Archive by Author

MTV’s Reverb

9 Dec

MY final paper is on advertising in MTV—however, 1980’s pre-reality series MTV. What I wish I could consider despite narrowness of scope is MTV in its entirety. In researching, I’ve found a few interesting themes and elements of the relationship between consumer and network in terms of modern MTV, including MTV’s new advertising product, Reverb. These coincidentally coincide with topics brought up in the last few classes before presentations.

Reverb is a tool that allows potential advertisers to simultaneously advertise on both MTV’s website and airwaves; it debuted during the 2012 VMAs. It is meant to target the multi-tasker—Wall Street Journal article I looked at (ambiguously) claimed 76 million social media comments were made about TV shows in July 2012, up from 8.8 million in July 2011. This article also said 84% of smart-phone users used their device while watching TV in the last 30-day period. So, when a commercial pops up on the network for a company, ads for that company will simultaneously appear on MTV’s website. Companies like Pepsi, Verizon, and Kraft have already bought into this advertising tool.

This brings me to the question of the future of television, and the intended audience of MTV. MTV assumes most of their audience active in both social media and using mobile devices; this makes sense as the MTV audience is a young audience (the “Millennial” audience). However, the existence of Reverb is clear evidence for the convergence of social media and internet-use and television.

Earlier in November, there was apparently conference, to address “the future of television.” What was made evident was the awareness of TV executives to “develop content to ‘live on all [digital] platforms.’” The conclusions were basically the same ones examined in class last week—specific advertising to niche markets rather than the largest demographic (like point-casting), the importance of YouTube as a television medium, etc.

An interview with Kraft VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement, Bonin Bough, links up MTV with the Millennial customer and use of Reverb:

Adweek: How did this MTV deal come about?
As we looked across the partnership landscape, clearly MTV is one of those partners that provide a unique view into the Millennial consumer. They also provide a unique view into a multi-channel constant approach. That is one of the cornerstones of the partnership, which is “OK, how do we look at the Millennial consumer in a completely different way?” How do we continue to use and leverage the research around their behaviors? And then how do we develop multi-channel content engagement experiences?

The future of television is partly the ability to create new approaches in advertising, and the technology available to do so. Most recently this has hinged on the multi-media approach targeted towards internet and mobile device using Millenials. Advertising both helps to develop the future of television, while at the same time adapting to the changing audience and medium.

Conspicuous Consumption/Production

3 Dec

According to Thorstein Veblen, conspicuous consumption is the consumption of luxury or high-end goods in order to show wealth, and serves to describe causality between economic power and social status.  The concept of conspicuous consumption is obviously applicable to the television world; the purchase of high end technology (HDTV, Blu-Ray, satellite cable) not only displays wealth but the ability to enjoy such technologies through leisure time. Spigel and Dawson claim that the conspicuous consumption perhaps turns into conspicuous production; media devices allow work and leisure to be constantly intertwined. Now, the wealthy, high status individual is the one that is always working on the expensive devices that facilitate this. The authors use this example to promote the importance of mobile devices and multi-tasking in the realm of television; “today’s mobile devices are aimed at the new lifestyle ideal of multi-tasking across a series of labour and leisure pursuits” (283). Multi-tasking is an integral part of the television-watching experience today.

A 2010 survey by Deloitte elaborates on the ability to multitask while watching TV: 42% of Americans surf the internet, 29% talk on phones, and 26% text or chat online. These are again, 2010 figure, so my best guess is that in these two years the figures have likely increased. Another survey by Yahoo mobile and Razorfish revealed that: “[1] 38% of respondents say browsing the web enhances their TV viewing experience, while another 38% say it makes them more distracted. [2] 70% of respondents multitask at least once a week; 49% do so daily. [3] 15% are on their phones for programs’ entire durations. [4] The top 5 programming genres attracting multitaskers are reality, news, comedy, sports and food. [5] 94% of reported multitaskers engage in some form of mobile communication while watching TV, such as exchanging email, sending IMs, texting, talking or social networking. [6] 60% browse the mobile web, of which 44% search for unrelated content and 38% search for related content. [7] Mobile traffic spikes during halftime shows of sporting events; Yahoo Sports saw a 305% increase during the last Super Bowl halftime show.”

                If I understand Spigel and Dawson’s logic correctly, the mobility of TV and ease of multi-tasking is made possible by the mobile devices that are a reflection on the busy, work-heavy lifestyle of the viewer, which in turn will show a higher social class. Spigel and Dawson kind of stop here; I’m not sure that the work-heavy lifestyles of mobile device users is translated into the television experience. Most examples of multitasking are for social purposes or further entertainment purposes, such as looking up elements of the show while watching it, rather than being able to switch between Buffy and stock reports like the authors suggest. If anything, multi-tasking is more a reflection on conspicuous consumption, the allowance of free time and the multitude of devices one has to multitask on. Perhaps I am drawing from the mindset of a student rather than a professional, but television is still very much mostly a leisurely and social activity, rather than one rooted in simultaneous labor. 

