Marketing and Television: Tying Together Multiple Mediums

This is a sub page of Marketing in the Digital Age.


The Relevance of Television and Marketing in the Digital Age

The influence of television on today’s society is remarkable. According to an article entitled “Television and Health” that can be found here, “the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year)”. The article also states that 99% of American households contain at least one television. Needless to say, the television has become incredibly valuable asset to the marketing community. The most common form of marketing through TV is the commercial, a video that is separate from the program viewers are watching that is created to promote a good, idea, or service. While this is the most common and traditional way to market to viewers of television, another marketing strategy that hasn't been utilized as much, but is on the rise is the use of interactivity, where television programs allow viewers to, on some level, interact with the show and those involved in its production. An example of how interactivity can be used well is exemplified by the television program, “The Walking Dead”.

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An Example of Successful Marketing Through Television: AMC's "The Walking Dead"

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“The Walking Dead” was originally a comic book series, but was recently adapted into a television show. After receiving nearly 11 million viewers for the premiere of season three, the show has become the most watched basic cable drama telecast in history. The television program’s large number of viewers also indicates the birth of its own fan base and consequently, the need for a way for fans to communicate. Due to the popularity of the show, the basic cable channel that airs “The Walking Dead” (AMC) dedicated a section of their website to the show where fans can plays games, watch extra videos or read articles, and post with other fans in the official forum of “The Walking Dead” television show. By creating these different ways for fans to get involved, marketers for “The Walking Dead” were increasing the likelihood of fans becoming invested in not only the program, but the brand that is “The Walking Dead”. An example of this investment can be observed on the forum of the official site, where several fans regularly post. Many fans who post on AMC’s official site use it as a means to discuss episodes, characters, events, etc. But the important behavior the fans exhibit is the interaction among themselves. Fans on the AMC site seem to use the forum and other mediums as a way to discuss their enthrallment with, and support the show in a solely positive way. This not only paints “The Walking Dead” in a very positive light, but it also creates loyalty from fans, who may spread word of the show to others that they interact with.

Promoting Interactivity Among Fans

When opened, the official website for the television channel AMC (http://www.amctv.com/) features a large photo that was taken during their talk show that follows “The Walking Dead”, which is entitled “Talking Dead”. The premise of this show is that it allows for fans to get behind the scenes information on “The Walking Dead”, as well as listen to guests (often times actors, producers, etc. from the show) discuss events that unfolded in the latest episode. This talk show gives fans the opportunity to engage in polls via the AMC website (the poll results are revealed at the end of the show), have their tweets read by the host, or phone in to ask the guests questions. This bombardment of mediums that the fans can utilize to engage in discussions of the show not only allows fans the freedom to talk about the show, but it also restricts them in a sense. This is due to the fans’ media ideologies, “beliefs about how media function“ (Gershon). The fans use different mediums to communicate in different ways and this restriction can be observed in the various uses of the assorted mediums. Tweets that are read aloud on the show are usually humorous commentary on events of the show from fans, while those who call in ask questions directed at the guests on the show (usually about the actors and acting process on set or storylines and events within the show), and the forum on the official site is used by fans to discuss their opinions on characters, events, and possible directions the show may head toward in future episodes. Even though the different mediums are used to communicate in slightly different ways, one important aspect remains: the fans use the different mediums to express their fascination and enjoyment with the show and all mediums are used for praising the show. It is always a plus when viewers only discuss a show in a positive way.

To see how the AMC Walking Dead site uses games to promote user activity, check out this link: http://blogs.amctv.com/the-walking-dead/2012/12/get-and-give-free-energy-tip.php

