I want to start by saying that from all that I hear, MTV’s new series "Skins" sounds like another deplorable step down for our culture and yet another blow against civility.
That said, MTV is simply doing what MTV does best –and their viewers want their MTV. Or said another way, MTV is simply being consistent with their brand, which they have built up over the years with similar behavior. This brand is more than a name; it’s what the name means to the brand’s target audience.
From the beginning, it was obvious that "Skins," a dramatized take on teenage life that has been accused of possibly violating child pornography laws, was a show that would offend, alienate adults and make MTV look like a renegade.
That might be death for other networks (brands) but what is MTV but a network that built its reputation on offending, alienating adults and looking like a rebel?
What I call MTV’s "Target Market," the same demographic depicted in the show, expects this behavior – in fact, to the extent that MTV doesn’t offend and look like a cultural extremist, its brand loses credibility in its audience’s eyes. Think Elvis Presley shaking his hips a little too much on "The Ed Sullivan" show. Think The Doors going even farther just a decade later.
MTV seems to understand this important fact about their brand. In an interesting development, the network declared this week that they are not canceling the show. Instead, they are putting their full force behind promoting the show even more, said a MTV insider as reported by FOX411.
Again, from what I’ve heard this show might indeed be a sad testament to how low we have sunk as a society, but in strict brand terms, MTV has done exactly what it needed to do and now they’re taking a stand.
“The show is the opposite of pornography," “Skins” creator Bryan Elsley said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "It isn't us who are being provocative. I think that some of the people who object to the show are being provocative in the use of that word."
You simply don’t get a reputation for going too far unless, occasionally, you go too far. The same rules that apply to an NBC just don’t apply to an MTV.
There’s another element at work here as well: adpublitizing. Or shall we say, showpublitizing or networkpublitzing (now that’s a mouthful). Today, in a fractured media landscape, one way to supplement advertising dollars and gain product/service visibility is by creating a controversy that the media will cover. Usually, this controversy surrounds an advertisement that gets pulled by jittery networks.
MTV has lost sponsors (Subway, Schick Taco Bell, Wrigley, Foot Locker, L’Oreal have all dropped out). Plus, MTV stands to lose $2 million in revenues from this advertiser exodus. However, the publicity generated from this show might far exceed the cost of losing these advertisers if MTV holds its ground.
It’s called "adpublitizing." Or shall we say, showpublitizing or networkpublitzing (now that’s a mouthful). Today, in a fractured media landscape, one way to supplement advertising dollars and gain product/service visibility is by creating a controversy that the media will cover. Usually, this controversy surrounds an advertisement that gets pulled by jittery networks but here it is the actual show.
In addition, let’s not forget that if this uproar is contained and doesn’t lead to wholesale legal action and other problems, MTV will find other sponsors more in line with the Target Market for this show –and, don’t be surprised, to see the old sponsors come trotting back if the show succeeds and the outrage dies down and a new older demographic is found.
But in this case, MTV has used a show with many objectionable qualities to get an ongoing cycle of press at the series launch of the kind that promoters can usually only dream. In the process, they’ve cemented their brand image with their audience. This is basically a repeat of what they did and still do with "Jersey Shore" where both onscreen and off-screen scandals generate ongoing attention.
Folks, let the adult world (justifiably) lament this next chapter in the history of our teens, but no one can expect MTV to behave any differently.
Fact is, if history is any guide, today’s scandalous series is tomorrow’s “groundbreaking,” “risk-taking” television. Smothers Brothers?
The only thing that will derail "Skins' is if the Target Market it’s been made for don’t like it and don’t watch it –then that’s fatal.
And, remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.
John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and president of the Marketing Department of America who markets his own services as The Marketing Doctor. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion and the author of the book "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."