Convergence

Of this week’s two readings I have chosen to focus my blog on Henry Jenkins’ “Buying into American Idol: How We are being Sold on Reality Television”. While I wouldn’t consider myself an avid fan I have occasionally watched American Idol in the past and though Jenkins’ analysis of the show was quite interesting. He begins by saying that “American Idol was from the start not simply a television program but a transmedia franchise” (Jenkins 164). To support this claim he mentions all facets of media in which the show reached in its first season alone: RCA Records, Number 1 Single on Billboard Hot 100, endless radio play, a bestselling book, nationwide concert tour and a feature film. This was just the beginning. As the series has progressed it has expanded into new ventures including a video game and partnership with iTunes in which the songs from each week are made available for download.
To analyze this media phenomenon Jenkins employ the term “affective economics”. He defines this as “a new configuration of marketing theory, still somewhat on the fringes but gaining ground within the media industry, which seeks to understand the emotional underpinnings of consumer decision-making as a driving force behind viewing and purchasing decisions” (Jenkins 165). He uses this term to examine how viewers’ emotional attachments to a particular television program develop and, more importantly, how they can be used (manipulated) by advertisers to turn a profit. He pays particular attention to what the industry calls “loyalists” or fans who are “more apt to watch series faithfully, more apt to pay attention to advertising, and more apt to buy products” (Jenkins 165). As a result, “loyalists” are of great worth to advertisers. Jenkins explains that a show like American Idol is structured in such a way that it inevitably gains “loyalists” and thus a captive audience for advertisers not only during the program but beyond. Such characteristics include the serialization of the series, the fact that the audience comes to know the contestants, they are involved in the voting and the content provides something for people to talk about during the week between airings. Because , people are so attached to American Idol as a television program advertisers like Coca-Cola, Ford and AT&T can capitalize on the “love marks” and benefit from the loyal fan base. Like I said, I am not a regular viewer of the series but it would be impossible not to notice the overwhelming presence of Coca-Cola.
This article made me think of another FOX program: 24. Like American Idol, 24 is a serialized show that viewers feel compelled to watch every week for fear that they will miss something important. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program concept is that each hour represents one hour in the day of the life of government agent Jack Bauer who is trying to thwart a terrorist threat. The problem develops throughout the course of the season and is not solved until the season finale. Because of its format 24 has a great deal of “loyalist” viewers. Advertisers have taken advantage of this in the form of product placement. While not overtly obvious a point is made to make sure that every time a car is used the Ford logo is shown. The same goes for a Sprint Cell Phone and Apple computer. This is an example of how advertisers are taking advantage of an emotional connection to a television program to innovatively market their product.

Sorry this is so long-there was just so much to talk about in this article!

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