Thursday, November 29, 2007

Top Model: Missing the Offline to Online Conversation Continuum

So I must confess that I'm an avid fan of the DVR box as it allows my wife and I the ability to watch the shows we oh-so-love, well most of the shows she loves and they kind of grow on you. We're watching America's Next Top Model on the CW and I'm wondering what they are doing to leverage the online channel during season to bring that watcher/viewer relationship to another level. So I do a search for "top model" and what do you know, they are number 1 in Google organic search results. So then I click through to their microsite, which ends up being just a directory within the overall site architecture. Strategic move? Could be, why not create a more engaging environment with its own URL? You can brand the heck out of it with the CW brand. Sure it creates more content under the CW domain and it increases links pointing into the CW domain thereby increasing link popularity, yadda yadda. Okay so maybe they did it the right way, but I was looking for something that was as innovative as the show's title tries to be by bringing America the next top model.

The "directory" provides users with many options like photos, videos, a forum, a lounge to chat with each other, blogs for users and even shows featured members based on the most profile views. Something any typical community-based website does these days. Then if you do a little more research you find out that in the Pre-Launch marketing, America's Next Top Model lets you personalize a message from Tyra Banks to one of your friends. It's kind of like a Mad Libs for voicemail. The campaign leverages the Varitalk technology. I've seen this done before with 50 Cent and Sprite. But, I had to create one and send it to the wife! We'll see what she says.

So what could they have done better?
So here's some free advice to the CW crew ... It's great that you are creating a community around the show online. Truly a good use of the standard social media tools like forums, commenting, profiles, messaging, blogs, videos, etc. Yet, the community is lacking the authenticity of the viewer's relationship with the show itself and the models that they feel they most identify with. That's the key. Each girl/guy watching may in some way identify with the struggles/successes/failures that each of the models are dealing with on a daily basis as portrayed by the show. So why not leverage that "authentic connection" and continue it past the 60 minute episodes and into your online community. Why wouldn't each of the models have their own space to blog on? They all seem to be sitting there enough, laying around, drinking, smoking, drawing, reading; give them a place to connect with their true fans. Each of the models is creating their initial fan base through each episode, but it stops there and it's only once a week. The CW is missing an opportunity and whether they know it or not, it could provide a better integrated online/offline experience for their viewers. Come on CW, work it!

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