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From Reality TV Host To Commander In Chief-The Enduring Power Of TV

Photo of Tim Mulligan
by Tim Mulligan

Amid all the post election analysis on Tuesday’s historic vote and the talk of the first Twitter president it was easy to overlook one enduring truth in America cultural discourse - TV still matters. In a visually powerful era where video is ubiquitous and the preferred medium for communicating content, communicators who understand the power of delivering, and controlling the delivery of content this way are in the forefront of being able to make their case and resonate with audiences.

Reality TV & Its Ability To Create Powerful Personality Brand Constructs

Trump was undeniably a high profile and larger than life public figure before he agreed to the starring role in the Apprentice which aired on NBC (Now NBCUniversal) in 2004 and which he hosted for 14 seasons. This one single decision to become a TV star catapulted brand Trump in to the living rooms and into the lives of millions of other wise hard to reach mainstream American consumers. With an average audience of 20.7 million for its inaugural season, Donald Trump the real estate tycoon, became Donald Trump the decisive and imposing arbiter of an aspirational TV show modelled on the American dream of fulfilment through commercial success.

The nature of reality TV enabled the perception of a fly on the wall   documentary-style recording of the action unfolding before the cameras. Audiences were and remain largely oblivious to the heavy editing process, costumes,  lighting, office recreation sets and numerous other props that make up the finished and highly marketable product. As such, reality TV enables the likes of Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian to appear at their optimal when they are the show runner and able to direct the style and focus of the show. What the audience thinks of as the a genuine representation of the reality TV star is a construct, carefully produced for a specific and an optimal impact.

The Power Of Video Resides In Its Longevity

A powerful TV show has the same lasting impact as a powerful novel when it is headed up by a screen-savvy presenter. It’s all about engaging with the emotional side of the viewer first and foremost. As the late American writer Maya Angelou eloquently stated-“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In today’s content–bombarded world of hyper visualization, self-actualization and aspiration, the ability to create an enduring emotional resonance with people with whom one will never meet on a scale beyond any individually achievable relationships is a powerful force. And the ability to deliver this emotional force day in day out over years into people’s everyday lives is something which TV still excels at. The social talent on the digital alternatives to traditional TV knows this as well, which is why the likes of Felix Kjellberg better know as PewDiePie has a subscriber base of 49.1 million fans on YouTube. PewDiePie is able to generate the same perception of authenticity as Donald Trump because of his use of the medium of video to present an optimal personality brand calibrated to resonate with specific audiences.

In an emphatic world full of self-conscious consumers-this is a truly powerful tool.

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