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Are Bleak TV Shows Bad for Advertising? Ask Validated Mobile Viewers.

 

Blog Violent TV 13July17

 

Is the “Golden Age of Television” proclaimed by many TV critics bad for advertisers?

 

In many cases, shows beloved by critics are less golden than black and red. That’s black for dark characters and bleak story lines, and red for bloody violence portrayed with graphic specificity.

 

Two recent commentaries for MediaPost raise questions about whether TV advertisers are wandering into a thicket of contradiction and possible audience backlash when they bet heavily that bleak stories and harsh images will translate into marketing gold. They raise good questions that can only be answered by surveying consumers who watch the shows. For advertisers, and for TV networks and streaming services, it’s important to understand whether ads are being noticed and remembered, and  how they’re affecting consumers’ perceptions about the brand and product.The advertising and television industries acknowledge that we’re in a moment of confusion and flux when it comes to measuring TV ads’ effectiveness, and how to approach “golden age”-type shows is one more unknown that’s begging for data and insights to inform how advertisers should proceed.

 

Both MediaPost commentaries concern the Hulu series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which envisions a dark, dystopian future that’s not exactly in sync with advertising’s typical aim of establishing a mood of good feeling or positive intrigue about a brand.

 

“It’s odd, brutal and hard to watch,” writes one commentator, who says she was “flabbergasted” by one particularly cruel scene, “followed instantly by the insertion of a technicolor, upbeat, jaunty commercial…making the advertisers look ridiculous and creating a creepy and tasteless way to annoy viewers.”

 

The other commentary asked whether advertising on a show like “The Handmaid’s Tale” might create problems for brands that parallel what they face when automated digital ad placement puts their messaging on objectionable websites, or locates it amid content that’s embarrassingly discordant with the image and perception the advertiser wants to create.

 

For these dark shows, the author writes, “we don’t know exactly how the emotional impact of content halos onto its adjacent advertising. If that halo exists, you’d better be sure the emotion supports your brand…the rise of quality long-form content may work against, not for, advertising…the producers of movie-like TV content have some research to do.”

 

Conducting that research must start with a panel researchers can trust – real, verified consumers who’ve actually watched the show in question. And such a study needs to reach the audience while the viewing experience is fresh in mind. Advanced, in-app mobile surveys can do the job quickly and efficiently. The difference-maker is a quality, deeply engaged panel of mobile consumers who’ve already provided detailed, trustworthy demographic information that’s crucial to targeting your study to the right viewer/respondents.

 

The MediaPost commentaries point to the need for a detailed understanding of how viewers respond to TV programming. For information on how you can most reliably address that need, just get in touch at solutions@mfour.com.