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Arment Dietrich

Fear + Marketing = Higher Ratings

By: Arment Dietrich | October 30, 2007 | 
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On Tuesday, October 16th, Steven Colbert of “The Colbert Report” made a fantastic revelation regarding CNN’s marketing strategy for their newest series, “Planet in Peril”.  He states:

“CNN is so committed to raising awareness of the depletion of our natural resources; they put a 6 foot square poster in each of the 2.3 Million copies of today’s USA Today. That is 13.8 Million square feet of planetary peril. Now the paper is recycled. But hopefully, that glossy ink isn’t going to biodegrade anytime soon, so awareness of this threat is going to be around for centuries! Brilliant marketing CNN! You have strategically ensured that the planet will still be in peril by the time your special airs next week!” Click here to see the clip.

Colbert points out a well hidden, two-faced aspect of the media here that is often overlooked by the public.  The most effective way to explain this is to imagine the old angel and demon cliché.  On one shoulder is an angel that dictates nothing but integrity. Shows like “Planet in Peril” are created as an attempt to resolve Earth’s problems through public awareness. It is this side of the media that wants to change the world.  But no angel is without a demon, and it seems that the demon on big media’s left shoulder is who really runs the show. Unfortunately he’s in it for the money. On this side of the spectrum, specials like “Planet in Peril” are created solely for big profit. Media uses a fear + marketing equation to spike ratings, and the “Planet in Peril” aspect of their campaign is used mainly as a publicity stunt. If CNN thought otherwise, 2.3 million glossy advertisements would have never been printed and sent out within the folds of USA Today. Instead, their intense focus on saving the planet would have directed their advertising efforts elsewhere, thus saving our recycled resources for something far more useful than a glossy poster.

So why create a segment related to saving the earth and then contradict its purpose by wasting resources that should be used for something far more important? Because a disintegrating earth puts fear into our hearts, and fear is what sells in the media. How better to strike fear into the eyes of potential viewers than to send 2.3 million advertisements out to USA Today readers about the earth’s slow deterioration? Nothing is more effective.

This is not an aspect of the media the public is apt to notice, and we are far too lost in the glossiness of CNN’s advertisements to care.  All we know is that the planet is in peril, and CNN is our main resource in helping to save it. So that being said, what channel is CNN on again?

This is spin in its most ugly regard.  – Chris Thonis

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