Earlier in March Australia’s Network Ten announced the commissioning of The Shire, which will follow the lives of a group of “charismatic” and “controversial” characters. Quickly branded by the media as Australia’s version of Jersey Shore, the announcement has apparently divided the local Sutherland Shire community where it will be filmed. Bingo. The secret formula of all good reality TV formats is conflict, and Network Ten will be salivating at the prospect of a series that people will be talking/tweeting about.
Now a (somewhat hilarious) spoof video of the Shire has appeared on YouTube. Network Ten, in what must have been an act of premeditated marketing genius, has tried, and so far failed, to have the spoof removed. Can you say ‘viral’? But assuming for a moment Network Ten didn’t want to draw attention to the spoof video and had no legal justification to have it removed, what could or should they have done instead to protect the reputation of their precious series?
1. They could have done nothing. An option too often overlooked in issues management, and in this case probably one they should have considered.
2. Fight content with content. If the spoof is nothing like their program as the network is asserting then prove it by releasing a trailer. When brands such as Dominos and United faced damaging viral videos they (eventually) posted their own content in response on the same site. Don’t forget to use SEO and SEM to ensure people searching for the viral video will also find yours.
3. Embrace it. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Diffuse the situation with a tongue in cheek statement applauding the effort or by offering the stars of the viral a walk on part or an audition.
Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) for Ten, in this instance the Streisand Effect* once more held true like a fundamental law of physics. While ultimately the controversy will probably translate into higher ratings, Ten’s reaction in trying to block a viral video will not do the same for their reputation amongst target audiences.
*Wikipedia: “The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicising the information more widely. It is named after American entertainer Barbara Streisand whose attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity.”