That Orange Couch

18 Nov

[Vincent] Peranio: The orange couch came from a dumpster, the first day we were scouting up in Marble Hill. It was perfect. We weren’t going to start for another month, so I had them put it in one of the vacant houses to hold. And we used it. It ended up being a central part of the pilot.

The pilot was over and everything was dispersed. And then a month later [The Wire] got picked up. We certainly didn’t expect it to get picked up that fast. So I was talking with my decorator and said, “Well, it’s a good thing we still have that couch.” And he went mute. I said, “Oh no, you didn’t throw that couch away, did you?” It’s like a centerpiece for the show. He said, “Yeah, we did.”

We had to make that couch. Make the frame, send away to Scalamandre in London for the fabric because they were the only place that had crushed orange velvet. It was not popular at the time we were shooting the show. Then we had to age it, split it, pull the stuffing out. It ended up being a $5,000 couch. But we made it as close as possible to the other couch. I don’t think anybody knew. We didn’t even tell the producers.

Episode 1.12 “Cleaning Up” ends with a shot of an empty couch in the deserted low rises, just following the arrest of drug kingpin Avon Barksdale, and more relevantly, the grisly murder of Pit drug dealer Wallace. Throughout the entire first season, the couch represents a non-changing part of the low-rises’ landscape; it is a place where D’Angelo and the Pit boys (Wallace, Poot, and Bodie) congregate for social and business purposes.

A point was brought up in Thursday’s class, regarding Patrick Jagoda’s “Wired:” “stuff” enables connections. Although a complex argument, it draws off the extensive networks and connections between institutions and people made apparent throughout the series; this extensive web is essentially the entire focus and meaning of The Wire. These connections allow the viewer to ascertain a picture of the portrayed Baltimore societies, and by extension classes within the societies. The orange couch is part of the “stuff” enabling connections; the couch serves as a grounding point of the Pit, and allows the Pit crew to make connections to outside entities, such as higher up in the Barksdale operation (earlier in 1.12 “Cleaning Up” when Stringer comes to discuss the fate of Wallace) and the police (episode 1.2 “The Detail” when McNulty and Bunk visit D’Angelo regarding the Gant murder). The couch facilitates interactions between different groups within the series, and elaborates on their relationships. As an informal base for operations especially with dealers that should be in school, the couch makes apparent the low rises depressed socioeconomic status; it also makes apparent the tense relationship with the police.

Beyond what was mentioned in class, the orange couch is significant because it represents a stable component to the Pit boys’ lives, as serving as the center of their universe. However, it also shows change in their lives. At the end of 1.12 the empty couch is shown to elucidate the loss of Wallace as well as the old way of life; Poot and Bodie outgrow the Pit in killing Wallace, and become even more connected to the Barksdale organization. D’Angelo is taken into custody, and begins to question his own role in the business.

The orange couch is a clever component to the series on the part of the writers and set designers. It creates a constant setting for conversation and business to take place, especially with the backdrop being the low-rises themselves. Take for example the scene in which D’Angelo teaches the boys that the invention of the McNugget is the work of a lowly worker, all for the corporate chain. This is an obvious metaphor for the business, and creates an almost touching moment where D’Angelo tries to teach them about reality. The couch creates a natural setting for this conversation, and ties back into the fact that it is a place where connections happen and the boys learn the business. Even the color is significant, as it visually confirms that this is the most striking and important aspect of the Pit boys’ lives, and separates them from the rest of the low-rises.

Orange Couch (end of 1.12)

McNuggets (also a topic I had considered writing about: product placement)

The Election as American Television (From Broadcast Networks to the Internet)

12 Nov


Just around 67 million viewers tuned into the election, just short of the 2008 figure. Most major stations featured coverage (NBC, CNN, PBS, Fox News, MSNBC, WGN, CBS, etc…) While there is much to be said about the programming, especially in its undeniable relationship to the facilitation of politics, certain aspects of class were present in my thoughts while watching varied coverage last Tuesday:

Style – NBC was the clear winner throughout the night, both in ratings and critiques of most aesthetically pleasing presentation. Drawing off Caldwell’s “Excessive Style,” NBC and others rooted much of their programming with the notion that “videographic television since the 1980’s has been marked by acute hyperactivity and an obsession with effects” (Caldwell 12-13). From the touch screen televisions with the ability to recall the past four elections, and move the states around to play with the votes left to the finish, down to the specific font and color scheme. Almost all stations with coverage featured these effects, but NBC offered the sleekest and most cohesive presentation, as evidenced by the highest viewership.

Liveness – It’s rumored that Diane Sawyer was drunk throughout ABC’s coverage of the election, bringing the unscripted nature of the entire ordeal into light. The live coverage of the election is all the more apparent in Sawyer’s behavior on air; the air of nowness is abundant because this is something unplanned and uncalled for. Sawyer was not scripted to appear the way she did, it was her present translated to the audience’s present.

