Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Perfect Storm - Part 5

The Third Media Age started in 1981 with the arrival of MTV. This Cable Age and MTV would clearly define the Third Media Age. MTV became the first of many networks who would embrace the new concept of narrowcasting. In the past, broadcast networks such as ABC and NBC aimed to capture a broad-based audience. MTV on the other hand was interested in only ages 12 to 24. Their primary focus was the youth culture.

Robert Pittman, Founder and Chairman of MTV, stated the following concerning MTV’s philosophy, “We are dealing with a culture of TV babies. They can watch, do their home work, and listen to music all at the same time. And at MTV we don’t shoot for 14 year olds, we own them. And the strongest appeal you can make is emotionally. If you can get their emotions going, they forget their logic. Then you’ve got them. They will accept almost anything over the screen. The only people that understand the new way to use that television set are the people who grew up with it.”

Pittman summed up the entire Third Media Age in the above statement. First, there was a total commitment to reaching the youth culture. And second, there was an understanding and knowledge of the use of the television medium to captivate and hold audiences. Only those who grew up with television could fully understand how to use it effectively to reach audiences during the early days of cable television. MTV realized the power and the promise that television offered. If you understood how to use television effectively, you could control what the audience thought was important. And, by doing so, you could control their buying decisions.

Through very sophisticated marketing concepts, MTV learned how to eliminate the space that existed between entertainment, advertising, programming, branding, news, and marketing. These became indistinguishable from each other. MTV helped to establish the idea that marketing was more important than the program you were producing. Hollywood embraced this concept thoroughly at the beginning of the third media age. The marketing of a film became more important than the film itself. Thanks to MTV, every form of media soon realized that the best way to maximize market share and to increase profit margin was to focus attention and resources on the marketing and selling of what a show or film represented rather than to concentrate on the programming itself or quality of the programming.

They learned the power of images and mythology as well as belief systems. Picture images can evoke deep emotions. They understood how to call up these deep emotions and memories that are buried deep inside of us. Today’s image makers are using images to take on “new meanings” and have created new myths that are shrouded, often deliberately, by those deeper memories. They understood how to manipulate viewers to be good consumers. Their methods were psychologically driven and often very subtle. It’s then that the viewer ends up buying the “idea” being sold by the image makers.


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