You’ve seen this script before. Do crazy shit, get attention. Build on it. The outrage is expected from the people who troll your consciousness. They are literally making bets on upsetting you. Entertainment has always been about the emotional battle for hearts and minds. The most powerful media franchises – going back centuries — are those that pull on the heart strings. The narratives that make people feel are the ones that make people talk. But is it good business when it spreads the gospel of scumbags?
It should be no surprise to anyone that Megyn Kelly’s new show would plant a flag directly in the heart of the controversial.
Her name and face gained wide recognition in the wake of the Trump phenomenon. She has never been a Katie Couric type whose warm and loving face is there to greet you with ideas. Her brand is inextricably linked to sass and scandal.
To compete in today’s attention economy she has to shoot an arrow into the heart of the collective wounds of the American psyche. She almost has no choice but to lean all the way in, or go all the way out there– with guests like Putin and the D-bag at Infowars.
The times represent the arts and vice-versa. People now power snack images on Insta 2 times per second, and social video views being peddled are counted as views after a whopping three seconds. Houston, we have an attention issue and Megyn is just trying to compete.
But how did it make people feel?
My educated guess: a mix of hate, disgust, outrage. People have a right to be pissed. The expectation, in fact the bet, is that a good amount will be pissed. That’s her job.
On the flip, there is probably an undercurrent of support — both the knee- jerk kind that just hate liberals, and the more educated type. How can you not feel torn in some way for a woman digging in to make a name for herself by attacking serous issues of the day? Perhaps the high profile destroyers of American decency could teach us something with Megyn and NBC’s warm Sunday spotlight?
So how does that play for advertisers?
There are competing theories here– if someone is full of emotions such as hate, or anger, are they more likely to remember a brand message? Probably. But are they more likely to build a bond with the brand that influences their purchase decision? Not so sure.
When it comes to attention–the show didn’t exactly keep people tuned in above average. For context, the average view rate from iSpot.tv– a measure of ads playing on TV screens from a sample of 10+million TV sets shows Kelly an 85% completion rate. That puts the show on par with Lester Holt and well behind Seth Myers for context.
In plain speak, she may be pulling heart strings but people are changing the channel, fast forwarding, pulling up the guide or turning the TV off with a greater propensity than other NBC slots. And that should be what they care about most.
You have to think advertiser outrage was a calculated risk with this show. Of course someone who denies Sandy Hook is going to get a brand (Chase) to cry foul and bail from putting their ads next to controversial content.
But this isn’t Faux News, “Fair and Balanced” this is NBC-Uni. This is Comcast, the same company that owns the pipe to your data and screen addictions. This is a backbone of the entertainment industrial complex. They create the content that gets the eyeballs. They make plenty of positive, amazing programs. Having a controversial person on Sunday nights is probably a good bet.
With people up in arms, you have to think someone, somewhere is saying, “yes, yes, just as planned”. Even if that same person is going home at night secretly angry that his or her life has come to this kind of low bar heart tugging.