How the crazy #NBCtoWRAL peacock idea came to life…

It all started in my boss’ office when he told me WRAL was dropping CBS to become an NBC affiliate. Wait..what? I admit, I needed a minute. I mean, we’re the #1 CBS affiliate in the top 25 markets. We’re doing what?  He explained why we were dropping CBS and choosing a new partner, NBC. Then, inspiration struck!


I had an immediate vision of a promo campaign. An impossible idea that was never, ever going to be produced, but I couldn’t tell my team because they had no idea what was about to happen.

Fast forward about 4 days, the news was out and the race to launch a new network in 45 days was on. Job #1, THE SUPER BOWL in 14 days.

I mean this a network affiliation change. The biggest promotional challenge in 30 years for WRAL, and we get to announce our new partnership with NBC in Super Bowl 50 on CBS! Why not go for the craziest thing you can think of?

In a brainstorm with the WRAL Creative team. I pitched the crazy, impossible idea with “All it takes is a live, trained peacock. How hard could that be?” The room erupted in laughter and then Promotion Manager Jay Yovanovich said, “Give me a day to find one!” I love a team that’s unstoppable. And this team is incredible.

WRAL Creative Team Screening Campaign

Literally, 24 hours later Jay had found the only live, imprinted peacock in the United States. Where? North Carolina, of course.Enter serendipity. Turns out, the Sylvan Heights Bird Park had the idea 6 months ago to imprint this baby peacock because “some NBC station somewhere might want to use it one day.” Seriously.

Now, we need a voice actor with a British accent who can pull off one of the creative ideas we have. Who answers the phone at the bird park? The director, who happens to have the exact voice we want and he has done voice over work! This is beginning to feel a lot like destiny.


Not only did we have a live, trained peacock. It could be brought to the WRAL Newsroom for the shoot. Ok, that opens things up! The creative team got to work. We wrote, rewrote, brainstormed, laughed our heads off, and wrote some more. In about 24 hours, we had taken a singular idea and made something bigger and better as a team!

(L to R) WRAL Promotion Manager Jay Yovanovich, Social Media Manager Wendy Gatlin, CBC Corporate Producer Anita Normanly, Freelance Producer/Director John Roberts, Creative Director Shelly Leslie

Let’s back up and talk strategy.  What’s the mission? The audience is confused by what an affiliation change is. Even my Mother called and asked me how I felt about leaving WRAL after 28 years! (No, Mom, I’m not moving.) So, yes, we need to be creative but we must also be clear.

3 Goals for the Launch

Create a buzz. We produced a 6-spot teaser campaign to get the idea going that there’s something very unusual happening in the WRAL Newsroom. These spots launched on social and web 3 days before the Super Bowl, pushing people to the game.

Be remembered. It’s very difficult for a local station to stand out in a sea of bazillion dollar ad agency commercials in the Super Bowl. And, frankly, humor is hard to do. But I thought we had a concept that would absolutely deliver on our 3 goals, and I thought it would be memorable.

Kill confusion. Answer viewer questions in a simple and sticky way. We produced an arsenal of these as we saw common questions emerge.

The ID campaign, scheduled with high frequency, reinforces our key messages.

A 17-spot campaign produced in about seven days, once we knew we had the peacock! Ever heard the saying “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Well, the WRAL Creative Team was absolutely incredible on this. It truly was the most fun I’ve ever had at work.

It should be noted that in the midst of all that, we had a 3 day blackout on DIRECTV, an ice storm, and our “local” team, the Carolina Panthers, made it to the Super Bowl! Honestly, it was the most insane 2 weeks of my nearly 30 year career in television. But hey, I’d be bored if I worked at the bank.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the campaign and whether we fulfilled our mission.

Now, in 16 days, WRAL becomes an NBC affiliate and there are about 148 other items on our punch list. Gotta go.


Behind-the-scenes promo shoot: Who Is WRAL?

