Let's say you run a comic book shop. It's been going well for a few years, and you've made enough extra money that you'd like to try making a TV commercial. You clean up the shop as best as you can, and mention to your regular customers that you'll be filming at a specific time/date and that, if they stop by during that time, there's a good chance they'll be able to appear in the spot.
This is what's going on at my Local Comic Shop today. (Theoretically, they're finishing up as I write this in fact.)
I have two problems with this. First, I have to question the effectiveness of a TV commercial for the narrow target audience that would respond to it. Maybe if you're able to ensure that it airs during Star Trek re-runs, I could see some justification for it but broadcasting is not the best approach for most products/services in today's world. The second problem is one that I honestly don't know if I would have anticipated prior to actually seeing the shop prep for the camera today: namely, the customers who did show up for the cattle call.
There were four guys hanging out at the shop today, a few hours in advance of shooting the commercial. All four of them were pretty stereotypical in what you'd expect comic shop patrons to look like: scruffy, overweight 20/30-something males wearing t-shirts sporting the logo of their favorite superhero. (One of them had a nasty case of B.O. as well, but that at least won't transmit over a television. Two of them were arguing about some obscure semantics of "Countdown" but I daresay that their actual dialogue, even if it continued during filming, wouldn't be used.)
Now let's think about this for a minute. You want to promote your shop to a wider audience, right? You've probably already got a pretty good lock on the local fanboy community because they're the ones most likely to actively seek out stores just like yours. So you're going to want to get your name out there to people who might not otherwise come into your store. Like, say, children. Or relatives of comic geeks. Or maybe the occasional comic reader who's usually content to pick up trade paperbacks at Barnes and Noble.
Is a store full of Comic Book Guy look-a-likes going to speak to any of those people? Seems unlikely to me. In fact, I'd bet that it would turn people off, as it would look like a clubhouse for emotionally stunted man-boys.
The shop went wrong on two fronts, as I see it. By opening the filming up to a cattle call approach, that removes a lot of control from the people who should maintain it. They're not selecting which customers appear, and therefore aren't guaranteed to get a reasonable mix of people. That leaves a significant portion of the shop's image (i.e. the type of people who frequent the shop) up to chance.
The other issue is that they chose to film in the middle of a weekday afternoon. I'm sure this was largely dictated by when they traditionally have the least amount of business that might get disrupted, but that also means that they're inherently limiting the types of customers that might even be available to appear in the commercial. All but the youngest children will be in school. Business professionals will be stuck in their cubicles. Stay-at-home parents will be in the process of picking up kids or finishing the day's shopping. Your pool of potential "actors" will be limited to retired individuals and lower-end wage earners who work an unusual schedule. I certainly don't want to demean either of those groups, but that's going to result in a relatively homogeneous-looking clientele.
You ever watch any of the commercials for Flying Colors? They almost always have a diverse mix of people showing up in the store. Different ages, races, genders, financial statuses... The store looks clean and tidy and all, but more significantly, it looks like a comfortable place to shop that doesn't only cater to a specific type of person.
Now it's possible that, as a shop owner, you might want to market yourself to the smaller niche of stereotypical fanboys, but I think that'd be an extremely risky proposition, given the state of the comic industry as a whole. Also, given that this particular LCS sells a decent number of independent books, I'm fairly certain they're not looking to narrowcast themselves quite that much.
I might also note that I was in the store a couple hours before they began work on the actual commercial itself, so it's entirely possible that a greater variety of people were scheduled to show up more immediately prior to filming. The store employees, as I noted above, were pretty busy so I didn't bother them with too many questions. But I do know that there definitely was a cattle call approach taken, as the small stack of flyers still sitting on the counter indicated, and that at least four of the folks who showed up were not exactly what I would consider prime examples of the store's customer base.
But, hey, what do I know? I've only got an MBA with a concentration in marketing and have spent years studying the comic book industry; I clearly have no justification to rant about this kind of thing.
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