The Business of TelevisionThe campaign to save Veronica Mars
By Diego Vasquez MediaLifeMagazine.com
staff writer May 3, 2007
Over the past two years media people were among those cheering loudest when Veronica Mars, the CW's smart, sassy but low-rated show about a teenage girl detective was unexpectedly renewed.
They like Mars' strong acting, intelligent plotlines and especially its hard-to-reach but desirable audience of women ages 12-34.
In a Media Life poll taken last year shortly before the CW's first upfront, more than a quarter of respondents said Mars being canceled was their biggest concern for the new network. But one year later, Mars faces the same concern once again.
While its average among total viewers is up slightly from last year, as is its 18-49 average, it still loses a huge chunk of its Gilmore Girls lead-in. During Mars' recent hiatus, the low-brow reality show Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll performed much better, averaging nearly half a million more total viewers than Mars.
That has increased speculation that Mars, which returned from a two-month break Tuesday, will be canceled. And that has spurred Cloud Watchers, a group of Mars fans, into action.
Last year the group dispatched a plane towing a banner reading Renew Veronica Mars' to fly over the CW offices. Last weekend the group hired professional street teams in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago to distribute 30,000 fliers advertising the series' return, and Cloud Watchers in other towns took to the streets themselves to hand out flyers.
The CW has not made an announcement either way on Mars, but current speculation is that it will be canceled. Cloud Watchers Gaby Allen of Allentown, Pa., Sarah Johnson of Chicago, Anita Nallathamby of Denver, Anna Smith of Atlanta, Kelley Spada of Los Angeles and April Zeisler from Portland, Ore/, spoke with Media Life about the Mars campaign and its chance at renewal.What do you think Veronica's chances for renewal currently are?
It totally depends on what the network is looking for. On a strict Nielsen basis? Chances are pretty low. We know that.
People assume that campaigners like us can't read the numbers every week. Of course we can, and we certainly understand how the ratings and demos factor into ad sales and profitability. For us, however, we see the CW as a network that is trying to make its mark and establish a brand.
Veronica Mars may not have the highest ratings, but it provides credibility in terms of quality. And from a long-term perspective, shouldn't a new network want to send the message that quality shows that tackle difficult subjects are rewarded, not punished?
We're less confident than we were last year at this time, but we are still hoping for a good outcome. If we can help increase the number of viewers in the next few episodes before the upfronts on the 17th, we think there will be a really good chance. And recent news from insider sources suggests the CW is high on the final five episodes, so that is always good to hear.How did you come up with this idea?
Sarah came up with the flier campaign. Like so many Veronica fans, she was disappointed when she heard that the show might be taken off the air because even after three years of critical and media buzz, so many people still hadn't heard of it.
So she tried to think of different, inexpensive ways to help get the word out. She posted her original ideafliering mall and college campus parking lotson Television Without Pity, and soon everyone was chiming in with their suggestions for how to make it a more effective publicity campaign.
We all worked together to craft the text, and a professional graphic designer, who is also a fan, created the flier.Many fan efforts to save TV shows rely on a grand effort such as the "Everwood" fans' Ferris wheel or your plane stunt last year. Why did you decide to go lower-key this year?
Last year was all about appealing to the executives in a new and different way. Since executives get swamped with postcards or gifts or flowers, any attempts to get their attention by similar means would go unnoticed, so we felt we had to do something large enough that they couldn't ignore it.
Appealing to individual viewers requires an almost completely opposite approach. If you shove a plane or Ferris wheel in front of their faces, they could get turned off or feel like they are already not a part of whatever big thing is going on, and they will walk away. We wanted to go totally grassroots.
Most people who watch Grey's Anatomy and Lost have probably never heard of Veronica Mars. Our flier not only tells them what the show is and when it is on, but it also lets them know that the creators of their favorite shows are already watching.
That little piece of information is usually enough to make most people tune in at least once. [Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator] Joss Whedon called it the Best. Show. Ever.' I have to check this out!
So this campaign wasn't lower-key so much as wider-spread. Last year we were targeting a very small group of decision makers in Los Angeles. This year the idea was to get the ratings up for the season's final five episodes.How much of this is an appeal to the CW, to show what a loyal fan base the show has, and how much is simply to get people to watch the show?
This campaign is totally about getting people to watch. The truth is, unless you are a superfan of a show like Veronica or Supernatural or One Tree Hill, you probably have no idea what is on the CW each night.
Most people have never heard of Veronica Mars and if they have heard of it, they have no clue what it is about. We thought it was about time that changed.
Is it good if the CW executives notice? Of course.
We hope they realize that the loyal viewers of the programs they currently have are the people who are also getting the network's name out to the masses.
But we also know that Veronica Mars has lasted three years on the faith of the network, and what she needs now, more than anything else, is higher ratings.How helpful do you think such campaigns are in getting shows renewed?
Well, if this campaign is successful and it gets Veronica additional viewers? Very!
We know that is what the network is looking for at this point. Clearly 7th Heaven got a reprieve last year when it hit an 11th-hour ratings spike.
We know the network wants Veronica to succeed. If she gets a ratings increase from this campaign, and we prove that it is possible for the show to attract new viewers, even three seasons in, then we believe the network will take notice.http://www.medialifemagazine.com/art...nter_11806.asp