Thursday, August 21, 2008

Promoting the CW by Promoting Gossip

We're not hiding anything ... simply keeping a lid on '90210' until 9/02, riding the curiosity and anticipation into premiere night, and letting all our constituents see it at the same time.

- Statement by the CW broadcast television network

In Brian Sternberg, "Advertisers, Media Left in the Dark About New '90210,'" Advertising Age. August 18, 2008

The comment refers to CW's tack--unusual for a television series--of not screening its remake of "Beverly Hills 90210" for advertisers or the media before the program's premiere. For the ratings-challenged network, the goal is clearly to stoke the rumors, anticipation, and comparison with the original 90210 among the young women and teens who are the CW's main targets. It's hard to stand out in their cluttered media environment, so the CW has clearly tried to get groups that are not their target viewers (in this case television critics and show business personalities) annoyed and vocal enough to cause the target viewers to pay attention.

Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is the current ad campaign for Gossip Girl. It involves posters with quotes from critics that suggest (in Sternberg's words) "how tawdry and shocking the program can be." Pasting a negative quote from the conservative Parents Television Council (PTC) on the poster below (copied from the Gawker Media site) emphasizes the sexual nature of the poster's scene. It would seem to be a clear way of saying that that the CW disrespects the PTC--and that the viewers should do the opposite to what the PTC would want. This relatively new audience-gathering approach--alienating one group while reaching out to another-- is likely to grow with the development of media outlets that focus on specific audience segments and don't really care whether other segments like the material or not.

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