A :60 brand image promo conceptualized, written, blocked, shot and edited in 14 hours by a four person team at WRAL Creative.

After 27 years at WRAL, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, NC, I bleed PMS 279 blue. I grew up watching this station in the Charlie Gaddy era. I know its soul and am now part of its DNA. This spot started with a document I wrote to help our team understand our brand voice, why we do what we do, the way we do it, and the values that guide our decisions. The WRAL Creative team took that document and adapted it for the screen.

We used the cinematography in “Birdman,” the Oscar-winning Best Picture as inspiration. Now, let me just say this. What Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki did in that film is ridiculously difficult. We didn’t do what they did. We didn’t have $18 million dollars or a movie crew. We had four people, a steadicam and one long day to pull it off. Shooting a constantly moving promo this way is a challenge. Shot location, blocking, lighting, timing, how one movement works into the next shot to tell a story – it’s all critical.

Writing: 3 hours
Blocking: 2 hours
Shooting: 5 hours
Editing: 4 hours

It’s worth noting, a promo like this only works if your news anchors are authentically connected, real people who truly live the words they’re speaking. WRAL News anchors Debra Morgan and David Crabtree have a combined 40+ years as the faces of our brand. They are truly, selfless servants. What you see is what you get, every single day.  It’s a delight and a privilege to channel their heart and souls onto the screen.

We are, WRAL.

“You can’t fake caring about people. Eventually, that will show. Plus, how exhausting would that be?!” Debra Morgan


Co-writer, Steadicam, Post-production Justin Arner

Co-director & Lighting Jay Yovanovich

Lighting, Grip, Talent Entertainment Steve Elizondo

Co-writer, Co-director, Audio Shelly Leslie

Outraged about Ray Rice? Do something about domestic violence.

I’ve been outraged more times than I can count since this all started. The first video of this woman being dragged like a carcass out of that elevator. Not one but TWO men standing over her, neither with the slightest care about her well-being. The sham press conference with the victim essentially taking responsibility for the crime against her. You know the rest.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Let’s get something straight. Don’t show the knockout video. Every single organization that’s still showing it is part of the domestic violence problem. Every time that’s shown, that woman is victimized again and again. Just have some guts and STOP.

Now, one of the gifts of working in television is the ability to take on an issue and make a difference. A team of co-workers from WRAL and FOX 50 gathered around a table to brainstorm a plan to do something with the power of our television stations. Within a few hours those ideas grew into a multi-media campaign across Capitol Broadcasting Company‘s television and radio stations, websites and even our minor league baseball team, the Durham Bulls. Less than 24 hours later we had a plan to launch a campaign in the Steelers/Ravens game, on the premiere of Thursday Night Football on CBS.

Yes, we gave up thousands of dollars in ad inventory to run a PSA, two actually. A :60 in pre-game and this :90 in halftime:

Ironically, two account executives from WRAL and FOX 50 have been working on a domestic violence initiative for more than a year, bringing together a coalition of agencies working on this issue. Ray Rice gave us the opportunity to get people to listen.

The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and its partner agencies, including Capitol Broadcasting, created, a statewide, county-by-county resource for survivors and their batterers. Our mission: get people to that web site.

How to use social media to explode your cause

Visuals equal engagement and engagement is king. We shot behind-the-scenes photos of the PSA for our talent to use on social.

We created social share statistic graphics to help us seed the twitter feed throughout the night from our brand and talent twitter accounts.

We used #tagboard to aggregate all twitter, facebook, instagram posts using #eNOughNC.



  • The NFL game, which featured the Ravens (Ray Rice’s former team) and the Steelers, reached 147,866 households in the Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville NC market, averaging a 12.7 rating, 21 share.
  • 9/11 and through 10am on 9/12 generated a total of 683 sessions to the website, 14 times the traffic of the the previous days. And, 90% of those sessions were new visitors.
  • On Twitter, the top 5 trending topics in Raleigh were ALL involved with eNOugh, domestic violence, and the messages we aired on television.  And it all happened within about three hours.

