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Corning 'n' Hansen: Take 2 in WFAA8's big push to make Daybreak a gamer

WFAA8's selling of early morning co-anchor Ron Corning has reached stage 2 with a new 30-second spot featuring the eager kid and his wizened mentor, sports anchor Dale Hansen.

There's a major fictional component, though. Hansen says at one point that he's having his "morning coffee," which Corning quickly amends to "Corning coffee" during a bit shot in the ABC station's Victory Park studios. Hansen doesn't do mornings, at least not within the confines of his workplace. He's strictly a P.M. arrival and a late night departure. Cock-a-doodle-do? His body clock doesn't have a clue.

Otherwise this ad is a momentum-building improvement on the opener, which had a cigar-puffing Hansen telling the Daybreak newbie to self-promote himself. It ended a bit badly, with the cops chasing a paint-coated Corning.

"I'm taking your advice," he tells Hansen at the start of their second ad. "I'm getting my name out there. I'm going to own the mornings."

As in "Corning coffee," the "Corning commute" and a nice little kicker from Hansen that leaves the kid a little puzzled.

So is it working? Well, WFAA8's early morning ratings seem to have perked up just a bit since the campaign began toward the end of September. Last week, the station inched into second place on Monday, Thursday and Friday. And its third place finishes haven't been as distant lately, even though the Oct. 10th Nielsens showed WFAA8 running just barely ahead of fourth-place CBS11. By the way, it still doesn't have a permanent male co-anchor after letting Scott Sams go in late March.

Some readers have wondered whether Corning's Daybreak anchor partner, Cynthia Izaguirre, might be getting a little jealous or worried about her longevity. They forget that "Izzy" got her own full-blown ad campaign in the spring of 2008. Chris Flanagan is the guy who never received anything resembling a promotional push from WFAA8 during his time beside Izaguirre. Treated as a generic invisible man before being pushed out early last spring, Flanagan is now taking his talents to Cleveland, where he'll be a featured nighttime news anchor.

Corning is far quicker with a quip than Flanagan could ever hope to be. And WFAA8's new comedy ads on his behalf underscore the station's latter day belief that personality is as important as content in the early morning environment.

This can be a fine line. But D-FW's dominant early morning station, Fox4, certainly isn't winning on the sole strength of news blips, repeated reporter standups and constant weather/traffic updates. Middle-aged co-anchor Tim Ryan, dean of the dawn patrol, knows how to mess around in the company of what's been a series of younger female desk partners. The station continues to be the best at finding a reasonably happy medium between slap-happy and being taken seriously.

WFAA8 hopes to take some pages from Fox4's joke book and sell a more youthful exuberance in the bargain. Corning is now the point man in that effort, with Izzy his oftentimes too giggly sidekick. Can she keep up with him without seeming to try w-a-a-y too hard? We'll see. One thing seems certain, though. That Corning kid's got moxie, as Hansen would say. He's starting to earn his spots -- and here's the latest: