Is it just me, or is this not one of the most nauseating examples of street-pimp marketing ever vomited up by a barrel-scraping network? NBC is launching dear God no not another Reality-TV-Show-But-With-A-Twist this fall, and they’re trawling for media coverage and viewers by dragging dollar bills through America’s trailer parks as a moving testament to Christian faith.
Here’s the story: Lagging behind the other networks in the popularity of its Slit Your Wrists programming, NBC has concocted a reality show designed to appeal to God-fearing WalMart shoppers from America’s heartland. In NBC’s Three Wishes, an "unscripted show" premiering this fall "singer Amy Grant travels to a different town each week in an effort
to fulfill the heart’s desire of needy families and community groups." It sounds sweet. Really.
So NBC, looking to stir up some coverage for this faith-based initiative hires a publicity firm to cook up some media impressions. The big idea? Stalk "needy shoppers" in the checkout lines of discount retail chains and trot in on a big white horse to pick up the tab with a conspicuous stack of 1-dollar bills. Why waste time and money on creative marketing when you can just buy viewers, and through the magic of stunt media, multiply your audience?
Now I know the professional marketing purists will protest that Hey, they did their job and got national coverage, who cares if it’s singularly unimaginative? My response is that the skirmish won for publicity is a battle lost for NBC’s soul–ahem, I mean brand. The entire stunt paints NBC as a cynical manipulator of America’s poor and needy, eschewing substantive acts of service in favor of Good Samaritan skits prepackaged for the camera. The fact they’ve enlisted Amy Grant, the spokesmodel of shrinkwrapped Christian consumerism, only amplifies the effect.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no voice crying out in the wilderness here. But this is a gravely disheartening view of America to me. The greasy aftertaste of this campaign is that faith and compassion in
America can only be signified by randomly showering money and
brand name appliances on unsuspecting poor people who look good on
screen being effusively grateful. Perhaps it’s a testament to the marketing company’s professionalism that they so effectively segmented their subject and target audience. Notice they’re distributing fistfuls of cash to people not so needy that they don’t have a credit card and an eye for brands.
I guess good faith comes with a minimum requirement of purchasing power.