THE LETTERMAN IMPACT

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The rollicking success that is "Late Night With David Letterman" is now part of network TV history. We all know the dazzling story of how Mr. Letterman, CBS and their advertisers have revitalized the late-night daypart.

Since the collaboration began on Aug. 30, one year ago, the show's 30-second spots have gone from $30,000 each to as much as $60,000. Mr. Letterman has also raised households-using-TV nearly 4% and topped the daypart with a 5.7 Nielsen average rating.

But that's not all this show and its host have accomplished. By pointing his TV cameras toward the action-the people and sights in and around Times Square-night after night, Mr. Letterman has managed to change the Big Apple's image. His viewer-friendly street escapades serve as a powerful communications instrument for the city and a Times Square area that used to be regarded as off-limits for human habitation.

Today, the city's hotels are again chock-full of visitors, and young men and women from all over the country are again enrolling at New York's colleges and universities. Of course, we're not saying Mr. Letterman is responsible for the apparent turnaround. But we'll bet his on-camera forays into New York's streets have had their impact. He makes New York look fun, not threatening, and that would make any ordinary public relations campaign for the city a big success.

If image-changing is essential, many marketers can benefit from the Letterman approach-even a well-known promoter like New York Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner, a man famous for publicly exaggerating the incidence of crime around the city's Yankee Stadium and then complaining when ballpark attendance declines.

Mr. Letterman each night demonstrates how to win friends: Open up and demystify the product by involving the consumer in its success. We salute him and his TV show for having achieved a remarkable marketing success-one that must be measured well beyond ratings and ad revenues.

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