virus: TV is Good

Dave Stephens (
Tue, 29 Jul 1997 11:40:44 -0700


This is my first submission, so I hope I did this correctly. I ran across
this article in the paper the other day. Pay particular attention to the
feelings the article invokes in you. Notice the imagery you associate with
the ads and the tone you give the dialog as you read it.

San Jose Mercury News; July 27, 1997; Page 2F.
"ABC's not too yellow to say TV is good" by Maureen Dowd
[Typos are mine]

[lots of stuff deleted about ABC trying to extract itself from crisis by
paying 40 million to an ad firm to help them. The ad firm created a new
"yellow" ABC logo/image (happy-face/smilie meme stuff)]

ABC's generic, yellow promotional compaign (the $40 mil doesn't cover
the cost of all airtime) is called "TV is Good." It was developed after
members of focus groups said they watched a lot of TV but felt bad about it.
Instead of taking that as a 911 to spend more money on original writing and
exceptional talent, ABC decided to pour a fortune into convincing viewers
they should feel good about watching derivative junk.
"Right now," says one ad, "you could be reading a magazine, listening
to a symphony, visiting a museum or even exercising. But you're not.
You're watching TV." Others say: "It's a beautiful day. What are you doing
outside?" and "Don't worry, you've got billions of brain cells." One shows
elegant foreigners--a Chinese family doing tai chi, a French family painting
and reading, a Japanese family teaching a tot flower arranging, a Russian
grandfather instructing a girl at the piano. The American family is on the
couch, watching TV. America, the ad says, has "the most innovative, most
productive people on the planet. Coincidence? No."
Clow says the concept is simple yet bold. "Nobody has been willing to
step out and say, 'Hey, we're a good thing,'" he said. Jim Vescera, an ABC
vice president agreed: "They'll get us the buzz we're looking for." Cohen
said, "This is really designed to create an attitude and a personality."

[writer's summary deleted; you can think for yourself.]

Are you feeling disgusted or perhaps astonished? Now go back and reread the
excerpt, but this time take into account the hypnotic state TV induces, and
try to imagine the "ironic and hip" spin the network will put on the visuals
and the tone of the dialog. Better yet, watch these ads when they come out
(are they already out? I don't watch TV so I don't know) and compare your
response to them verses your response to the same material in the context of
the newspaper article. I have this sinking feeling that people will eat
this up. Pardon me while I vomit.

I think the initial implantation of a meme is as important for success as
the meme content, yet I haven't seen it talked about much in the email I've
been following (I've only been on the list for a few days though). For
successful short-term implantation, I think meme _delivery_ crucial.
Networks, ad firms and even the twits at (and other
Neuro-Linguistic Programmers) understand this.

--David Stephens