Vox Pop: Can social save shit TV?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Last weekend, Eurovision Song Contest absolutely smashed social media, with a record breaking 7 million tweets about the performances, the outfits, the politics and the sheer outrageousness of it all. The Drum Network asks it's members; can social save shit TV?

Kara Godfrey, social media executive, Rooster PR

With this year’s Eurovision boasting 7 million tweets over the course of the show, it’s interesting that UK viewing figures hit a five year high also at 7 million. Does this mean it was social media that helped push viewer figures back up? I think it was more to do with better weather (meaning more Eurovision BBQs) and the half time show by the (if not slightly out of place) Justin Timberlake.

Shows such as X Factor still dominate on social media by trending on Twitter during the live shows, but it hasn’t stopped viewing figures falling and frantic changes being made to save them. Prime example; despite social media’s love for Marvel series Agent Carter, it didn’t stop their figures dropping dramatically which led to its cancellation. So no matter what hashtag or Snapchat filter you use, if you aren’t getting the views, there’s no saving you.

Justin Thorne, head of strategy and performance marketing, Lab

No it can’t. Eurovision is undoubtedly shit TV, but one that has already been embraced as a guilty pleasure. Social can turn shit TV into a shit conversation between millions of consumers in real time - and that is its real power. But brands beware, like a lot of social conversations, it is consumers who hold the power.

David Walby, biddable account director, Navigate Digital

Social platforms are undoubtedly new metrics for success within broadcast television, and social media has made forging relationships with TV shows easier than ever; viewers can connect with stars and other fans when live-tweeting a show, building communities that endure through constant connection. This community can shape our engagement with the show for the better, especially in the case of genuinely terrible television. Engrossing television doesn’t actually allow for MUCH multi-screening during the show, because, well, you’re engrossed, you’re actively watching. For a shit-show like Eurovision, the stuff happening on the box is irrelevant & entirely miss-able, you’re passively watching. You know what’s more entertaining? The world-wide wit of your global fellow viewers. Arguably, TV, and especially shit TV, might be able to save shit social. Tell me @seriouswalnut’s reaction to Poland’s entrant isn’t Twitter gold.

Rich Henderson, senior digital account manager, JJ Marketing

Voting shows such as Eurovision or X Factor aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but thanks to the power of social, their news and results reach far wider than a TV audience. Beyond the morning office chat, we now find out about TV shows through trending hashtags and memes. Inclusivity is a powerful tool, no one likes missing out, and that’s why programmes such as Gogglebox have been so successful. This has led to brands trying to join the conversation. Cadbury bought the ‘#Eurovision’ promoted trend in an attempt to tap into the 10m-strong audience, which doubles with Twitter activity. The point is that the lines between social and TV are blurring and it is that that is saving TV, ‘shit’ or otherwise.

Johanna Mossling, account manager, The Future Factory

I love Eurovision. Always have, always will. In Sweden we make a big deal out of finding a worthy candidate (might be due to the absence of X Factor), with heats taking place in front of the largest television audience of the year. People unite over the ridiculousness of the concept and indulge in the fact that for a couple of weeks per year, you don’t have to pretend euro disco and sequins isn’t for you. The whole point of shit TV is that it is unapologetic, unpredictable and at the same time so relatable, which makes for brilliant social interactions. And it’s for everyone. On Saturday, J.K Rowling tweeted alarmed by her husband’s poor choice of favourite; politicians took to social to congratulate Ukraine while Russian journalists blamed their defeat on propaganda. Eurovision saw a revival through social media this year because when something is as hilariously bad, it deserves to be shared.

Jonathan Staines, planning director, BWP Group

Quality and popularity rarely coincide and that’s why shit TV keeps getting made and always will. Can social ‘save’ shit TV? Who says it needs saving? And anyway, what exactly is ‘shit’ TV or music? Are ABBA shit? What about Coldplay? Context is everything. There’s no ‘right music’ or ‘wrong music’ – there is only what works in a specific context. The same is true for TV. Then there’s the ‘so bad, it’s good’ factor. Irony is massively important currency in social media – everyone competes to post the freshest, funniest thing they can find. So anything with an intrinsically high irony quotient is perfect for banter. So – if you take two highly polarising, banter-friendly topics – such as television and music, the result is high traction. Social media is just one big, often highly ironic pub conversation – so of course ‘so bad, it’s good’ television does well within it. Who doesn’t love a ‘Who were better: The Stone Roses or The Happy Mondays’ debate? Sit back and ‘Enjoy The Noise’ as Depeche Mode might have put it. And that’s precisely what’s 7 million people were doing when Eurovision was on.

Tom Ball, digital strategy director, Immediate Future

I think it is more that social has been making shit TV good for number of years now, rather than being saved because of it! It is all about the behaviour shift that has come with adoption of mobile and social media (and dark social too). Second screening is now engrained behaviour, particularly for ‘Gen Xers’ and ‘millennial’ audiences. A normal face-to-face conversation is difficult these days without the distraction of checking email, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram etc. diverting attention.

This provides an opportunity for media owners and brands to engage audiences running alongside TV shows. ‘Shit TV’ audiences are probably more plugged into the social feed running alongside the show than show itself. Love them or hate them, the way that some of the likes of Geordie Shore above extend their storytelling beyond the show is actually that to be admired; often pioneering in their use of new channels too.

