Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lessons in Sponsor Engagement from Wondering what's Up with Chuck

If Twitter moms can get a Motrin ad pulled, can Facebook friends save Chuck?

Will the roar of the social media crowd be able to influence programming? We're always hearing from programming execs that they just "give the people what they want." (I'm not sure if that was entirely accurate when striking writers helped spark the plethora of reality shows.)

Compare the story about the social media pressure mounting to save NBC's "Chuck" in the Observer, with the LA Times blog talking about NBC's new fall season. The blog quotes Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, talking about the network's effort to speak to advertisers on a more 1:1 basis, than at the usual party-riffic dog-and-pony upfronts: “We’re not interested in just screaming out to 5,000 people and then walking off to some VIP corridor. We’re here to talk to you and speak to you and connect with our client base and allow them to ask questions in small settings.”

That's GREAT to get the feedback of the people footing a lot of the bill. Though it sounds a little like "IF I were to ask you to marry me, what would you say?"...instead of being confident in your value and just jumping in and proposing. After all, they're buying your brand, your track record...oh, wait, NBC was fourth in line this year. What about the opinion of the people passionate about a program, though? Well, programmers do what programmers have to do, and they have tough choices to make, based on eyeballs, network brand decisions, trends, etc.

But the thing that really gets me thinking is that the social media crowds were actually trying to drive more REVENUE to Subway, one of the show sponsors, as an additional incentive to keep Chuck on the air. This to me is the embodiment of how the consumer is in control now. (Well, maybe except when programmers are involved.) But THIS is the opportunity to court the consumer AND offer a deeper opportunity for advertiser engagement with the viewer on multiple platforms. How has Subway leveraged that viewer passion? What did Subway say to Silverman in those 1:1 discussions? Did they "friend" HIM?

It's really time for media executives -- especially those in ad sales -- to apply best social media practices. This is a chance to do the old "consultancy sell" and do more than push "spots and dots" in a numbers guy of ad sales. Instead:
  • Listen to what people controlling the purse strings and the remotes are saying
  • Learn more about what they want and what they like about your programs and about your advertisers
  • Share that information with your sponsors and prospective sponsors in order to educate them
  • Find ways to facilitate a dialogue between your sponsors and your program's biggest fans. (Shameless plug: Did I mention I am an excellent promotion/ad sales marketer with social media chops?)
Give ALL the people what they want. Advertisers and Twitterers are people too.

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