Posted by: kristopherhouston | October 4, 2011

The Power of Unanswered Questions

Media and advertising of the past as depicted in shows like Mad Men focused on telling people what they wanted; asking a question to a broad and simple to identify audience and answering it, hopefully propelling that base of potential or current consumers into action. What modern day media super powers like the Wachowski brothers and their Matrix transmedia empire, J.K. Rowling with the magical world of Harry Potter and most recently, James Cameron with the far away land and language of Avatar have all figured out is that the last and only effective power that the media has over a more dynamic, collective and dismissive consumer is its ability to leave the biggest questions unanswered. This distributes the burden of work between the media source and the media consumer and ultimately drives the consumer to, consume, in an effort to makes sense of the media.
Shows like American Idol and Survivor are obviously capable of generating discussion among a wide variety of audiences and consumers from loyals and zappers to casuals and a new generation of “catch-ups” or audience members that I would explain as Netflix or Hulu Plus users that may not watch a current season as it happens and would rather catch up, running through seasons in a short period of time through a customized channel that allows for (almost) advertising free consumption.
Explicit product promotion of soft drinks and new American cars no longer trick today’s audiences into primal urges to consume. No one watches American Idol then walks down the soda isle to pick up a 2 liter of Coke because they saw Simon Cowell drinking out of a Coke cup between auditions (especially if they happen to be “Pepsi people”). But at least for now, AT&T is happy with the revenue the text voting system generates on verdict episodes and record producers don’t mind having runner ups who are capable of generating the same if not more attention and money then season winners. Transmedia campaigns are the newest form of consumer engagement; the power of unanswered questions are the life blood and future of the media industry.
Discussion Questions:
1. What industries could benefit from transmedia marketing strategies?
2. What impact will next generation reality competition shows like the X Factor have on American Idol and can it survive?

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