Building Community

The official AMC site for “The Walking Dead” television show has posts dedicated to specific episodes, and other posts to discuss more general topics. In the posts that focus on specific episodes, fans discuss their interpretations of events, characters, and possible story arcs that may occur in future episodes. For example, when discussing with fellow users possible events that may unfold in upcoming episodes, user Kristie said “maybe if rick hallucinates a phone conversation with lori, where they make up and she forgives him, he will be able to move on. While the forums could be used in different ways, the users seem to have accepted certain idioms of practice, “accepted social uses of media” (Gershon). The fans have developed a habit of discussing the show in the form of speculation; the fans will bring up certain events that confused or intrigued them and will bounce ideas off of other users as to the meaning of the events, or where the story will continue after the unfolding of said incidents. By interacting with other users in this way, the users engage in a creative act that also supports the show; “Viewers of a piece of media can claim that text as their own, using it as a launching pad for complex social groups, critical analysis, and their own creative pursuits” (Page 4, McCudden). By creating their own unique ideas for plot direction and other analyses, the fans are interacting with each other in a way that encourages a positive release of creative ideas that show support for the program by allowing users to become more involved in the television show. The speculation that users engage in lets them pick out parts of the show and add their own personal twist and practice their own story telling. Because they will want to continue posting on the site to let their creative juices flow, the users will feel more obligated to watch the television show so that they can continue their own story telling that branches off of the TV program.

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Another interesting way in which users of the AMC website express media ideologies is the way that they communicate with each other. While the ultimate purpose of the forum is to discuss the show, fans do use the site to form certain social bonds:

as usual its been awesome chatting with other true walking dead fans, I get teased at home and work because of how much I love the show, so chatting with you folks is just great, I love the you all pay close attention to details and things like that, it shows what true fans you all are, I have to get up early tomorrow so talk with you all again soon goodnight keep watching for walkers guys lol” – user Kristie

User Kristie displays appreciation for the other users who share her interest in the show and applauds the amount of close attention they pay to the program. Kristie provides positive reinforcement to her peers for engaging in enjoyable conversations related to “The Walking Dead” and shares certain aspects of her personal life (“I have to get up early tomorrow”). Kristie closes her comment with a goodbye and a pun related to the show. This implies a kind of familiarity/camaraderie with the other users, which encourages a positive atmosphere in which the users can post and will feel encouraged to return. By creating a positive atmosphere where users will feel free to express themselves among those who share similar interests, the marketers of the show are encouraging the formation of community and friendship among users, which will cause them to frequent the site on a more regular basis in order to keep in touch with their “friends” on the site.

Encouraging Interaction Through Structure

Kristie uses the site not only to discuss the show, but he/she also uses the site to form social ties with the other users. One way that the creation of these social ties is facilitated by the site is that it allows users to post a response to another user’s comment directly, via a comment box that is attached to the bottom of each comment that is posted. This allows for users to interact directly with each other, which allows them to form these ties with users who frequently interact with them directly. Another aspect of the posting format that encourages positive interaction is that each comment also has a “like” button, similar to Facebook, where a user can “like” a comment that they enjoy or appreciate. These structural designs encourage positive interaction between users and allow them to make “friends” on the site that they will seek out to discuss the show, week in and week out. Again, by facilitating positive interactions between users, the marketers of the show are increasing the likelihood of generating loyalty among fans because the users will feel obligated to watch the program each week and then visit the site to discuss the episode, as well as upcoming episodes and even off topic subjects that will allow users to make friends.

In this example, the structural layout of the AMC site for “The Walking Dead” encourages the community of users who post on the forum to use the site as a way to create social bonds and engage in their own kind of creative writing that also facilitates continued appreciation and support of the show through continued viewership. By creating these opportunities for fans to interact and get involved with the show, as well as fellow fans, the marketers of “The Walking Dead” are establishing a loyal fan base who will not only continue to watch each episode, week in and week out, but who will also speak of the program in a very positive light that acts as advertising for the show.

Summary

This example also acts as an ideal scenario where marketing through viewer interaction achieves a desired outcome of the respective marketing team. There are many scenarios where this attempt at creating a community or relating to the audience can go awry and less desired results occur. This can take the form of the audience being unable to relate, become confused by, or even criticize and make fun of the marketing style and the desired result isn’t achieved. One example of how some marketing strategies can go wrong or be utilized improperly can be observed with the use of the phenomenon known as memes, in marketing.


Citations

Bibliography
1. McCudden, . n. page. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.
2. Gershon, Ilana. The Breakip 2.0 Disconnecting over New Media. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2010. Print.
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