You can still reach the people who watch popular television shows. Just don’t use television to do it.
Many people are saying that we are in another Golden Age of Television. I can’t argue. It’s difficult to remember when there has been as much good, and varied, episodic programming available at any given time.
I’m even watching. I’ve just finished the most recent seasons of two great shows and right now I’m neck deep in two others. Just finished season 4 of Showtime’s Homeland and season 3 of Netflix’s House of Cards. I’m currently in the middle of AMC’s first season of Better Call Saul and HBO’s amazing six-part documentary, The Jinx. The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.
I know. There’s nothing terribly notable about any of that. They’re all very popular shows, watched by many. But for me, the interesting thing is how I’m watching them. I saw downloads of Homeland on my laptop, mostly on airplanes. House of Cards came via Netflix and my Roku. I’m catching up with Better Call Saul using my cable company’s On Demand service after AMC has actually broadcast the episodes. And I’m seeing The Jinx on HBO GO, HBO’s anytime streaming service.
So, the final count is one via laptop, two using Roku and one from On Demand. Four series, and I haven’t watched a single episode of any of them on “traditional television” as we know it. And I’m 60 years old. Not exactly a “digital early adopter.”
Does that mean that − outside of live sports, news and special events − there’s no way for a marketer to reach someone like me using popular episodic television programming? Well, yes and no. Or maybe the answer is maybe. Traditional TV ads certainly won’t work. Netflix, Showtime and HBO don’t even offer them, and the ads on my On Demand replays of Better Call Saul get the “fast-forward” treatment every time (sorry Capital One and CarMax).
But I believe there are other routes to a television viewer’s mind. Because in today’s world of binge-watching, digital-streaming, on-demand television, many viewers don’t stop at passively watching the episodes. They like to read about them, talk about them and argue about them. Online. With the thousands of others who share their passion for the latest dastardly deeds of Francis and Claire Underwood, the infuriating loose-cannon behavior of CIA Station Chief Carrie Mathieson, or the true meaning of Rust Cole’s latest monologue (I’m wide open to any help I can get on that one).
But that’s just the beginning. Twitter is always filled with discussions after episodes of popular shows have aired. And I can’t even imagine how many subreddit threads are devoted to Game of Thrones. In fact, if all of the sites, discussion boards, threads and digital space devoted just to Game of Thrones were amalgamated in one place, it would constitute a “Westeros Internet” unto itself.
There are reviews, discussions, updates and news about television all over the Web. I know one of the first things I want to do after an episode of Better Call Saul or Homeland is go to The AV Club for the latest review and discussion of said episode. So if a marketer wants to find me and other Homeland fans, that’s where we’ll be – again and again. And that’s where you can market to us, if you do it right.
Which means not just throwing mindless banner ads or annoying pre-rolls at us. Understand why we’re there and tap into it. Use our interest in and devotion to Sons of Anarchy or Mad Men or True Detective or whatever else it is we’re there to talk about and engage us. Odds are good we’ll pay attention.
The point is, today’s popular episodic television constitutes a culturewide shared experience as much as it ever has. But instead of gathering around the water cooler to talk about last night’s installment of Twin Peaks or Hill Street Blues, we’re sitting at our keyboards or grabbing our smartphones to discuss the hilarious white linen “Matlock” suit Jimmy McGill (aka Saul Goodman) wore at the assisted living facility last Monday night.
Shared experience can also be shared passion. Which can be an open door for marketers who understand who’s watching what. And why.