Hearst campaign across 5 metro titles rebuilds trust during pandemic

By Michael Villaseñor


Los Angeles, California, USA


By Kelli Dakake


Atlanta, Georgia, USA


In April 2020, as the pandemic began accelerating across the country, dramatically changing communities and lives, Hearst Newspapers launched a powerful TV, over-the-top (OTT), and digital rebranding campaign in five metropolitan areas. The message was simple but essential: “We are in this together. We are in this for you.”

The intention of the campaign was to simultaneously build a sense of community and brand awareness. Our goal was to connect with the community on the ground. We were not only reporting on the crisis but also experiencing it with them in real time. 

The TV/OTT spots and digital ads reintroduced and reaffirmed Hearst Newspapers as the local, trusted source for essential information during times of crisis. We aimed to establish Hearst Newspapers as a source of ongoing pandemic information as well as of inspiration, with stories of bravery, compassion, and resilience. 

Individual approach for each market

The campaign introduced very specific taglines associated with each market that embodied the hopes and strength of their individual communities:

  • San Francisco: “We’ll be here to Chronicle our city’s recovery.”
  • Houston: “We stand with you. Together, we are strong. We are Houston.”
  • San Antonio: “Together, we will emerge — stronger than ever. We are the Express-News.”
  • Hearst CT Media:  “We are stronger together.”
  • Albany: “Together, we will endure. The Times Union.”
An Express-News photojournalist covering the first large-scale testing facility in the San Antonio area in March 2020.
An Express-News photojournalist covering the first large-scale testing facility in the San Antonio area in March 2020.

The creative process involved conducting onsite photography for each newspaper, sourcing images from the archive, and constructing a meaningful script alongside each newsroom that weaved together the entire experience. We partnered with Hearst Television to develop the video spots. The entire process, from idea to delivery, occurred in just a week and a half.

This campaign was a great example of cross-functional, cross-departmental collaboration on a Hearst-wide initiative. Marketing, product, design, TV, and newsrooms all worked tirelessly to ensure that each market’s video conveyed that community’s specific challenges.  Thanks to focus and collaboration, we successfully delivered high-quality content to our audiences in a short amount of time.

Expanding the campaigns reach

To reach more than 75% of the metro populations, plans spanned seven media platforms, across TV, OTT, and digital display. We ran the campaign in our five metro markets from early April through early May.

Some of our key results were:

• An average of 5-8 million gross TV impressions, with approximately 2,000 spots per week.

• For the two markets that ran OTT ads, we had approximately 500,000 gross impressions per week. We saw a direct correlation between audience growth and the OTT ads, with Web site visits increasing 32% in the first week of ad runs.

• 70,000 views per million impressions from an organic and paid marketing push of videos across multiple platforms: YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and digital display.

About the Authors

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