You are on page 1of 18

Communications Journal Report | 3.18.

17 |
CAROLINE SMITH

Table of Contents
Executive Summary...2
Content Analysis3
Customer Context3
Business Context.4
Competitor Analysis6
Internal Context...7
External Context..........8
Main Communications Needs...... 8
Marketing Communications Goals and Positioning...9
Segments, Targeting and Position....9
Marketing Communications Strategy ...10
Message, Creative and Communications Mix.. 10
Resources (Human and Financial) 11
Scheduling and Implementation 11
Issues.12
Evaluation and Control ..13
Feedback and Conclusion . 13
References.16
Appendix 118
Appendix 219
Appendix 322
Appendix 424
Appendix 526
Appendix 629
Appendix 732
Appendix 835

1


FREEFORM COMMUNICATIONS JOUNRAL

Executive Summary

Freeform, formerly known as ABC family, is a domestic cable network that produces

live-action programming targeted to viewers aged 14-34. Among their original series is content

acquired from third parties and branded holiday programing events such as 13 Nights of

Halloween and 25 Days of Christmas (10-K, 2016). They are owned by The Walt Disney

Company, and though Disney values family at its core, Freeform opted to drop family from

their name during this transitionary period in order to appeal more to the Millennial generation in

2016.

The network hired Lexicon, a brand-name consulting firm, and considered up to 3,000

names before narrowing on 12 names. The final 12 were tested on a statistically robust group

of more than 1,000 participants, which finally led to the new name, Freeform. The name change

came with Internet snark, which did not daunt senior management at Freeform because buyers

were on board with the name change. The radical repositioning of the brand is to shake the

companys once dreaded F-bomb (family) to better appeal to its millennial audience. In

network surveys, it was found they were overindex on two variables with nonviewers: family-

friendly and wholesome. The name change was to bridge the gap to create less cognitive

dissonance between what viewers are seeing and what the name of the network is.

To advertise their new name and content, they have all platforms of social media to

interact with their audience from all angles. This content ranges from advertising new shows and

web series to campaigns with affiliates. Their social media drives users to the company website

and app. Observed over the course of the last month was Freeforms Instagram, website, and

app. A misuse was identified. The networks president, Tom Ascheim, says their target audience

2


is not to be simply fed information, yet that is exactly what they are doing (Wagmeister, 2015).

This transitionary period from ABC Family to Freeform is crucial to differentiating their brand

from ABC Familuys previous family-friendly and wholesome positioning to what is now

Freeform.

I chose to follow Freeform after aspiring to be a summer intern in their marketing

department with social media fan engagement. Having prior experience with celebrities from

both The Walt Disney Company and Freeform, paired with my knowledge in fan engagement, I

felt this project would aid in the application process. After doing my research, I am more

inclined to apply for a position at The CW, their competitor, because they are creating content

that Freeforms target audience is actually watching and are more interactive with that audience.

While The CW has less of a following on Instagram, it has higher engagement, because the

network produces the right kind of television. It understands its audience, no labels needed. The

CW proves that their marketing strategy does not have to be interactive; it is the content that

matters and fans will respond.

Context Analysis
Customer Context
Freeform has ubiquitous messaging on all forms of media (Wagmeister, 2015). This type

of media spans beyond the TV screen into an array of social media platforms and through digital

and print advertising. Since Freeform is a broadcast network, this service is paid for through

internet and TV provider services. This form of purchase has a low risk involvement and is

grouped with monthly utilities. As such, this is a low involvement investment. They cater to the

Millennials, a segment aged between 14-34 (Littleton, 2015). Taking data from the Nielsen

report, the Total Audience Report split Millennials into three groups: Dependent Adults (living

in someone elses home), On Their Own (without children), and Starting a Family (living in own

3


home with children) (Lynch, 2016). This information is pivotal to how and when they market

their content.

