Spoiler Alert Overload Can Cause TV Marketers Headaches


Spoiler alerts are now ongoing in entertainment coverage, which can be good and bad news for TV marketers.

Big storylines of some upcoming story arcs -- like how Mike Defino in "Desperate Housewives" was killed off – could be of concern. But don't blame too many people. Sometimes, you can point fingers at real-life legal processes -- like the $6 million lawsuit filed by Nicollette Sheridan against ABC and Marc Cherry. That's where the news came out. (And now all this is for naught, given the judge on the case has declared a mistrial).

Stuff like this can be a dual-edged thing. We can only imagine on that day any ABC marketing executive would have groused, "Oh no! Back to the drawing board!” Still, no worries -- there is more to come. With this season being the last for "Wives," there’ll be other storylines that could be teases.



And if you aren’t interested in “Wives,” there is Fox’s “House,” also in its last season, to consider.

Performers, writers and directors know it's a pretty big sin to reveal key storyline stuff before it happens in a TV series, movie or whatever. But happy prognosticators always like to guess. Even if one knows in theory what happens, it doesn’t necessarily kill off the suspense. There is always the "how" to consider.

In 1999, Chris Pula, then head of theatrical marketing for Walt Disney Co., said he had an epiphany over a dramatic-fantasy theatrical movie. For the TV commercial and trailer, he wanted to let one character -- a boy -- reveal a key part of the story by saying, "I see dead people."

Pula said Disney and production executives were resistant about promoting “The Sixth Sense” that way, feeling it gave away too much of the movie. But Pula insisted. He said it would push moviegoers’ interest and get them asking questions such as “What does this boy mean?” “And how?”

These days, TV show promos talk about an "Episode You Can't Miss!," "The Most Dramatic Episode Yet!,” or “Just Want To See What Happens To [fill in the blank]!"  But we crave more. If the writing and stories of a series are really good, it will always have other levels to explore – which will make the marketing message more compelling.

With all the ways people interact digitally with each other, it is surprising that more “insider” TV scoops aren't revealed –-especially when it comes to key, mostly end-of-the-year, episodes.

No matter. In this DVR-enabled, time-shifted world, one thing is for sure: You are always on constant spoiler alert.


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