Is Liberal TV DOA?

by on July 27th, 2005

Here’s one take on the potential pitfalls of Al Gore’s incursion into “non”partisan, youth targeted TV. This from a 2003 story by Fair’s Jim Naureckas that they just recycled via their news feed in a timely manner, given the August 1 launch of Currents Network:

Ad Age quotes an “insider” advising Gore: “Liberal TV is dead on arrival…. You just can’t do it.” The switch to a channel targeting youth was made, according to the article “to make it more enticing to advertisers who were wary of plunking down ads on a network aligned with a particular political party.”

But there’s fear that even with the new approach, Gore’s “Democratic Party affiliation” will still scare off advertisers. “If there is any transparency to Gore, then it will be identified as a partisan operation, which will alienate advertisers,” a cable industry executive told Ad Age.

Of course, it’s not really partisanship in itself that advertisers object to. After all, Fox News Channel is headed by Republican operative Roger Ailes, and it has plenty of advertising. Ad Age actually quotes a Fox News ad executive, explaining why Ailes’ network succeeds while Gore’s will fail: “The problem with being associated as liberal is that they wouldn’t be going in a direction that advertisers are really interested in.”

And that’s it in a nutshell: Even the watered-down liberalism represented by someone like Al Gore is likely to sometimes criticize corporate power, and that’s something that corporate advertisers are never going to be eager to underwrite.

Perhaps, but is this in fact the case? Might not the green(wash?) corporate initiatives of heavy hitters like GE, Toyota, Ford and BP be right at home hawking their newly enlightened ways on a network run by the likes of an establishment friendly tree hugger like Gore. If a Mobile oil can underwrite PBS’s Nature, would it be less of a PR gain to sponsor some soft progressive content?

And what of self-styled nonconformist outfits like apple? Gore, Hyatt and Daves wisely consulted with tech and media innovators like Steve Jobs and the Google’s Brin and Page during concept development. Those latter two are notable in that the Ad experts insisted to the Google guys that they had to use in your face, intelligence insulting tactics like pop-ups to generate any revenue. At that stage the boys were still too blissfully ignorant to know better and opted instead for low key but highly targeted smart ads. The rest as they say is business history. Gore himself is credited with the distributed production concept where the audience also contributes to the content. And the thing about new approaches spawned by out of the box thinking is that when they do catch on, the high-power, high-paid experts never manage to see it coming.

It’s true, of course, that much of the advertising done for niche products that unabashedly market to progressive demographics are targeted web and print based ads. More efficient bang for scarce advertising bucks. If it’s anything, though, Gore’s Currents concept is targeted and niche. It’s interactivity remains to be seen. But one can imagine there’s arguably sufficient risk-adverse ad dollars out their to float the channel at least initially; cash revenues from companies, niche and broad market, just dying to get their products or services in front of that eldorado of demographics: youth with expendable income and as yet no fixed brand loyalty. And I’ll go ahead and take the editorial liberty of suggesting that progressive youth have longer, more focused attention spans than their conservative counterparts. My support for this claim is in my view self evident.. George.

Kit Robinson