“The following is a recording of a conversation that took place at The White House. It has not been edited,” says the narrator in a deep sober voice. A grainy tape recording follows:
“PRESIDENT: So this is true? This is all true? ….
“CIA AGENT: Information regarding the Mt. Inostranka facility has always been on a need to know basis.”
But it’s not true — merely a clever promo for NBC’s upcoming fall series “The Event.” And the spot would be unremarkable if I didn’t happen to see it airing on the broadcaster’s sister cable network, MSNBC.
Running a commercial that seeks to blur fiction and reality might normally seem harmless. It’s done all the time by guerrilla marketers. But playing that particular spot on a news channel (I noticed it during “The Rachel Maddow Show” Tuesday) is just plain stupid.
“The Event” is a big scripted gamble for NBC (the network will screen the pilot at Comic-Con), but even allowing for an element of think-outside-the-box creativity, promoting the show on MSNBC in this fashion also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Not only is the audience relatively small, but it’s elderly — unlikely to reach many of the younger (that is, under 50) viewers the network covets. (MSNBC has the youngest profile among the cable news networks, and it’s median viewer age is near 60.)
In short, in a standard risk-to-reward ratio, mucking around with this kind of promo simply isn’t worth the payoff. And whoever came up with the idea should be sent to the woodshed, if not a secret facility at Mt. Inostranka.