Does your programmer GET you?

Cover of promotional brochure for advertisers 1955My TV viewing habits are as eclectic as my hobbies. They range from:

- The Sunday morning political talk shows
- AMC's 'The Mad Men' and 'The Pitch'
- PBS's 'Antiques Roadshow'
- The Military Channel
- Turner Classic Movies
- Dateline I.D.

Yet, I'd argue that not one of those programmers has taken the time to get to know me and arrange their commercials accordingly (not that I'd watch the ads, mind you. But, it is fascinating to observe which product marketers throw their money against what shows). So, addressing the very same programming listed above,

I typically see the following during commercial breaks:

- Sunday morning could double down as God's Waiting Room. Pharmaceutical products for every type of middle-age and senior malady known to man fill the tube (my personal favorites are the nervous leg syndrome and bladder control spots). Happily, though, I’m not in need of the Pfizer, Merck or J&J products being pitched. So, strike one for the marketers!

- Viewers of AMC's Mad Men and The Pitch are positively bombarded by commercials (none in the first 10 minutes, though. They need to hook me before selling me. Then, bam, by the half hour mark, I feel like a German soldier hunkered down inside a Normandy beach bunker on D-Day as the advertising barrage continues unabated). But, once again, the spots miss their mark in trying to connect with me (especially The Pitch, which includes spots from former Peppercom client, Undertone. Sorry, guys, but I won't be buying any digital ads this week). Strike two!

- As one might expect, PBS is quite reticent, subliminal and high-brow in the few spots they air from corporate supporters. But, again, ExxonMobil ads aren't going to induce me to select their gas station the next time I fill up. Strike three! Yer out!

I could continue, but you get my point.

Programmers and marketers miss the mark with viewers like me because they overlook one crucial step in their traditional market research: they don't put themselves in a viewer's shoes. Sure, they'll ask all the right quantitative questions and they'll pay a cohort of my peers $100 each to sit through an hour-long focus group, but the former provides closed-end information and the latter is always dominated by the strongest personality in the group.

We're in the midst of pitching a programmer right now and, unlike our advertising and marketing brethren, we're experiencing the various programs from the outside-in. We want to know how a particular program fits into a viewer's world. So, for example, although I watch the Military Channel, I'm not interested in buying a miniature replica of a 1945 Ford Flat Bed Truck from the Franklin Mint. Nor am I likely to order an Uzi or AK-47 from their web site.

If, however, the channel and its advertisers took the time to do what our Audience Experience team does and ask what I'd like my relationship with The Military Channel to be, they'd provide me with recommended biographies and DVD documentaries exploring personal heroes or events ranging from Winston Churchill and Light Horse Harry Lee to the English Civil War and pre-Columbian America (eclectic, no?).

Alas, as AMC's ‘The Pitch’ demonstrates, marketers and their programming partners take a top down, inside out, one-size-fits-all approach to audience connectivity. But, as viewership continues to decline, devices such as The Hopper take hold and programming continues to fragment, the smart TV folk will finally wake-up to the stark reality that, in order to GET me, they need to first walk in my shoes.

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