A show that builds social capital

| Updated on: May 23, 2012
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Call it the Satyamev Jayate effect. In the last fortnight, all programming and marketing gurus in the world of television must have been bequeathed some pearls of wisdom on attracting large audiences and ensuring they stay tuned for over an hour.

This is the toughest challenge for anyone in the business of creating content in the audiovisual medium. Rarely have we seen original success. Even Kaun Banega Crorepati , the runaway hit, was a format inspired by the West.

As enough has been said about Satyamev Jayate's timing, the platform, the anchor and the three programmes aired so far, let us look at the lessons it has taught us. More importantly, lessons that business schools might learn and even adapt in their curriculum

Depression can wake you up with relief

Negativity and unpleasantness have never had so many takers. That too loyal ones, waiting for more. This bitterness in real stories which we always swipe under the carpet can be a big market that we have been hiding and ignoring. The benchmarks are that it needs to be done with all honesty, integrity and a certain level of stature in delivery. Simply put, who is saying it and how is he saying it.

Receptivity is key, not the numbers

It's not about numbers at all. I have seen numerous pieces on how Aamir Khan the master communicator has built audiences at a time when nobody wanted to come and sit in front of the idiot box. Sunday mornings was always about nonsensical value and hence the size of audiences and the mindset reflected it. What SMJ taught us is that it's not always that the audience decides what to watch; as a programmer you can also tell the audience, this is the best for you and this is why I say so.

Steve Jobs had taught us to never ask consumers what they want as he strongly believed that you need to tell them this is the best music device , and most easy to use and great to flaunt around your neck, close to your heart. SMJ has just done that in its own way by researching across genders, social class and income segments about the key concerns that society is grappling with and the role of the judiciary in settling it.

Interactivity – it creates the buzz

Audiences, after watching, are not just walking off and getting on with life. They are crying, some uncontrollably, some talking openly about it. This conversation creates a community and within this community there is bonding. This makes SMJ move from the conscious to the sub-conscious mind. It is here that it becomes more than an hour's programme on television. For the ones who missed the show it's reason to kick yourself and ensure that you do not miss it in the repeats or in the weeks to follow. So all the money likely to be spent on driving “appointment viewing” is saved.

Recency – creates the story behind the story

Every news channel and newspaper worth their salt picked up the content, dissected it and gave their own viewpoint. This immediacy has taught us that it is not only the breaking news that makes prime time but also relevant news. The relevance comes when brands move from the logic space to the magic space. SMJ has taught us it's possible to do that even on lazy Sunday mornings. The precious nuggets of the programme come from the insight it unearthed ... for example, not many knew that there is no real law against child abuse by family members or close relatives or friends. It was a bolt from the blue to me that such a heinous crime does not have a law to prevent it.

‘Paid' to ‘earned' to ‘owned' media

The more earned media, the more the credibility factor. SMJ has earned loads of it and hence it will work for all those associated with it in a small or big way. Aamir's equity and stature has risen – you can see politicians wooing him and throwing flower petals at his feet. The number of views of the programme's special scenes on YouTube is reason to believe that a social metamorphosis could be kicking off.

Greed does not pay?

No advertisements in between an hour-long show? What a waste! This was the initial reaction of clerical media planners and routine marketing and ad sales guys. SMJ has not said No to revenue, but by being particular, has managed to generate more with a lot of class and value to its sponsors. All the brands associated with the programme in their own subtle way have built social capital which is going to reward them in the future.

However, the pressure seems to be winning, as Episode Three demonstrates. I now see routine ads creeping in and this will result in the erosion of the loyal audience. Ads between gripping content can really irritate the viewer and the danger of not switching the remote back to the programme is real. If this happens, then it becomes just another show. My sincere wish is that it should not; and it's here that the anchor and the network head will have to put their foot down.

Final thoughts: Unpleasantness has demonstrated pleasantness with relief. It has probably depicted a strong case for a medium such as television to demonstrate stature over other media. It has also made the advertising and media fraternity anxious to know what is likely to be the topic for the next show. As the pundits go wild with their speculation, it helps the brand called Satyamev Jayate notch up a few points more in stature.

Lastly, Aamir needs a hearty pat on the back for a job brilliantly started and being executed even better. Famous people who are time-poor seldom find the hours needed to be a crusader and change the world. This attempt needs to be applauded with all vigour.

We certainly live in exciting times, and I feel we are seeing history being made.

(Gopinath Menon is CEO, Melon Media).

Published on May 23, 2012

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