Digital TV: Convert Now

By now you know the drill: broadcast television is switching from analog to digital signals. There are a few ways to keep receiving television of course: if you get cable or satellite nothing will change, but it you’re still using an antenna signal on an older television you’re going to need a DTV converter box. Fortunately you can get a U.S. Government issued coupon that covers most, if not all of the cost of these new set-top boxes before the transition on Friday June 12th, 2009.

While you probably know all about the Digital Televison transition, chances are you have family members or friends who still aren’t ready, even if they’ve already heard. So the Department of Commerce (partnering with the CEA) consulted with myself, as part of a group of American University students, to get the word out to young people so that we could help those we know prepare for the transition. Using a YouTube video contest, our objective was to strategically reach out to this audience so that they would be ready to help others get equipped in time before the transition. With our sights set on the original February 17th transition date, we were ready to use this contest to target these technology-connecting audiences.

Of course creating buzz with a YouTube contest takes more an announcement and a prize; although our partners had produced an original video and sent out press releases, the contest did not gain traction (or stand out from dozens of others competing on YouTube at any time). So my consulting group needed to do a little more: we created a social media presence for the contest on Facebook and used word-of-mouth marketing to engage potential entrants on YouTube.
We even wrote a script and shot a short video (watch above) mock-entry into the contest to show just how easy it could be to make a qualifying entry. These tactics helped to spur 12 contest entries, 5 videos of which were deemed finalists for the public to vote on the winning entry. More importantly the contest created discussions, both online and offline by contest participants and viewers, about the DTV transition within this target audience.

Ultimately it’s hard for any group to take credit among the myriad of messages supporting the switch, but I’d like to think our tactics contributed an outreach to a key public whose unique role might make the difference. Of course we’ll find out for sure on Friday June 12, 2009 just how many American’s television sets will be left in static.