"We Did Our Part"
By Drew Steketee, President and CEO, BE A PILOT
(Over the weekend,ANN published an editorial saying GA pilots helped
to bury the Discovery Wings Channel, which announced
last week it will become the Military Channel. BE A PILOT President
and CEO Drew Steketee has another view. We're proud to bring you
his reply. --ed.)
The BE A PILOT program was the largest aviation sponsor on the
soon to be gone Discovery Wings Channel -- by far. There were few
others. One I know bought only nine commercials -- not enough to do
anything on TV.
We did more than buy time: we proposed a few initiatives to them
and offered advice on how to market to the aviation community. We
certainly did our part. And we were proud that Discovery Wings
actually became a sponsor of the BE A PILOT program. We then kept
industry leaders informed about Discovery Wings' strong performance
as an ad vehicle for BE A PILOT.
Not all our suggestions were taken by the Discovery Wings
people, especially as to the idea that "aviation people" are needed
to market to the aviation industry. But they were sharp marketers
generally and did take the trouble to exhibit at Oshkosh, make the
rounds of the manufacturers, etc..
I believe Discovery Wings found
1) aviation is used to (and satisfied with) the performance
versus cost of magazine print advertising and other tried-and-true
methods, especially in recent tight-budget years
2) those publications more directly reach a tight target
audience of qualified (licensed) customers
3) those accustomed to print advertising are unused to the cost
and ad frequencies of TV, especially since even cable TV may
over-reach beyond their target audience
4) the industry stalwarts who have represented industry
magazines for years have strong relationships in our community --
and a decades-long track record of being PART of the industry, not
just selling to it.
Discovery's decision (beyond the lack of aviation advertising)
also responds to the success of new, military-theme programming on
The History Channel that's designed to bring in top value
demographic groups like Men 18-24 and Men 25-54. Shows like "Mail
Call" and "Tactical to Practical" are really working for History.
Discovery Digital Networks also pursues those valuable demographic
groups and needs to be as effective as possible against this new,
strong competition. (Military-theme programming is pulling key
audiences because 1) there's a war on, 2) military news is
top-of-mind, 3) many younger men today are curious about military
service, and 4) somewhat older men were never in the military
(post-Viet Nam) and have not been exposed to the subject matter.
It's new to them.
TV is a numbers game and a money business. It costs a lot, and
it has to be paid for. I can't blame TV for the shift to the
all-military shows -- intelligent History Channel. (They heard from
me personally on that except perhaps for the low-brow promos for
"Mail Call" on an otherwise subject at a meeting several years
For those who recognized the outreach value of an aviation TV
channel, Discovery Wings' decision is a loss. For those who
encouraged (and helped here and there) getting an aviation channel
on the air, it's tough to see. But time marches on and the ad game
waits for no man. The folks at Wings were nice enough to give BE A
PILOT several months' advance notice on the upcoming change. They
say The Military Channel will have some aviation theme nights or
time periods -- although only in relation to military flying.
Almost any such exposure has the
potential to interest those Men 25-54 and 18-24. BE A PILOT plans
to continue our advertising with the channel as long as it delivers
new pilot prospects. And since our prime response is in these
demographic groups, Discovery says even more of them should be
watching and responding to the BE A PILOT $49 first flying lesson
Aviation and television is a tough one. Almost all of what the
public sees of us on TV is bad news. Discovery Wings, once it
developed from the earlier work of Phil Osborne and others, was
great to have, even with a few weaknesses.
BE A PILOT will help keep personal flying on TV with nearly
2,000 commercials a season on several national cable networks. Our
new media exposure program has earned POSITIVE news and feature
coverage with nearly 1,000 media outlets in just 3.5 years --
including many on broadcast TV. We've also flown some 400 reporters
on their first flying lesson.
Yes, we're sorry to see Wings go. Some of us in the aviation
industry did try to help keep it going.
Let's hope The Military Channel -- and other aviation-oriented
programing across the dial -- will do nearly as well at grabbing
the eyeballs and interest of those who might want to do more than
watch planes fly on TV.
If so, we've got the way they can give it a try.