subscribers now reaches 80 million homes in 65 countries, employs 600 people and has assets of about $2 billion.

Ms. Moseley, who oversees a 73-member department that handles advertising, marketing and public relations, is intent on broadening Discovery as a brand name and a household word, beyond the tube, beyond the living room.

Brand names, logos, slogans -- they sell big.

Disney proved it. Discovery hopes to do the same, expanding international TV markets and specialty shops carrying the Discovery name.

In June, the network paid $10 million for the Dallas-based Discovery Store Inc., a privately held chain of 11 stores, and hopes to expand to 300 stores within the next three years. They'll sell science-and nature-related goods as well as Discovery Networks videotapes, CD-ROMs and other nature and science merchandise, including fossils, minerals and educational toys and games.

Consumers can shop Discovery without leaving home, on a new site on the World Wide Web of the Internet. It also offers sound, video and interactive elements based on the network's nature, science and historical programming and is updated daily.

With the network's ever-expanding reach beyond the TV screen, Ms. Moseley, 45, continually talks of the need for consistency across all the product lines.

"The thing is, we're not really talking about your particular product in this line; we're talking about what people get from it," she says. "So if anything, I think they'll remember me for here, it's that I have been really relentless about keeping to this message, keeping it consistent, keeping everything looking a certain way."

More than anything, the success of that effort to make Discovery a well-known brand name impressed Advertising Age.

"It's very consistent and it's very strongly branded. It's just very opportunistic," said Larry Edwards, the trade publication's executive editor for features. "They've just really attached that label very well."

Ms. Moseley's department, which plans a heavy marketing campaign next year for Discovery Inc.'s the Learning Channel, bases its strategies on exhaustive research on its audience, potential audience and the impact of its marketing.

The network targets a "boys-toys" faction, men interested in how things work and technology; "sci-tech" viewers, those fascinated inventions and computers; and "scholars," those who prefer history programming.

All of them, she says, want entertainment, a term not used much at Discovery before her arrival.

She calls the network's programming "infotainment," and has incorporated phrases such as "real-world entertainment" in marketing Discovery.

She knows marketing well, but the rising star of the industry stumbled into it.

After graduating from the College of Wooster, in Ohio, she decided against following her dad into a legal career, figuring she'd be bored.

Unemployed, she stood washing her car outside her family's Homeland home in the early '70s, when Vince Bagli, the WBAL-TV sports veteran, told her about an opening for a secretary at the station. She got the job, and eventually became publicist to produce spot promos.

"To be blunt, I really didn't have a clue how to produce," says Ms. Moseley, who now lives in Ruxton with her husband, Tom.

Warren Hill, then a director at the station, rescued her, she says, teaching her basics she still applies daily: Organize the promo on paper. Keep it simple. Don't try to say too much in a short time.

From WBAL, where she wrote promos for a news team that included reporter Ron Smith, now the radio talk-show host, Ms. Moseley went on to positions in Connecticut, Miami and New York at TV stations, the Washington Post-Newsweek broadcast group and an ad agency.

Her training has taught her to get to know her audience well, and she prides herself on campaigns that are in some respects exceptional for what they don't include.

"Everybody's so bombarded with loud announcers and fast glitzy things," she says. "To do something that appears simpler, I think there's some value in that. We don't try to shout at people. It's getting so noisy out there."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
52°