When Republican-minded political organizations wind up running positive commercials for a Democratic candidate, you can only wonder why other businesses like television don't do likewise about their competitors.
In a race to fill the Maine U.S. senate seat of the retiring Olympia Snowe, a Republican-minded PAC called Maine Freedom recently bought advertising time on four Portland TV stations in support of Democratic state senate candidate Cynthia Dill.
Huh? "In this very positive ad,” the group said, “we are providing accurate information that Mainers might be unaware of.” Republican candidate Gov. Angus Angus King said, “I am all about promoting bipartisanship but Republicans buying television campaign ads for Democrats might be taking it a little too far."
Some would say we all need a bit of this --- in all aspects of society. More close to home, perhaps we could use this as a model for other businesses, groups and industries -- like TV networks.
Would it be so bad for ABC on Monday to tout NBC’s "The Voice" at the same time its "Dancing with the Stars" is on the air? Here's a possible ad: "Hey, we love that you are watching our competition dance reality show. But if it’s singing competition you want, take a look at our good friend NBC." In turn, NBC could do the same for ABC.
Maybe Fox, while touting a young-skewing animated Sunday night comedy lineup, might say: "We love that you are watching 'Family Guy,' but you know CBS has a real good drama on later you might want to check out."
Crazy, huh? For one thing, you’d have to figure out how to match -- or broaden -- the right audience demos. But considering that networks are in the midst of another sobering round of season-opening double-digit rating declines, some alarm bells should be ringing -- even louder than in previous years -- that marketing of shows needs to be done better.
We are all told that the best medium for selling television is television. All this alludes to what we here at TV Watch, and others like media agency executive Steve Sternberg, have called for at length: cross-network program promotion as a necessity for the survival of the broadcast networks.
As we all know, cable networks have already got this figured out -- at least the part where competing networks can air program promos on each others’ networks, through local operators or otherwise.
This is true when Discovery Channel has a good new documentary/reality series, or when TNT is starting a new crime procedural drama, or when VH1 or E! want to give us a new celebrity-focused real life series. These network use each other to tout their program brands because, in a sea of growing TV shows, it's the only way to be heard.
Back to Maine: The TV spot from the Maine PAC, called "Feel Good," is interesting because it offers positive aspects of both candidates. It talks about former Gov. Angus King and Dill as “reliable Obama allies on health care and taxes,” that Dill is “known as a bold progressive,” and that King vetoed an effort to raise Maine’s minimum wage. The ad concludes that Dill is “a Democrat you can feel good about."
Networks could do the same -- ABC could say good things about its shows and those on NBC, Fox, CBS or CW.
For years, every network has been fighting tooth and nail to get an inch over their opponents. But that isn't enough. What TV viewers -- like voters -- really want is to "feel good." About all TV.