Microsoft does Reality TV with Jack and Suzy Welch
Analyst Opinion - This is an interesting idea. Do a reality TV program on the web using Jack Welch, who is arguably a more famous success than Donald Trump and focus on a real problem. In this initial segment. Hertz Connect is the target for their efforts. There is no Microsoft product placement in the show, but ads show up on the side making general statements about Microsoft's technology. The layout is creative, the talent is world class with Jack Welch, but the question is: Does it work?
You can check out the show here. It is called "It's everybody's business with Jack and Suzy Welch".
The animation on the side, which points to major points is both interesting and well done. Key quotes and lessons are captured and driven into the audience. These are interspersed with commentary on Microsoft's tools so that the there is value going back to the firm funding the effort, in this case Microsoft.
Segments are short and emphasis for the main sound bite is put up front to draw the audience into each segment. It kind of has an NCIS feel - NCIS takes a snapshot of something that occurs later in a segment and flashes just prior to the segment running.
There are audience engagement questions, which are asked throughout the presentation that should give people that participate a sense of being involved in the process and keeping them engaged.
For Hertz, this is one long product placement pitch. Regardless of whether you like the show or not, you will likely remember Hertz Connect and they are probably the biggest beneficiary of this process. Jack and Suzy Welch establish themselves as consultants who can be engaged on problems like this and many may not realize they can get someone like Jack Welch to come in and help them out.
Microsoft gets brand recognition but no real connection to what is going on in the show. While their benefit is lowest from each show, were the show successful, they would get a sustaining benefit second only to Jack and Suzy Welch. It's good brand work but I wonder if it will move much Microsoft product. While offers do show up on the lower right corner of the screen, there is really nothing in the show that pulls you down to them.
I think this is a really interesting idea, but I had a real problem with the show itself. I didn't find it engaging or interesting. At the core of the effort is the program itself and, like any program, I have to care about the people in it. I can hate them, I can love them, but if I don’t care about them, I'm not likely to stick with the show and watch it to the end.
This is a problem with reality TV when there is too much reality. The reason why reality programs are popular isn't because they are real. It is because the producers set up dramatic confrontations and we tend to get fascinated by them. We don't watch the programs because we want to learn from them, we watch them to kill off a few brain cells and be entertained.
Even if we wanted to learn from something like what Hertz is going through, chances are we couldn't apply the knowledge, because our jobs aren't, and probably never will, be like those that the folks at Hertz showcased. The producers cut heavily to get to the interesting nuggets. But by doing so, I think we lost the story and the story probably wasn't that interesting.
The other big problem with reality is that, unlike the show 24, real things don't happen in 24 hours let alone in a 20 minute segment. You want a beginning, middle, and a satisfying end. This program has lots of middle but there is really no sense of what the initial problem was or whether they ever fixed it. You start off confused and leave the show unsatisfied as a result.
I think they need a lot less reality and a lot more fun.
You have two teams put together a pitch for a panel of three very vocal judges; it could be for a new company, a new project, or even a new product. One team is headed by Jack Welch and made up of MBAs, the other by Suzy Welch and made up of actors, the goal of the judges is to see if they can pick the team led by Jack Welch. The goal of the audience is to guess whether the judges will be fooled or not and they watch both the prep and the presentations. The show could include a comedian who comments on all of it via a voice over.
The subtle lesson is learning how to pitch ideas, which is something that approaches being universal, the fun is in seeing if Suzy knows enough about her husband to fool judges, and the challenge is figuring out whether the judges will be fooled. You could even use ex-CEOs as judges (could be even more fun if they didn't like each other much but had to come to a consensus).
It would be interesting to know what kind of a web based reality show you would find interesting and what you think of this one. I do think Microsoft is on to something; it's just that it needs some major modifications to make it interesting and create value in line with what they are spending. What do you think? Leave a comment below.
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.