The news that Canadian network executives will be speaking on an Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television panel on how to get Canadians watching Canadian TV gave me a flashback to the Canadian Media Production Association’s proposal that caused me to be more enraged than engaged.
I’ll be interested to hear the Academy webcast and from people attending the session — the panelists are smart people who’ve worked in the industry for ages — but first here’s my modest proposal for them (non-Swiftian version). Consider it a checklist for networks before they ponder more transmedia extravaganzas, online games that gamers would ridicule, sharing more effing “success stories,” or putting the responsibility of basic promotion onto the audience.
- Make more shows. Why are Canadian networks full of American shows we can watch on another channel? Most shows — American, Canadian or Ukrainian — fail, so if you’re only making a couple a year, odds are good you’ll only get a hit every several years.
- Invest more in their quality. This means you, broadcasters, not the funding agencies. More writers than executives? Higher production values? More marketing? Consequences to continued failure?
- Schedule regularly and well. The Listener is the rare show that’s managed to find a large, steady audience despite being bounced around from timeslot to timeslot, and with long, unpredictable gaps between seasons. And consider the compatibility of lead-ins and timeslot competition, unlike City and its beleagured Seed.
- Create exciting promos to launch the series. See the striking difference between ABC’s jazzy Motive promo and CTV’s sedate promo for example.
- Promos is plural – don’t play the same one over and over and over and over again or audiences will flee from it over and over and over again.
- If it’s a comedy, make the promo funny. Actually funny. If it’s a drama, make it dramatic. This applies to the shows too, by the way.
- Put the promos online and make them embeddable so other websites can help do your marketing for you. Show promotion shouldn’t be treated like a state secret.
- Create episode-specific promos
- See above – exciting, embeddable.
- Have episode-specific photos available to media and fans. How many times do we have to use the same group cast shot, with all of them standing and staring at the camera?
- Populate the show’s website well up front, and keep it updated.
- At a minimum, I should be able to easily tell when the next episode will air and what’s exciting about it.
- Use your promos, make all other content you do embeddable or copy and paste-able (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to grab an epsiode description only to have it be Flash or part of an image and therefore not grabbable).
- Make sure the show’s IMDb page and Wikipedia page are updated.
- Social media the hell out of your show… but not in a spammy or smarmy marketing way.
- Teach everyone involved with the show the mores of the social media channels they’re using.
- Get your cast and key creatives (showrunner, director, whoever) to not just live-tweet shows but respond to fans – set up a search for the name of the show and the star and respond to comments and questions.
- Find out where your audience is and go there. Think beyond your own official channels. Tumblr? Pinterest? A Facebook page other than the official one? Forums? Fansites?
- Research before getting interactive. See what your fans do online, or fans of similar shows … especially before you try to make them do something else. Are they making videos, or fan art, or discussing issues? Tap into that. Go where they are, and support them in doing what they do. Tap into a competitive spirit or a desire for recognition.
- Cut the BS. Don’t get ridiculous parsing the ratings, or call everything a hit.
- Respond quickly to journalists on deadlines. Treat credible bloggers like online journalists. Offer actual stars for interviews.
- The usual marketing suspects: ads, billboards, bus ads, banner ads on the network’s family of sites and other targeted websites, etc.
- Get creative, think outside the box, be the first to do something new and shiny, and I’ll cheer you on. But first make sure you’ve got the basics covered. Few Canadian shows do.
I’m sure I’m missing some basics – any others you can add?