However, Caldwell abashes the “liveness” myth by arguing that “live” events are “comprehensively planned, scripted, and rehearsed; are in fact highly regulated and rigidly  controlled performances, fabricated to fit a restricted block of viewing time” (Caldwell 31). This is both accurate and less accurate in the context of the election; Caldwell originally discusses planned liveness in the context of Monday Night Football, which holds a routine easy to translate to “live” TV. Less so with the election—there was no specific knowledge of when states’ electoral votes would be called, or the president would be declared, or eventually when both Obama and Romney gave their respective speeches. This resulted in a fair amount of awkward airtime, such as images of empty stages and commentator assurance that they had no idea when anything would happen. Despite the preparedness network coverage came into the night with (see “style”) and a basic knowledge of how the night would likely progress (given past election coverage, awareness of key swing states, etc), the ambiguity of when key moments in the election would occur is perhaps what contributes to this idea of “liveness–” the programming is dependent on factors uncontrollable.

Social Setting – The election created both a literal social setting, as well as an implied one. The party at Reynolds Club is one small example of the structures established by the social nature of the election; people gathered across the nation to communally watch the television coverage, whether consciously (as parties) or unconsciously (in bars, as a family etc). What the election also did was to create an extremely influential water-cooler topic. While this may or may not be specific to programming instead of the events, this type of conversation and social interaction was certainly facilitated by television.

Election Binge ­– Mainly in the context of Tuesday’s theme, watching full coverage of the election was similar to television binge. Is binging on news coverage the same as binging on traditional television shows? The election certainly falls into what is “acceptable” to binge on—those who spent ages following the election and then many hours watching it are partaking in an American tradition, not addicts. I’m not sure about others, but I was not able to personally dedicate the amount of time required to fully watch coverage (from onset to both speeches having been given). Perhaps it’s a stretch to say that election coverage is binging, but would anybody else say they had similar thoughts? What constitutes binging—does it have to be 20+ hours and feature a narrative structure to count?

Related Videos:

NBC calls Obama as the winner

Diane Sawyer calls Minnesota

Titles in TV

4 Nov

One particular change made in the adaptation of David Simon’s The Corner, an HBO miniseries, from The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood, was that of the title. Omitting the latter, more descriptive portion, The Corner is shorter, simpler, and easier to remember. So, what’s in a name?

A television series’ title is almost always the first impression a potential viewer will have of the show; oftentimes the title will be the most amount of information the potential viewer will have about the show (due to TV guides, or word of mouth). Therefore, it is extremely important to assign meaning to that short, but well organized word or phrase. A sizeable proportion of pilots up for consideration by major networks are still untitled; oftentimes focus groups and consultants are brought in to aid writers and creative executives in choosing the right name.

The Hollywood Reporter describes nine “dos and don’ts” in assigning a name to a show; I listed them below, as it was a relatively inclusive list of the highlights.

(1)    DON’T be too witty

Such as Better Off Ted

(2)    DON’T be too generic

Such as Housewives instead of Desperate Housewives

(3)    DON’T be too long

Such as The New Adventures of Old Christine, shortened to just Old Christine

(4)    DON’T be lazy

Such as That 80’s Show as a follow up of That 70’s Show

(5)    DON’T be too vague

Such as Traffic Light, The River, or Up All Night – What are these about?

(6)    DO keep it simple

Such as, Friends, Seinfeld, Cheers, or ER

(7)    DO be specific

Such as, Desperate Housewives or Modern Family

(8)    DO be timely

Such as, The Good Wife airing in light of political scandals

(9)    DO use humor

Such as, Grey’s Anatomy or Curb Your Enthusiasm

It is difficult to claim that a title has a huge help in the overall success of the show; usually it is the quality of the show itself that carries it to good ratings. What a name does is bring in the initial viewers, similar to the book cover effect. Friends is hailed as being an excellent name; it is simple, descriptive, and inviting. However, it might be safe to assume that the show could have found success under its original name, These Friends of Mine. A terrible name, however, usually has much more influence in the failure of a show. For example, Dweebs, a canceled 1995 show, was told that nobody over the age of 16 would watch it.

Would The Corner be any different if it had been listed as The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood? Or, a totally new name more descriptive than the result but shorter than the original? As somebody that has already seen the series, I feel as though The Corner is a wonderful name; it is concise and encompasses the entire meaning and content of the show. The characters’ entire lives revolve around the corner. The name is short and sparks curiosity. However, as somebody who had absolutely no prior knowledge of the show, The Corner does not necessarily specify much; I remember envisioning a much more pleasant type of corner going off the title on the course syllabus alone.

The decision to shorten the show’s name to The Corner was certainly an easy decision, but illuminates the power that a name has in determining the fate of a show. However, despite the nine do’s/don’t’s spelled out, among other considerations, I’m not sure if there is a specific  rhyme or reason to the naming of shows (otherwise it would be much easier to “get right”).


(1) Hollywood Reporter: “The Art of Picking TV Titles: 9 Do’s and Don’ts”

(2) The Chicago Tribune: “Right Title Can Make or Break a TV Program”