Based on the communications observed and Freeforms ubiquitous messaging, the brand

can easily interact with its target audience whether it be through social media, particularly

Instagram, or print advertisements. In order for Freeform to entice their target audience to watch

their shows, they must generate creative, fresh, and relevant content relatable to Becomers. As

recent as 2016, ABC Family was rebranded to Freeform where it dropped its family ties to veer

away from traditional family viewing (Wagmeister, 2015). This was all in efforts to better reflect

its target audience of Becomers, a network-coined term where their media shifted focus to

Who am I becoming through a universal life stage of entering adulthood, which includes

moments like the first kiss and the first kid (Littleton, 2015). Because this audience is also

considered the Millennial audience, the communication messages that are oozing from all

different platforms are well received. Ascheim states, our audience doesnt see themselves as

consumers, but as makers. As Makers, Freefroms target audience is not just fed stories; they

are given media that promotes fan engagement. To better understand their target audience,

Freeform has also recognized their stars as Becomers themselves, and thereby can be

considered brand ambassadors and spokespersons of change (Wagmeister, 2015). With strong

influencers, content relatable to Becomers, and ubiquitous messages through diverse channels,

Freeform has reached its target audience, the ultimate buyer/viewer of its content.

Business Context

Trending since mid-February, Freeform has interacted with its audience through a new

campaign, #FreeformHappyHour (Appendix 2.2) on Instagram. This campaigns focus is to

inform the audience of the new Monday night time slots for their TV shows Young & Hungry

4


and Baby Daddy. In addition to daily Instagram posts, Freeform has purchased space in Times

Square in New York City that features their #FreeformHappyHour (Appendix 2.2). The bulk of

the consumers, however, are seeing this Times Square advertisement on their Instagram feed.

While Freeform is promoting Happy Hour, they are also hoping the audience who watches

Young & Hungry and Baby Daddy will stay tuned for the new series, The Twins, airing

afterwards.

At first glance, introducing the theme of Happy Hour to Freeforms audience that

expands as low as 14 years of age, seems to fail at understanding its broad audience. While a few

ads state, no chaser needed, the two shows being moved (Young & Hungry and Baby Daddy)

are comedy features bound to promote a bunch of laughs. Hence: Happy Hour. This message

may fail to transcend properly since Happy Hour is associated primarily with drinking, and not

all age categories of Freeforms audience is legally able to participate in that activity. The

demographic who are legal are typically watching television on mobile devices or watch content

depending on their young children (Lynch, 2016). Freeform is promoting the age of becoming,

and content that is relatable through that becoming process. A better way to promote this era in

their target segments life, which is mindful to all age ranges of their segment, would be

#FreeformManicMonday. Mondays are hectic from the moment you wake up till the end of the

day. Featuring comedies on Monday time slots with relatable content to the fast pace life of

Becomers is more relevant than featuring Happy Hour, where the message is unclear due to

its dual meaning.

With Freeforms most popular show to date, Pretty Little Liars (PLL), ending, a new

show Famous in Love by the same executive producer/writer Marlene King, will debut in April.

Famous in Love will follow PLL with the evening time slot at 9 PM (Graves, 2017). Freeform is

5


attempting to piggyback the PLL audience to the new series, which has been heavily promoted

during the past few months on observed media like Instagram and the official Freeform website.

Freeform has done well with using this new show to target their broader audience of young

adults and preteens. With a credible producer and promotion through short and long form video

trailer clips, images, and celebrities themselves, fans are buzzing with anticipation. Freefroms

website shares full trailers and more interactive features such as quizzes and blog posts that

range from catching up with the actors of the show to 10 awesome facts about their new stars

(Watch Famous in Love Online Now, n.d.). To further intrigue fans, Freeform will release all

10 episodes of Famous in Love on Freeforms website, app, and through Hulu to enable binge

watching (Graves, 2017). This is also in efforts to encourage consumers to use their app and

website features, which is free with the correct login credentials (based on their Internet and TV

provider).

Freeform is not only starting to release shows in full seasons on their website and app,

but they are also promoting, their web series Dinner with Dad, on Instagram. This web series,

like Famous in Love, is released all at once, but episodes are 4-10 minutes in length and are

considered bite-sized episodes, great for on-the-go commuters utilizing the Freeform app

(Watch Dinner With Dad Online Now, n.d.).

