Eye Candy

Tyme White linked me to Caroline McCarthy’s article where she interviewed Lindsay Campbell. I found this exchange particularly interesting:

McCarthy: The “girl in front of a camera, talking about stuff” has almost become a Web clichΓ© by now. How do you hope that Moblogic will be different?

Campbell: One of the things that we’d like to move beyond is just being a Web talking head, like a Web counterpart to the TV talking heads. So a lot of the talking on the show is going to be done by people that we meet all over the country, and eventually hopefully in other countries, about the topics that we’re talking about. I’m not an expert, I’m just expert at talking to people, and that’s how the stories are going to get formed.

I found it cool that Caroline brought up what I affectionately call “the formula”, since it’s been my experience that everybody knows it’s going on, but nobody wants to discuss it.

“The Formula” for internet shows is that no matter how your content is aggregated, researched or scripted, make sure you have an attractive female in front of the camera to “talk about stuff”. That’s pretty much it. πŸ˜€ The obvious problem here is that it’s very tough (if not impossible) to tell who’s tuning in to hear about the content, and who’s tuning in to “check out the chick”.

Does it matter why they tuned in? No. Views are views. Sponsors and advertisers want to know how many times their ad is going to be shown. Revenue Sharing is based on hits, not “reasons why”. Also, I’m not knocking utilizing Eye Candy (EC) to draw attention to a show or product or get guys to concentrate on the screen long enough for your message to get across. πŸ˜€ It’s the same thing as having “booth babes” at conventions or car shows.

Or, is it?……..

I think it’s very important to note what percentage of your show’s props are due to content vs the looks and hopefully TALENT of the EC. There are several flavors of EC:

1) Entirely Talentless = Just looks
2) Knows how to read the teleprompter, but not theatrically
3) Enthusiastic and personable, but not knowledgeable
4) Researched and wrote her own material
5) Actually lives what she’s presenting about, obviously knowledgeable and speaking from a first-hand, in-the-trenches perspective.

I suppose flavors 4 and 5 might not qualify for EC, because you’re not “dressing up the show” by having her speak. She’s not a front. She’s the actual show. If you ran into her in person, she could intelligently engage you in conversation about facts that didn’t come up on the show or tangents she didn’t explore. However, for the purpose of this discussion, I’d like to include all the flavors as we consider how dependent your show is on the EC.

So… Let’s think about what happens when “The Face Of The Show” leaves the show…..

Let’s say you’re doing a show with an ECfl5. Actually, there wouldn’t be much for you to do except tell her when the camera’s on. πŸ˜€ She knows the material, she’s prepared what she wants to say, and really all you’re doing (if she needs you for anything at all instead of producing her own show completely independently) is helping HER to bring her vision to the masses. There is no “leaving the show”, because she IS the show. If she makes another show, it’ll be the exact same thing, with a new name, and without YOU connected to it. πŸ™‚

ECfl4 is pretty much the same thing, except it’s likely that the research she’s doing doesn’t make her AS unique as an ECfl5, though she’s still extremely important for the show to have the same style and delivery. If she leaves the show, not just the look of the show changes, but you’ve lost the ability to write the shows in the same way that you did when you were building your audience. Also, if she joins another team or makes a similar show on her own, she automatically transfers the style of your show to hers. You can get another researcher, but if your viewers don’t appreciate her looks AND her new style, that might be all she wrote.

ECfl3 is a pretty good combination for both sides in a show break-up. πŸ™‚ Guys love to watch her talk. She’s fun and interesting. She’s someone that they would love to actually meet in person at a conference. Perfect. πŸ˜€ At the same time, since she’s not the writer or researcher on the project, none of the infrastructure disappears if she leaves. She’s “acting” what you tell her to act, so that’s what she’ll do on her new show. There are mannerisms that she’ll bring to the new venture that come from working with you or your team, but for you, transitioning to new on-air talent is seamless. She’s basically an informed spokesperson. The information doesn’t leave with her, and next week… (well… whenever you get new EC hahaha) the show goes on as planned.

ECfl2 is pretty much dime-a-dozen. Imagine the reading skills of a used car salesman in a late-night low-budget television commercial. “This. Is. Not. A. Lemon… Believe. You. Me….. I. Gah.Rohn.TEE. Ya. That.” In this case, you might be better off taking your chances and using an actual guy. πŸ˜€ … Or, at least a less-attractive female that can actually deliver the lines well and make your show look intelligent.

The problem here is in comparison to the better flavors. ECfl3 is like having a conversation with a friend. ECfl4&5 are like hearing a technical conversation… Like last year at BlogHerBiz ’07 when Lisa Stone moderated a panel which included Google’s VP of Search Products and User Experience, Marissa Mayer:

So, once you’ve heard knowledgeable women “kick it, off the top” about intelligent and progressive subjects, you’re just like “oh, come on :/” when the ECfl2’s trying to read sentences and pause because she sees a period, and didn’t understand until then that the sentence was about to end. πŸ˜€

Also, that’s the fault of the producer or whomever’s in charge of the production. If there’s a bad read, have the talent DO.IT.OVER! :/

Which brings us to ECfl1, hehehe… This is when the producer says “I don’t care WHAT you people think! I know she can’t act and I know she can’t read, but she looks good, so I’m going to get hits and that’s all that matters”. Content-wise, these could actually be silent videos, or at least without her talking, because nobody’s listening anyway. It’s kind of a cycle… Since the EC has no mental connection to the material (if you bothered to write any material in the first place) the people who find out about your show and continue to watch it are tuning in to see how the EC looks this week. Because of this, if she leaves the show, your ratings leave with her because the EC *IS* the show, so you’re kaput.

So… Interestingly enough, if you’re a show producer, “middle of the road” is the way to go. If she knows too much, your show suffers when she leaves because she removes the infrastructure. If she comes off as a dolt or a simpleton, your show suffers when she leaves because NOW you have to survive off of the merit of your content….. Content which you disrespected in the first place by not selecting the right woman to represent your project from the giddyap.

And now, in the spirit of EC, I gratuitously embed pictures of Caroline McCarthy and Stephanie Frasco so people will click on my article! πŸ˜€

Bill Cammack & Caroline McCarthyStephanie Frasco & Bill Cammack

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  1. well bill, you know that I agree with you 100 percent… however… anytime a man or women is chosen for a job primarily on the merits of their sex appeal not only are they being objectified, but your long term business plan suffers for all the reasons you mention…nor are we as media makers doing anything positive for our society.

  2. Hmm… Interesting comment, Kathryn. I didn’t get into the use or non-use of EC. It’s so pervasive, I wanted to talk about the potential variations of that format instead of should one or should one not use sex appeal to gain viewers, and then why or why not.

    I also didn’t get into whether accepting positions as EC makes women typecast and thus restricted in future opportunities or whether it offers them a wider range of opportunities thanks to so much media attention.

  3. Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.

    1. Hey Beemycync. I don’t see the relevance of your comment to this post in particular, but in general, you’re correct. Helping out when you can is a useful way of being.

      Feel free to clarify your point and I’ll comment on it. πŸ™‚

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