The two disparate television shows that I chose to analyze and compare were American Idol and 48 Hours Investigates. I compared the target audiences of both shows and the advertising approaches used to reach them.
American Idol airs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights on the Fox television network. The show features young adults competing for a recording contract. The first two seasons of the show have turned the winners into music industry celebrities. The main appeals of the show are the harsh words judge Simon Cowell uses when critiquing the contestants and the contestants with horrible voices. I watched the program on Tuesday, February 24th from 8pm until 9pm when it ended. During the hour-long program, there were five commercials breaks. The shortest break was three minutes long and the longest break was five minutes. The commercials and network programs took up nineteen of the sixty minutes allotted for American Idol. The average advertisement lasted thirty seconds and the longest ad was one minute long.
Each commercial break ended with promotions for Fox television programs. The Fox programs advertised were Forever Eden, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancï¿½, Wonderfalls, 24, Cracking Up, The Great American Celebrity Spelling Bee and The OC. Several of these programs have yet to air and are mid-season replacements. Every commercial break featured commercials for upcoming movie releases including Agent Cody Banks: Destination London, Starsky and Hutch, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights and Club Dread.
Food and drink were also a popular topic for commercials that aired during American Idol. Restaurants included McDonalds, Olive Garden, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Arby’s. Drinks included Coca Cola and Mountain Dew. Snacks were a recurring theme as well. Commercials aired for Pringles, Snickers and Hershey’s Smore candy bar. I was surprised by the amount of commercials that aired for the automotive industry during American Idol. I would have assumed that American Idol’s target audience is too young to afford new cars. However, Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge all aired ads during 8pm-9pm.
I felt for the most part that the advertising on American Idol was designed so that young adults felt they could identify with the lifestyle being portrayed on the ads. Young people are notorious for eating out, using wireless phones, buying makeup, going to the movies and eating snacks (especially in between classes in college). There weren’t as many humorous commercials as I would have expected to find. I felt that more advertisements were aimed towards females than males. For example, the hour featured commercials for Revlon, Oil of Olay and Maybelline. Most commercials showed contemporary gender relationships; especially a McDonald’s commercial where both the male and the female feel the other one is a control freak.
The commercial that surprised me the most during American Idol was a State Farm commercial for life insurance. It didn’t seem to me that was in the correct demographic for the program it aired during.
I felt most of the products advertised during American Idol offered empowerment to young people. I can remember as a teenager being excited about going out to a restaurant with my friends or trying a new hair product. Most of the commercials reflected that young adults would have power once they reach their early to mid twenties. Most of the actors in the commercials seemed to be in that age bracket.
The second program that I watched was 48 Hours Investigates. As a twenty-year-old male, I did not feel that I was the target demographic for the program. I watched the program on Wednesday February 25th from 10pm-11pm on CBS. I had never watch it before and was anxious to see the differences in advertising approaches as compared to American Idol. The main product promoted by both shows was an automobile. However, the automobiles advertised during 48 Hours were not the same type that was advertised during American Idol, which featured mostly Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs). 48 Hours advertised luxury cars like Lincoln and Lexus.
Like American Idol, the commercials breaks for 48 Hours featured network promos for CBS shows. The promos included Everybody Loves Raymond, Joan of Arcardia, JAG and Survivor. The “clutter” time was 22 minutes out of the 60-minute program. I think maybe 48 Hours had more commercial time because it is a news program as opposed to an entertainment show. 48 Hours featured commercials for restaurants such as Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse and Chili’s. There were not as many advertisements for fast food restaurants. 48 Hours also featured products for home maintenance such as Tide laundry detergent, Luvs diapers, Home Depot and Cottonelle toilet tissue. The only movie commercial I saw was for Miracle starring Kurt Russell.
I felt that 48 Hours featured more product comparisons than American Idol. The gender relationships were more traditional, perhaps because the target audience would most likely be married. The females projected power in the commercials by driving cars, fixing dinner, solving problems and caring for their children.
There were similarities and differences between the two shows. The main similarities were the fast paced ads, the selling of a lifestyle and the prevalence of the automotive industry. The differences were the age of the actors in the commercials; the type of television programs promo’d during the shows, the movies previewed and the type of products advertised.
This project was interesting because it allowed me to consider the time spent between the programs more than the program itself. It also let me view commercials with a more critical eye and think would this appeal to my father, my grandfather or me?