CW Network Uses Sex, Then Internet to Promote Gossip Girl

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April 17th, 2008

Gossip Girl OMFG CampaignWe wrote earlier about both how CW has taken to using sex to promote the "relaunch" of Gossip Girl on this coming Monday April 21 by implying the F in OMFG with its TV ad campaign. 

Now CW is using the Internet to promote the show in a way that might seem very strange, but probably isn't.  They're using the Internet by discontinuing free web streaming of Gossip Girl from the CW's website.  It's probably not that strange if you think of it as what it really is: a way to promote something by creating the illusion of interest and demand where there actually isn't any.

Gossip Girl is no ratings juggernaut.  In its last original episode before it was impacted by the writer's strike it pulled but 2.27 million live plus same day DVR viewers and when a week's worth of DVR viewing was thrown in, it rose to 2.57 million.  That week, it did experience the highest percentage increase over live viewing via DVR viewing of any show in broadcast (27.4%).   

That week the only other good news was that  that almost 63% of its viewers were in the 18-49 demo, and  43% were in the 18-34 demo.  A big portion of the remainder was probably all teenagers under the age of 18, which is also a good demographic with advertisers.  We don't get gender data, but we are certain this show skews heavily female, which is a good thing if you're advertising products targeted at young women.

But any way you slice it under 3 million for a show which was promoted heavily and at the start of the season reportedly carried the highest 30 second ad spot of any CW show...sucks.

I don't want to hear about iTunes.  It just doesn't take that many downloads to make it to the "most downloaded" shows list on iTunes. If a million people (or even a quater million) were downloading the show every week, we'd be pummeled with press releases.

The stunt to remove the streaming from the website was as much Hollywood shenanigans as Kobe Bryant jumping over a moving Aston Martin.  I don't have a lot of experience with the inner workings of Hollywood, but I'm altogether familiar with how spinning numbers works.   There are a couple of rules:

1. If the numbers stink, you give the appearance of them not stinking by any means you can that doesn't actually involve disclosing any numbers

2. If the numbers are even remotely good, you put whatever positive spin on them and you do it over and over and over again. NBC is masterful with this, at times taking numbers that could only by the slimmest of margins could be seen as even remotely OK, and prettying them up.

If there were even a million people a week downloading off the Internet instead of watching it on TV, CW would be putting out press releases every stinking week.  I therefore conclude it's nowhere near a million.  Moreover, stopping the free streaming on the web won't likely increase the number of people who watch on TV.  People watch on the web so they can watch it if they missed it on TV or just so they can watch whenever they want.  With those people, for the most part, if you make it inconvenient? They just won't watch at all.

At its best, GG drew 3.5 million live plus same day DVR viewers with its pilot.  After that, it never saw 3 million viewers again and its performance was worse than Supernatural, which with almost no promotion whatsoever cleared 3 million viewers seven times so far.

I've written elsewhere that if we're to believe published numbers regarding the cost of 30 second ad spots that I understand the CW's desire to make GG a success.  It seems, for example, that Grey's Anatomy gets a healthy premium for having only a million and a half or so more 18-34 year old women than Desperate Housewives.  But the sex and Internet moves reek of desperation, and shows that are doing well don't act desperate. 

Neither sex or blocking Internet web streaming will probably save Gossip Girl (though the CW announced in early March it was picking up GG for a second season), Dawn Ostroff or perhaps even the CW itself.  Having one of its stars show up naked on the Internet would probably be better promotion. But since the CW is already going down the road most frequently traveled, they might as well just ask Britney or Paris to guest star, that has been known to bump a shows ratings. 

Here's one of the OMFG promos, courtesy of YouTube:

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