Premiere week has wrapped up, which means that most of us in America have spent the last month consuming an extraordinarily large amount of advertising. It was as if television characters had taken over the city. Jimmy Smits, the star of CBS’s new evening soap “Cane,” greeted me as I walked into Duane Reade, peered down at me from billboards and whizzed by on a city bus. “Dancing with the Stars” said hello from the two-page spread in The New York Times, and “Bionic Woman” was so frequently covered by nostalgic journalists that she could have been an aging socialite, now back in the scene with a fresh new look.
And while this is coming from a person who has not had a television in over a decade, I am now fully aware of what the networks want me to watch. Awareness, of course, always has been broadcast’s forte. Engagement is a much harder task. Engagement, at least in the world of television, is measured by ratings, which are tied to how many people are watching the show. Of course, this metric will need to evolve, as today’s viewer can opt to watch an episode on television, directly from the network’s online player, or a year later via iTunes.
For the linguists out there, the word “engagement” covers a broad spectrum of relationships, from “a hostile encounter between military forces” to “betrothal.” One might say that the former describes the relationship formed as I fought my way through advertising excess, and that the latter describes what happens when content is good. To this point, a colleague of mine confessed, “I was seeing ads for æBionic Woman’ everywhere. I broke down and watched the pilot online. It was not so good.” In summary, content must be good for engagement to ensue.
Assuming that the content is good, the two parties survive the advertising battle and begin a courtship. And this is exactly the point where some networks become the bad boyfriend (or girlfriend). After an amazing 45-minute date with a new show (that will remain nameless), I found myself suddenly alone. I ran through the network Web site, in hopes of online exclusives, notes on the actors, anything that would have held my attention. The fact is, I wanted the engagement to last longer, and the network just stood me up.
So what did I do? I searched and found that I was not alone. Literally thousands of people had posted impressions of their own 45-minute engagement. This content was pretty good. Make that really good – enough for me to stick around and read more. At this point, I had to ask, why doesn’t the network chose to own this second step of engagement? From a natural search perspective, this is a gold mine.
The good news is that not every network has such poor dating etiquette. Even “Cavemen” appears to be investing heavily in paid search, as well as in Caveman’s Crib (cavemanscrib.com), a zany micro-site. During Season One, “Ugly Betty” did a very good job of starting Wikipedia entries for both the characters and the actors. From here, engaged viewers updated and appended in snowball fashion, which of course most likely drove increased traffic to all of the show’s properties. “Dancing with the Stars” has made a point to invest in technology that keeps a fire in the relationship. One recent example is a Facebook app game produced by Fantasy Moguls that awards points based on your predictions.
Now that’s a marriage in the making.