Competitor Analysis

The CW network is Freeforms biggest threat because of the similar demographic

escaping into The CWs content. The CW has a tendency to produce genre-heavy shows while

Freeform releases the art-imitating-life type of content. With the DC Universe shows under its

belt and hits like The 100, Riverdale, and the long-running series of Supernatural and The

6


Vampire Diaries, The CW promotes television in which one escapes into a world of fantasy,

science fiction, and supernatural.

Unlike Freeforms heavy social media presence, CW does not utilize Instagram as a way

of promoting their content as actively. To date, Freeform has a following of 857k while The CW

has a following of 753k (Appendix 3.3). The difference of followers is admittedly not a large

difference, but The CWs total posts comes out to 1,964. Freeform has created 5,820 posts.

Freeform actively uses their Instagram accounts two times more heavily than The CW in order to

generate buzz and create a conversation, like with the inclusion of #FreeformHappyHour. What

differentiates Freeform as a brand is that out of the 5k+ posts included on their social media

accounts, nearly all of them are network generated. The CWs nearly 2k posts are reposted from

its shows without an innovate audience engagement (Appendix 3.3), however, because it

originates from its shows there is a higher audience engagement than Freeforms. The CW fails as

a brand to promote itself as a meaningful network, but rather it portrays itself as a gateway to

reach these particular shows. Where The CW shows are genre shows with a serialized element

(Ryan, 2015), Freeform content is predominantly based on universal life stages (Littleton,

2015). The reason for The CWs success since its lack of promotion through the networks social

media account is that its audience are consumers who have stayed with the networks long-

running series or are hooked in by the nostalgic value of comic books turned shows ranging from

DC to Archie comics and potentially find meaning through metaphor in its fantastical worlds

(Ryan, 2015).

Internal Context

With Freeform being a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, it encompasses many of

its values such as family, education, and information (About - Leadership, Management Team,

7


Global, History, Awards, Corporate Responsibility, n.d.). Recently Disney created the Magic of

Storytelling campaign where they will be working alongside First Book, an organization that

provides books and learning materials to children in need (Appendix 2.3). Freeform uses their

social media presence on Instagram in order to engage their viewership to support the cause.

They have their actors take selfies of themselves with their favorite book and tag it with the

hashtag, #Shelfie. For every #shelfie posted on Instagram, Disney will donate one book to First

Book.

This campaign does two things: it generates interactive media and highlights core values.

Instagram allows Freeforms viewership to engage with the campaign. This gives the consumers

a sense of empowerment that alongside with Freeform, they too are able to make a change for a

cause, thereby promoting the brand image still as family-friendly and even educational.

External Context

Alongside their charitable organization relationships, Freeform currently has

relationships with third party streaming apps like Hulu, Netflix (10-K, 2016), and Amazon. Hulu,

as well as the Freeform app, will offer the complete season of Famous in Love, and Netflix has

rights to shows like PLL and The Fosters. This relationship is beneficial to both parties because

it allows Freeform to get their content out to a wide variety of audiences, and it draws viewers

who already subscribe to either Hulu or Netflix to enjoy these shows without going out of their

way to watch it.

Main Communication Needs

Freeform network is currently in a transitional phase shifting from traditional media to

a Becomers journey. With a new name to be more representative of its consumers, Freeform is

embracing its brand from all angles. Ascheim has made it clear that Were going to use every

8


level and every platform that we have to bang the drum about our new name (Wagmeister,

2015). Using all platforms, Freeform has successfully used its channels to reach their audiences

to promote their brand, and media. Ascheim claims, I think its going to feel even better to unite

ratings [...] with brand strength (Wagmeister, 2015). The brand is only a year in with their

rebranding, and thus far have done well with making their name known. They are still in the

transitional phase, however, and have competition like The CW and streaming service providers

like Netflix and Hulu. Freeform needs to continue to infiltrate all media platforms and generate

progressive and relevant content geared towards Becomers.

