Sponsorhip and mediocrity

Why are TV shows, network TV shows in particular, so mediocre? I think I’ve come across the answer in Vance Packards 1957 book The Hidden Persuaders. It’s by design.

In 1955 I Love Lucy was the top-rated comedy show and Philip Morris was the money behind it. Philip Morris found their sales drop 17 percent and some believed a popular show doesn’t sell products.

“…Is an advertiser better off with a less than top-rated show in order to get commercials across?” That observation was made in early 1955. [..] Were some of the resolutely mediocre shows on television that way by design, to increase the impact of the commercials?

Another TV show that was put together to sell Mogen David wine wasn’t getting the job done.

[The show] was, admittedly, delighting the audience with its chilling, exciting who-dun-it mysteries. The show enjoyed a high rating but it wasn’t selling wine.

The problem they decided was that audiences were too tense and that in their “emotional frenzy” they missed the wine message. It was replaced with a panel show. Wine sales increased 1000%.

Shows like The Wire on HBO obviously don’t have the same problem.

Last modified on 2008-01-14