A Lesson in Viral Marketing for CBS

So, CBS, I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but the critics don’t seem too happy about your new fall shows. If we would have to qualify which pilots are gathering “buzz,” I could downright guarantee that none of your shows are on the list. And really, you’re at a disadvantage: Moonlight went under massive retooling, Cane simply lacks any noteworthy attributes, and then you’ve got The Big Bang Theory and Viva Laughlin. These two shows are much-maligned with critics: some have stated their outright dislike with the latter, and I’ll chime in on the prior saying it is basically my most hated pilot of the season.

And yet, it appears that CBS really wants me to like them, because they’ve hired viral internet marketers to spread the word about these two shows. Now, I’d like to point out a few things here, things that perhaps CBS might like to listen to. Because if you’re going to do viral marketing, you need to be either entirely upfront or cunningly subtle about it. And the people you’ve hired? Are neither.

Take for instance Bill’s comment about The Big Bang Theory:

I am hearing some great things about the Fall show called The Big Bang Theory on Mondays on CBS. The critics love it and think it is very,very funny. Everyone who has seen the pilot loves it. It comes from Two and Half Men’s Chuck Lorre. This could be the next hit show.

[Deleted Link to Show’s CBS Website]

or see clips here :

[Deleted Link to YouTube clips]

This is clearly viral marketing and nothing more: no one actually talks like this, as far as I am aware, and there isn’t even an attempt to make things sound natural. It would be one thing if he wasn’t trying to pass himself off as just another guy named Bill, as opposed to a studio hire. Also, he says that critics and “everyone” loves it, without stating his own opinion. Likely because he hasn’t even seen the show, and doesn’t know any better.

Here’s an example of what might have worked in terms of marketing this show:

I watched The Big Bang Theory just last night, actually; the pilot really impressed me. I’m a fan of Two and a Half Men, and it seems like this show would fit right in. I actually think that it might work better in the slot after Two and a Half Men instead of on Mondays at 8:30 like they have it scheduled. Personally, I think Chuck Lorre (Who produces Two and a Half Men) has a hit on his hands.

See, I just wrote that in thirty seconds, and it sounds as if I actually watched and enjoyed the pilot. In reality, I bloody well hated the thing: it was horribly written, horribly acted, and failed to introduce a single fresh element to the sitcom formula (World of Warcraft does not cultural relevance make). But what I wrote there actually makes it seem like I did, and encourages people to give its pilot a shot. This would be smart viral marketing.

Now, let’s take a look at Jake Malone, who posted the exact same message twice (On two different posts) regarding Viva Laughlin:

Must Watch !!!!!!!!!!

Viva Laughlin Preview – New Series From CBS

copy and paste

[Deleted YouTube Link]
VIVA LAUGHLIN, the new mystery drama with music, will have a special preview on Thursday, Oct. 18 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) following CSI before moving to its regular Sunday (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) time period on Oct. 21 to take advantage of a two week window in the schedule without football overruns.

Thursday, Oct. 18
10:00-11:00 PM VIVA LAUGHLIN (Special Preview)

Sunday, Oct. 21
8:00-9:00 PM VIVA LAUGHLIN (Time Period Premiere)

Now, Jake isn’t even trying to get fancy, he’s basically just spouting PR stuff about the show. In fact, he didn’t even read the entire posts: one of them I actually say that Viva Laughlin is extremely likely to get canceled. The YouTube link goes to a video about the series from someone who has posted a lot of different videos for a lot of different series, so it’s clear that these people are out there.

My issue is that Jake doesn’t say “I’m from CBS”; because, really, what else would he be? Some fan (Of a show that hasn’t been released yet) that is form-posting comments on blogs about a series he/she really loves? Do people actually do that while sounding like a robot in the process? The answer to that is no, so why don’t they just admit that they’re from CBS and stop at that? Or perhaps send me an email and ask if I’d be willing to review Viva Laughlin’s pilot or provide some form of coverage? Lurking in the shadows like this is lame, unprofessional and only makes me less likely to enjoy these shows.

I know that the internet was enough to get Jericho renewed, so maybe CBS is trying to use those methods to their own advantage with their new programming. However, the Jericho community developed through mostly natural means as opposed to these formulaic and obvious attempts at manipulating the internet public. They were fans who had watched the show and wanted to keep it alive, and you can’t just magically create that audience by sending people out into the internet with nothing but positive things to say about the shows in question.

So CBS, you have a choice: either fess up to viral marketing and reach out to bloggers through traditional channels, or hire infinitely better viral marketers.

7 Comments

Filed under 2007 Fall Preview, Television, The Big Bang Theory, Viva Laughlin

7 responses to “A Lesson in Viral Marketing for CBS

  1. B14B14

    I agree with Bill. I saw the pilot for The Big Bang Theory, and thought it was very funny. I am definitely planning to watch it this Fall.

  2. B14, while your opinion is far more valid than his, you can’t agree with someone who didn’t state an opinion. He didn’t actually state an opinion, he stated fabricated facts.

    So while someone could agree with you, no one could agree with Bill.

  3. Jake Malone

    Must Watch !!!!!!!!!! I’m Not with CBS

    Viva Laughlin Preview – New Series From CBS

    copy and paste

    VIVA LAUGHLIN, the new mystery drama with music, will have a special preview on Thursday, Oct. 18 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) following CSI before moving to its regular Sunday (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) time period on Oct. 21 to take advantage of a two week window in the schedule without football overruns.

    Thursday, Oct. 18
    10:00-11:00 PM VIVA LAUGHLIN (Special Preview)

    Sunday, Oct. 21
    8:00-9:00 PM VIVA LAUGHLIN (Time Period Premiere)

  4. Ed

    I’m a big, big fan of viral marketing. I agree that if it’s done right you can create a huge following. But just posting a few generic comments to some blogs isn’t really “good” viral marketing.
    http://www.cashway.com

  5. Pingback: …in which McNutt discusses “viral marketing” « McNutt Against the Music

  6. How you considered the possibility these are spambots and not people?

  7. Based on the addition of “I’m not with CBS” to Jake’s post above, I would say that it is an actual person in that particular case, Padraic

    If it is spambots, however, I don’t think it changes the fact that it’s a horribly misguided attempt at marketing their programming. Someone had to have written that message, and therefore someone is failing miserably.

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