Marketing Communications Goals and Positioning

The company does not have its corporate objectives listed on the Walt Disney Company

website, however the mission is to, be one of the worlds leading producers and providers of

entertainment and information. The Walt Disney Company is also a pioneer of the most

creative, innovative and profitable entertainment media (About - Leadership, Management

Team, Global, History, Awards, Corporate Responsibility, n.d.). Observed Freeform objectives

are located in Appendix 1.1.

Segments, Targeting and Position

The Becomers are heavy social media consumers who also are considered Makers

(Wagmeister, 2015). Different messages through their social media marketing are targeted

towards different segments within the target audience. #FreeformHappyHour is catering to the

older segment, while Famous in Love is piggybacking on the PLL audience, the preteens to

young adults. Three communications were observed: Instagram, the Freeform website, and

Freeform app. Instagram funneled users to the Freeform website and app for long from video

trailers and clips of upcoming episodes. The website not only features episodes, but blogs and

9


quizzes for those wanting more interactive behind-the-scenes look. The Freeform app caters to

the on-the-go consumers who watch episodes in-transit or during time away from the TV or

computer. Episodes can only be viewed with log in credentials, while no log in is required for

live TV.

Marketing Communications Strategy

Freeforms primary promotion strategy is a pull strategy using social media. Considering

that their intended audience are Millennials, this type of promotion is the best way in order to

maintain their brand in the daily lives of their consumers who are scrolling along in their feeds.

Generating hashtags like #FreeformHappyHour or #Shelfie allows their audience to engage with

their brand and their products by allowing conversation to generate through hashtag usage.

Message, Creative and Communications Mix

Freeform used consistent messages through its different platforms. Instagram included

short form video and images. The Freeform website incorporates long form video, pictures,

blogs, quizzes, live TV, and playback episodes. The Freeform app only incorporates live TV,

playback episodes, and a few extras. The app appears new, but according to the App Store, the

app has been in development since 2014. The sole show that has extras happens to be its most

popular segment, PLL (Appendix 6.4). These extras range from quizzes to gif sets. Other popular

shows like The Fosters have extras as an option, but these extras are TV show trailers for other

series and are not exclusive content as advertised by Freeforms app advertisement (Appendix

6.1).

One of the most recent effective messages was their Instagram post of their billboards in

Times Square (Appendix 2.2). Many consumers in their target audience will not see those

billboards unless they are in New York City. Capturing that image of the billboards and showing

10


it to followers via Instagram is impactful and indicates that they have the financials to have a

heavy presence and they should continue that type of marketing.

Much of Freeforms target audience has a presence on social media. Despite that, only a

portion of that audience follows its account. In order to increase followers, Freeform should have

more ads that pop up on Instagram for those who follow the celebrities of the TV shows since

they are considered spokespersons. This would further help generate impressions and click-

through rates to Freeforms Instagram, website, and potentially lead to an app

download. Freeform should also consider reposting Instagram post from their TV shows and

celebrities, a strategy The CW has incorporated.

Resources (Human and Financial)

Freeform utilizes its own in-house advertising for its shows and media. For social media,

they utilize a marketing department. Their income is earned through the ability to sell time for

commercial announcements (10-K, 2016). The Walt Disney Company also sells programming

developed by their networks in television markets globally, to subscription video-on-demand

(SVOD) services (Netflix, Hulu and Amazon), and in electronic and physical (DVD and Blu-ray)

formats (10-K, 2016).

Scheduling and Implementation

Freeform posts content between 4 and 5 times a day on Instagram. They target audiences

with morning, afternoon, and evening posts. This way they are able to make impressions within

their broad audience who use social media at various times during the day. Their website is

updated when new episodes have aired. Based on certain days of the week, different promos of

different shows are aired to entice viewers to tune into that weeks episode live. The website also

updates its news page to include blog posts every few days. The Freeform app updates weekly

11


with new episodes. The app also airs ads to promote upcoming shows or new TV series on its

network.