We had national social media participation including Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts and Ohio.

It took less than 24 hours to plan and execute this on air initiative across Capitol Broadcasting. Thursday, 9/18, we will host a phone bank in our studios staffed with knowledgeable experts to help people in crisis. We hope what we’re starting is a movement of outrage so loud, people can no longer turn away. That domestic and sexual violence can no longer be ignored.

What can you do?

If you’re in it, please reach out and let your community help you. The statewide North Carolina resource is

The national domestic violence hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE.

If you see it or suspect it, please report it to local police.

EnoughNC Soical6

Next, who’s ready to take on violence against women on television and in the movies? Sign me up.

5 Favorite Promos at Promax Station Summit

Let’s face it, we all want to see the great content our counterparts are producing all over the country. These are the five best spots I saw at the 2014 PromaxBDA Station Summit. Opinions are like…well, you know…so these are mine.

#5 “Crosstown Cup” WGN – It’s a sports rivalry. Show me some screaming fans and high energy music with a best plays montage! NO. This. This was so much better! “Divided we stand. United we watch.” Love it.

#4 Family Guy Moves – WCCT (Wish I could find a youtube link, anybody?) $1.89 and half day shooting/editing proving a simple, creative concept still wins.

#3 “Out of the Box” KDFW — A Toys for Tots spot unlike any I’ve ever seen. Beautiful art direction.

#2 “KING in Everything” – KING5 Seatttle – Words…words are everything! Simple, fabulous concept, well executed. Sticky and memorable.

And the best spot I saw this year is…a PSA.

A brilliantly executed, stop frame concept mixing live action into freeze frame video. The sound design is impeccable. It’s perfectly cast. The copy never sounds like copy. And the ending…Chilling. I was still thinking about it days after I saw it. No, it wasn’t produced by a local station — it might not even be “new,” but damn, it’s impactful. Bravo.

Keep in mind, I didn’t see every spot submitted so I’m choosing from the ones I saw. Thank you Promax for putting many of the spots up on your youtube channel! Overall, a great year of great work from the local stations. Makes me proud to be in this business. Let’s keep the creativity flowing!

What were your top 5? Oh and do you think Promax should let agencies compete in the Station Summit awards? I’d love to know your thoughts on that one.

#QOTD: “People rise to the conversations you grow around them.”

Credit Simon Mainwaring for that little piece of brilliance. He was speaking at the PromaxBDA Station Summit in Las Vegas about engaging our broadcasting audiences using social media by investing in their interests, celebrating them and what they care about.

Share something inspiring on your station facebook page and watch how the conversation immediately shifts:

Inspiring = Engagement

Inspiring = Engagement

When we honor, uplift, stand up for, and wrap our arms around the people who count on us, they will reach back. You just have to retrain them by what Simon says is “ringing the same bell over and over again.”

Now, apply this concept, of inviting people to rise to the conversations you want, to your life. Ever notice if you’re complaining all the time, everyone around you is complaining? You’re like a magnet for misery! The same is true about people who are happy. You just feel better around them.

You want your viewers to love you? Give them something to love. You want the conversations around you to be more inspiring? Start one. You want to work in a culture of creative expression? Wear funky shoes.

Release Your Creative Flare in Everything You Do

PROMAX Gold Winner: Art Direction and Design / Image Promo News

Morning traffic with a whole new perspective. 3-D maps + GoPro + a terrific lead designer and animator + a traffic reporter with the personality to pull it off.

This new system was the first 3-D traffic system on the air in our market so we wanted to find a unique way to showcase that perspective. This spot was written and produced before we had the traffic system totally built and ready for air, so we were working with only a few maps.

WRAL Lead Designer & Animation Specialist made the magic happen! Congrats to him for winning Promax Gold!

Art Direction/Editing: Shan Zhong
Videography: Steve Elizondo
Writer: Shelly Leslie