Marketing campaigns require great care and thoughtful execution. Those involved must weigh both the positive and negative repercussions before following through. Yet, when one stops to contemplate the CW's latest television promo for The Originals, it's hard to believe any such deliberation went into its conception at all. (Watch the ad via Entertainment Weekly here.)You see, last night, the CW chose to run an advertisement on its rival network, ABC Family, during Pretty Little Liars, the channel's most popular program. The 30-second spot was created to promote The Originals, which airs during the same time slot. The commercial specifically mocks Pretty Little Liars' premise and the elusive 'A' in an attempt to lure potentially frustrated viewers to the competition by directly suggesting they change the channel. While certainly an interesting and unconventional tactic, the CW's strategy has been met with nothing but ire from its intended market.
Now in its fourth season, Pretty Little Liars has established an extremely loyal, dedicated fan base. However, rumors of discontent have become increasingly popular, as the show's intricate storyline may be the source of fatigue in long-term viewers. Regardless, Pretty Little Liars remains the most tweeted show on television, sparking obvious insecurities among other programs with the same target demographic.
Playing off the viewers' (potentially) declining interest in the lady liars themselves, the CW saw a prime opportunity to get The Originals noticed. But with its mocking tone and direct mention of Twitter fame, one need not question that this program's creators and marketing directors are shaking in their metaphorical boots.
Though I have no particular attachment to either show--I quit Pretty Little Liars after season three and I had never heard of The Originals until yesterday afternoon--I cannot help but find the CW's strategy to be tasteless, tacky, and pathetic. They paid good money to run a commercial that disparages the competition and mocks their target viewership instead of building the intrigue that may very well spark curiosity. The promo clearly depicts The Originals' jealousy of Pretty Little Liars' success in a way that portrays the network as a "sore loser" of sorts, leaving it no choice but to stoop as low as the mud-slinging politicos who run our government. Just like the aforementioned attack ads of election season, this type of vindictive marketing makes the CW appear as if it has nothing truly worthwhile to offer.
If The Originals actually offers more compelling story arcs than Pretty Little Liars, why not run an ad that highlights the show's clever characters or alluring ambiance? Marketers across all industries, not just television, should base their campaigns on the merits of the product or program they have to offer. And while I don't condone Pretty Little Liars' childish response--they should've simply taken comfort in their continued success--The Originals demonstrates just how low some marketers will go to rile audiences into a frenzy. Unfortunately, in this instance, the buzz isn't nearly what they'd hoped to achieve. Because, after all, smear campaigns are most certainly...unoriginal.