Freeform should continue its ubiquitous messaging through social media, especially with

short form video. In addition to digital media, Freeform should consider print ads on busses, at

bus stops, in train stations, billboards, and in magazines to boost visibility for those who do not

follow them on social media.

Issues

The biggest issue Freeform has is the adaptation of their new name. Seemingly overnight,

Freeform changed suddenly from ABC Family to Freeform. Explanation about the change came

afterwards. This new name caused a lot of disconnect and confusion with their current viewers

who did not understand what changes were being made and who thought the name unfitting, not

understanding that Freeform was to depict the networks freedom (Wagmeister, 2015). An

excellent way to build their brand image and prepare themselves for the name change was to

release a long video on their website, with shortened clips on various social medias, of their

celebrities explaining what it means to be free to be creative and how they are Becomers and

Makers more appropriately. This video would have the celebrities enticing the audience to

become Makers like them. This would have gained fan engagement, fan understanding, and

give Freeform, as a brand, a boost.

Although Freeform is doing everything in their power to narrow their focus on their

Millennial audience, some messages they are conveying gets lost in translation.

#FreeformHappyHour loses its message that Baby Daddy and Young & Hungry will be moving

to Monday nights in order to precede The Twins because the phrase Happy Hour already has

such a powerful connotation of drinking.

12


Another issue is ironically is the use of social media itself. Although social media

marketing is an excellent way in order to engage their targeted audience, this strategy can only

work if the audience is following Freeforms account. Freeform does their best to bring their

name and hashtag campaigns out through their celebrities, however, the chances of a consumer

downloading Freeforms app or following Freeform is slim. Diving further into

#FreeformHappyHours usage, it appears that only Freeform, their shows, and its actors are

promoting it. A successful fan engagement includes fans posting about it as well.

Evaluation and Control

Though it appears that Freeform wants to engage their consumers by targeting them

through social media, it appears that they are not responsive. When questions were asked about

their #FreeformHappyHour campaign or their #Shelfie campaign, both questions went

unanswered. Another question was asked about more information on a show just mere minutes

after they posted on Instagram, and though the question was answered by two helpful fans,

Freeform has yet to respond. Freeform prides itself on being about the consumers, but they fail to

engage with them. Out of a 100, their website received a 77 on FreeGrader (Freegrader.com,

n.d.) (Appendix 8.2) which indicates that they have a lack of customer engagement and contact

information. Because Freeform is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, their corporate

values mimic those of its parent company. This makes it difficult for Freeform to become its own

unique brand considering it must abide by the values of Disney. Although the communications

across Instagram, the website, and the Freeform app were all consistent, it does not draw new

audiences in. With Freeform transitioning from its former name of ABC Family, it needs to be

able to generate a new audience through other means.

Feedback and Conclusion

13


Freeform has identified their target audience as Becomers who are Makers. Their

media does not reflect that as much as it should. If they know their consumers are more

interactive, then they should have more interactive ads. Freeform has decent like and view rates

on their posts, however, they have low comment rates and fail to be responsive, even to those

who ask questions. Their competition, The CW, engages less, posts less innovative content, and

generates more interesting soft metrics with respect to consumer like, view, and comment rates.

The Freeform website, while it has some interactive content, could have more. The extras

features in their app is being wasted by the same show promotion (Appendix 6.4) that is

broadcasted on nearly every shows extras page. Freeform should utilize this space to include

actual exclusive content with behind the scenes interviews, trailer visits, or even bloopers. The

CW includes this feature (Appendix 7.3).

Freeform has identified who their target audience is and what sorts of communications

mix they need in order to reach them, but they are failing at understanding their consumers

through their social media marketing. They are feeding stories, and making less of an impact as a

result. To fix this, they need to make more interactive campaigns to create fan engagement. A

hashtag simply is not enough these days. Instagram is a great tool, especially now that they have

the Live feature similar to Snapchat. Freeform infrequently uses this feature by promoting

quizzes about how well fans remember the last episode of a show or facts about some of the

shows (Appendix 2.4). To engage their audience, Freeform needs to host live appearances by

their stars. For example, stars can tune in and fans can ask questions. This generates interaction

that would please their target audience.