Heidi Crook, front-end developer, Mando

I normally watch Eurovision. I’m a bit of fan I must admit. However, my husband is not - he’s normally sitting in the furthest corner of the living room pouring scorn on what strange outfit a country is wearing. He is not a fan of shit TV. Yet this year was very different. He wasn’t singing along but what we were able to do this year via Twitter and Facebook was enjoy the whole experience with our friends. Not just in the UK, but with our friends in Athens and Madrid. He could pour scorn in unison with his buddies and see what the rest of the world thought. It was perhaps the most fun we’ve had watching Eurovision in quite some time. So can social media save shit TV? Maybe…as long it involves having fun with your friends

Andrew Roberts, managing partner, Gravity Thinking

Just over 16 years ago the words ""Big Brother House, this is Davina. You are live on Channel 4; please do not swear.” were first uttered and Bricklayer Craig Philips emerged victorious with £70k in his pocket – at the same time Friend Reunited launched and a perfect union was formed. Since then shit TV and social have been parasitically feeding off each other with many of the ‘celebrities’ created using social as their soap box to become more of a household name than most of their more talented celebrity counterparts, just ask K.K.W. and her 45m Twitter followers.

Social is fuelled by real time events and what better gasoline than reality TV and with shows covering everything from sewing, baking, building, decorating, business and singing this relationship will only go in ‘One Direction’ (sorry) and could even result in a reality TV star becoming the next owner of the Twitter handle ‘POTUS’, the most powerful man in the World.

Laura Collins, PPC leader, Periscopix

We used to limit our opinions about the TV we were watching to people sharing our sofa; now thanks to social media, we can share them with the world. The record 7 million tweets set by the Eurovision Song Contest ranged from the poignant to the hilarious, and proved that in a world full of record buttons and catch-up, there is still a place for television events such as these. Social media provides a unique platform for the world to share a TV experience in real-time. It’s becoming the virtual sofa we’re all sharing.

Shirley Si, campaign manager, NMPi

It’s about time the world clocked onto the sheer broadcasting scale of the Eurovision. To put it simply, strong content gets strong engagement. That single song contest reached millions of homes and even millions more social profiles globally. When reaching out to an audience of that size, people will have opinions, they will talk about it and they will want to share it. That’s the beauty of social media, it’s online word-of-mouth to the masses!

With more platforms now being able to ‘listen in’ on users’ TV habits and serve ads, integrating offline to online has become more established and is something we’re testing ourselves at NMPi. It will be interesting to see how brands will further use this technology to create more holistic marketing strategies that tap into real-time moments. The future should see smarter and more innovative campaigns which, I hope, are as spectacularly elaborate as Eurovision itself.

Tom Bridge, digital marketing executive, AB…the ideas agency

Yes, is the simple answer. Take #Eurovision for example - the nation’s place to gawp at a tuneless, multi-coloured catastrophe. I’ve had endless updates on Twitter and Facebook – “Why is Australia in the Eurovision?” and “The beard is back” and so on. These conversations are keeping this show alive by hooking people into the aftershock of the event. But what social media is really doing is turning Eurovision into a brand community. People still have Eurovision parties and sharing posts and pics about it on social media. People have also been spreading their joy about Jamala’s victory and there’s an incessant stream of posts listing the lyrics to the song. This kind of almost compulsive sharing is feeding into this brand community.

But, this debate really depends on what you think shit TV really is. One person’s shit TV is another person’s Friday night (Googlebox!) In fact, I’d argue that Eurovision really isn’t shit TV. It’s carefully orchestrated by producers who know what buttons to press; and they got over 7 million viewers on the BBC. They’ve got media owners reporting and big brands like Virgin Media piggybacking and even offending big name charities such as Time for Change. All of these posts are helping to raise the profile of TV like this and in turn saving it from an early death.

Emma Worth, social media specialist, Thinking Juice

TV is subjective. One viewer’s hell is another’s heaven. So no matter whether it’s good or bad TV, it’s probably best to think about ‘value' when measuring TV’s success or failure as a result of social. Today, when people tweet about a TV show in the masses, it translates to added value for that show – even if it’s negative. Let’s say you’re using the show’s #, but you’re joking about how awful the presenting is, you’re still doing exactly what they wanted – and that’s free advertising. Twitter’s become a 'second screening' environment, turning TV into a group participatory experience. Users add their opinions, theories, critiques and jokes into the mix in real time, making social TV’s perfect accomplice. In my opinion, social media doesn’t necessarily save ‘shit TV’, but it has given TV in general the refreshing face lift that it needed to propel itself into the modern, digital age.

Stephen Tolcher, service delivery manager, Mando Group

I would suggest that rather than just saving shit TV, social media has positively kept it going for the last few years! The likes of the X-Factor, The Voice and BGT, for example, have all embraced Social Media to such an extent that I’m convinced they would have disappeared from our screens some time ago had they not had such a following on these platforms. The recent series of BGT has gone one step further, now having an app that one can use to “Buzz Off” anyone you dislike or give a positive vote to those that you do want to see progress. No doubt that is a great bit of marketing which will, unfortunately for many of us, leave this tripe on our screens until the next fad comes along!

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