Media brands that breathe

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Hills lately.

That show is one of those rare events where it’s hard to tell if the minds behind the show are genius or just lucky. (Since I dont’ really believe anyone is ‘just lucky’, I’m going with genius.) If you can get past all the playful, spoiled teen angst that is The Hills, there’s a pretty amazing phenomenon here. MTV has managed to build a media property that isn’t confined by the channel. I don’t think it’s necessarily a new trick, but this trick at this scale is pretty phenomenal to witness, (notice I didn’t say ‘watch’).

Beyond the loosely staged scenes of lip-glossed Malibu glamor, these media personalities live in the real world and people track them like bona fide stars, but since the show created them, the auspice and context of the show always follows them. They pop up in teen magazines, their relationships are dissected on E! talk shows. The appearance of all these characters on ‘soft news’ shows reinforce the mystique of ‘reality’, the beast begins to feed itself. These events outside of the show underline the experience that is the show.

I’ve been thinking a lot about properties and brands to playing outside their normal context. It’s a little harder for physical goods, but brands like Gatorade are making a serious game of it. The web isn’t the end of traditional media. If it’s catering to people’s needs and desires, it’s an extension. It’s not the death, it’s the second act (if you’re lucid enough to see that the first act is over.)

As I thought about all this semi-reality show media madness, I started to think about SNL. This feels like a no-brainer for them. I can’t imagine a single media property who has seen more lift from viral media. Half the skits they create seem better written for the web than for TV, (which is super smart since the web has made them much more relevant than have been). I noticed that they’re making a point of buying every URL mentioned in any skit, (they bought the URL for the “bitch pleeze” skit as well as a few others.) To this point they’re just referring back to the SNL vanity site…that move feels like some NBC corporate policy, they should be hosting micro sights for their more promising properties and letting people engage. Since the show is weekly, it would be possible to host an evolving personality that interacts with the real world similarly to the Hills.

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