Freeform should also be careful with their campaigns, like #FreeformHappyHour. The

dual message behind Happy Hour may fail to transcend properly. Despite it being the happy

14


hour with comedy galore, their short form videos on Instagram and long form videos on their

website advertise drinking in a comedic setting. While Freeform needs to strengthen their

interactions with their well-defined target audience, they need to strengthen their

communications to further expand their audience. To remain a competitor in this market they

need to re-evaluate their content to ensure it truly fits all of their consumers needs. The Top 10

streamed shows in 2016 included nine shows in the realm of fantasy or science fiction with three

of them being a CW production (Ariens, 2016). While they are Becomers and Makers that

does not mean they want or desire to watch shows about real life, which The CW understands

with shows that embody escapism. While in the midst of their transitionary phase, this is the time

for Freeform to define themselves as a successful broadcasting network apart from its affiliates.

With the communications observed, Freeform has not used this transitionary phase to its full

potential and should reconsider their usage of their social media and reflect upon their

understanding of who their target audience is and position themselves as a competitive network

with not only TV shows, but with digital content.

15


References

10-K. (2016). Retrieved March 13, 2017, from


https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1001039/000100103915000255/fy2015_q4x10
k.htm

About - Leadership, Management Team, Global, History, Awards, Corporate Responsibility.


(n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from
https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/about/#corporate-citizenship

Ariens, C. (2016, April 11). Millennials Couldn't Resist Streaming These 10 TV Shows.
Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/tv-video/millennials-couldnt-
resist-streaming-these-10-tv-shows-winter-170655/

Freeform (@freeform) Instagram photos and videos. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2017, from
https://www.instagram.com/freeform/

Freeform - Page 1 - Social Mention search. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2017, from
http://www.socialmention.com/search?t=all&q=freeform&btnG=Search

Freeform - Page 1 - Social Mention search. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from
http://www.socialmention.com/search?t=all&q=freeform&btnG=Search

Freeform - Watch Full Episodes Online Now. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2017, from
http://freeform.go.com/

Freegrader.com. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from


https://www.freegrader.com/report?website=freeform.go.com

Google Trends. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2017, from


https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today12m&q=%2Fm%2F02w_l9%2C%2
Fm%2F0b275x

Graves, C. (2017, March 9). Famous in Love. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from
http://www.disneyabcpress.com/freeform/shows/famous-in-love/press-releases/

HowSociable. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://howsociable.com/freeform

Littleton, C. (2015, April 14). Upfronts: ABC Family Turns Up the Volume to Change Direction.
Retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/abc-family-pretty-little-
liars-upfronts-1201472636/

Lynch, J. (2016, January 5). Disney Renames ABC Family and Hopes 'Freeform' Will Better
Reflect Its Edgier Content. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/tv-
video/disney-drops-abc-family-freeform-fully-embrace-its-audience-becomers-168779/

16


Lynch, J. (2016, March 24). How Millennials Consume TV Depends on Which Stage of Life
They're In. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/tv-video/how-
millennials-consume-tv-depends-which-stage-life-theyre-170393/

Official Site of The CW Network | The CW | CW Television Shows. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13,
2017, from http://www.cwtv.com/

Ryan, M. (2015, October 14). The Man Behind the Heroes: Mark Pedowitz Breaks the CW Out
of its Niche. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://variety.com/2015/tv/features/mark-
pedowitz-the-cw-the-flash-arrow-1201617084/

The CW (@thecw) Instagram photos and videos. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2017, from
https://www.instagram.com/thecw/

Wagmeister, E. (2015, October 06). ABC Family to Rebrand Network Freeform in January.
Retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/abc-family-freeform-
rebranding-network-1201610697/

Watch Dinner With Dad Online Now. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from
http://freeform.go.com/shows/dinner-with-dad

Watch Famous in Love Online Now. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from
http://freeform.go.com/shows/famous-in-love

17