Thursday, March 23, 2006

Free speech v. speech that mints money

While the New York Times seems to be pitting artistic expression against the FCC (with the WB network in the middle) let's just hazard a guess as to why the now-excised scenes "that depicted two girls in a bar kissing on a dare and another of a girl unbuttoning her jeans" were to be found in the new show "The Bedford Diaries" in the first place. Hint: it's the same reason we keep seeing Bill Paxton's bared bum on "Big Love."


Andy Laties said...

Well -- sure: "sex sells". But I remember attending a marketing conference a number of years ago where they said that while advertisers were fixated on appealing to the 16-35 aged crowd because they were the most likely to try out new products (they had very little established brand loyalty) --and thus, advertisers preferred to use TV shows that appealed to this demographic, in fact 85% of all assets in America are controlled by people 55 years old and up. However, these people are very conservative in their shopping habits: advertising doesn't sway them much. (Also, advertising companies are STAFFED by young people!)

Thus, although if only American companies could figure out how to serve the "Senior Set" they'd actually be more profitable, they simply fail to do so, and thereby actually drive the mainstream culture-production industry (TV producers) to churn out stuff that might create waves of titillation and scandal among 16-35 years olds, generating viewers, generating sales (that's the theory).

The 55-up crowd gets served up only pharmaceuticals ads on 6pm news shows!

Howsabout children's book publishers start hiring these clever ad-companies to start pitching to grandparents on TV shows aimed at this Senior age group? Maybe this demographic would start pumping books into their grandchildren's households. Advertisers and consumer products companies could start acting less juvenile with their communications strategies. (OK -- no chance of any of this happening. Prurience rules. Woo Woo!)


Andy Laties said...

In fact, the transformation at AARP (association of retired persons) was enacted with this mechanism in mind. AARP provides probably the best method for companies to advertise to age 55-up people. To get a sense of which companies TV producers are FAILING to collect advertising dollars from, through the "sex sells" fixation, just look at the list of AARP corporate sponsors. All those companies would advertise on TV shows written to appeal to "mature" minds. There are so few such shows, that they're forced to utilize AARP heavily (and AARP has gotten stunningly rich in the past ten years by creating sponsorship advertising opportunities). Any marketing and publicity people for children's books: take note! These people, the grandparents, are a FAR better place to target your ad dollars than into Barnes & Noble in-store product placements. Aim at grandparents directly. (Horn Book ought to produce an edition aimed directly at grandparents, marketed via AARP too.)


Rosemary Graham said...

Hmm. In her column on the FCC fines in Saturday's Times, Alessandra Stanley certainly wasn't pitting artistic expression against the FCC. She was pretty cynical about both parties' pandering. (The FCC chairman to conservative parents groups; CBS to viewers who _want_ teenage orgies in their viewing.)

I'm a fan of Tom Fontana, the creator of the series the WB's self-censoring. He did Homicide, Oz, St. Elsewhere. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. This new show is about a "sexual behavior" seminar on a college campus, with a loose canon of a professor who's intent on making his students "question their thoughts about sexuality or the human condition" In that context, is a scene of two girls kissing gratuitous?

It seems a bit dismissive to assume that it's always only about the money.

Andy Laties said...

You're right! Sorry. I'm not familiar with this writer's work.


shewhonowwishestobecalledportia said...

Oh sure, and next they're going to want to take the violence out of CSI and the voyeurism out of Cops and then I really WILL stop watching tv.

Roger Sutton said...

Rosemary is right, of course, and I haven't seen the show. I guess I think all of TV is gratuitous, which is pretty much why I like it. ;-)