Villing & Company

The Demise of Arrested Development and How it Relates to Long Tail Marketing and Niche Demand for Higher Quality

I still feel a little gloomy when I think about the demise of the show Arrested Development. Remember that series? It aired on Fox a few years back. The show was one of the best (if not the best) TV comedies that ever aired on network television. I’ll tell you why I think so.

Arrested Development defined creative writing. For me, as someone interested in the process of creativity, watching the show was like watching a magic trick that you could never quite figure out. It was amazing to witness the sleight-of-hand the writers pulled off with the inside jokes, pop culture references and breaking the fourth wall. In fact, the humor is so complex that most episodes benefit from a second or third viewing.

However, after winning countless Emmys and being lauded by most critics as the best show on TV, Fox decided to deep-six the whole thing halfway through the third season. I can still feel the sting.

Now the big question: if the show was so good, why on earth did it get cancelled? Age-old wisdom tells us to follow the money. Sure enough, that’s the answer. The show did not have great ratings because it catered to a specific youthful, college-educated demographic. Low ratings, regardless of unanimous agreement on high quality, meant less profit. So long, Arrested Development.

Do you feel the injustice here? Should high quality be punished? Ah, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Even though the old moral of the story would have been that you have to compromise and become more generic to succeed, technology is changing things. The new moral is exactly the opposite: don’t compromise your vision, just find your niche.

So why is this possible now and how does it relate to marketing as a whole? People love options, but their favorite option is “when”. Traditionally, television programming schedules often forced people to choose between two things that they wanted to watch.

But now with online streaming, TiVo and on-demand programming, the “when” factor is no longer an impediment to good programming. With the shift from traditional media to the Internet, I believe we will soon start to see (and perhaps are already seeing) less and less good content slipping through the cracks because it will be much easier for it to find its niche audience.

This general trend isn’t just confined to entertainment. Education, marketing, art, you name it, everything can benefit by finding a niche. Think about the viral marketing campaign launched to promote The Dark Knight. Only a small percentage of the population got excited about it, but that niche was hugely important because they spread the excitement to everyone else. In marketing, that kind of word-of-mouth power is potent. The Internet is making the world smaller and because of that, it’s more vital than ever to recognize individuality. That’s what social media is all about at its core, right?

As Villing & Company continues to grow and change, we’ve recognized the growing potential of niche markets. If there’s a demand, we’d better be prepared to meet it because in a world where distribution channels are changing rapidly, if we don’t meet the need, somebody else will.

One last tidbit for Arrested Development fans. You may recall that Ron Howard’s final line in the series was, “I don’t see it as a series. Maybe…a movie.” According to IMDB, that’ll be a reality in 2011. This is a very tangible example of the power of finding a niche.

Filed Under: creative

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