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Bob Ross FTW

“What about Bob Ross?,” I said.
“Yes… He’s iconic, he’s revered by our traditional audiences, and younger generations love him,” our social media manager contemplated, “we could do trivia and have a giveaway box with one of those bobble heads!”
Our event coordinator chimed in, “How about a painting party… or painting on the set? Who do we know that paints? I can get wigs… we must have Bob Ross wigs!”
“OMG, I have the best idea for a cold open on our live studio night… it will be epic!,” exclaimed our director.

And from that spontaneous brainstorming meeting, our Bob Ross Campaign was born.

While we incorporated some opportunities for fundraising, the main goal was acquisition and engagement. We utilized the trivia and drawings for collecting new email addresses to build into our campaign efforts later in the year. The videos and the on-air event were primarily targeted to our traditional audience for member engagement along with the fundraising component. But both efforts crossed over. We simultaneously targeted the existing audience with trivia and encouraged our prospects to tune-in.

The components of this happy little integrated campaign included the following:

  • Trivia offered each week for four weeks leading up to the campaign (see below for some of our trivia questions!)
  • Participants had the opportunity to win “The Joy of Prizes” gift box filled with goodies t-shirt, mug, puzzle, deck of cards and a Bob Ross Chia Pet.
  • We created a special donation page for contributors to take home some happy little collectibles as thank you gifts.
  • As part of the on-air fundraising drive, we had a special “Bob Ross Takeover” night, live in the studio featuring wigs, squirrels, an actual painting demonstration of one of Bob’s classic landscapes just before the Joy of Painting pledge show began.

We utilized every promotional asset we had available: social media, stories, live video, pre-roll video, live-stream, website and email, paid ads, prospect ads, radio ads, interstitials, print, even a feature in the “Best of PBS” newsletter. A life-sized cardboard cutout scared the bejesus out of staff members as it mysteriously traveled from office to office. A Bob Ross selfie station was set up outside of a conference room. Afro-style wigged staff members in blue collared shirts with paint brushes and palettes were seen roaming the hallways. And during the six-weeks of planning, the Bob Ross memes flew like wildfire among our emails and phones. Oh, yeah… and I painted!

And the results?

  • The three trivia promotional emails were opened by 73,000 people with over 6,700 click throughs.
  • Facebook ads were targeted to our main audience and a group of prospects with over 360,000 impressions and nearly 50,000 engagements combined.
  • The takeover promotional video had 4,000 impressions and 960 views while the Facebook live during the event had 5,300 impressinos and 1,700 views.
  • An Instagram story had 1,800 impressions, the promo posts had 890 impressions and tweets garnered another 830 impressions.
  • Over 60,000 people tuned in to the live “takeover” night and the campaign raised over $10,000.

In addition to the tremendous impact of acquisition and engagement, this campaign was a team effort! And by team, I mean multiple teams! We had folks from development, marcomm, social, and events along with producers and directors from the content department.

Plus, we were overjoyed with these comments from our viewers:

  • “I love the Bob Ross event tonight. Can’t stop laughing. You guys are great”
  • “This is amazing!”
  • “God! Loved this guy. He has a very interesting bio. I’ve made MILLIONS of “happy mistakes””
  • “Thank you for the trivia contest. It caused me to read about Bob Ross on Wikipedia and discover and interesting, principled man.”
  • “love love love everything about this!”

Our success was featured on the PBS Development blog! Check it out: “Happy Little Growth Funnels! UNC-TV’s Bob Ross Campaign Engages Multiple Generations Through Digital and On-Air” 

And a happy little time was had by all!

Note: photos and a sizzle reel of the Bob Ross takeover night are below. Plus, enjoy some of our Bob Ross Trivia questions!


False! He maintained a perm as a cost-saving measure (and he reportedly disliked it!)

Only 10% of the viewing audience actually painted along with the show.

$0! Ross did the series for free; his income came from Bob Ross Inc.

Chimneys. Per Bob Ross Inc. Media Director Joan Kowalski, “…chimneys represented people, and (Bob) didn’t want any sign of a person in his paintings.”