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The lessons from reality TV

Some reality TV shows have been asked to broadcast after 11 pm by the ministry of information and broadcasting, based on public outcry against vulgarity in the shows.

business Updated: Nov 21, 2010 23:32 IST

Some reality TV shows have been asked to broadcast after 11 pm by the ministry of information and broadcasting, based on public outcry against vulgarity in the shows.

At a time when the TV has replaced the joint family's grandfather as the storyteller of life and its lessons, of values and culture, it may be moot to take a look at what people derive from the facts and fiction that TV brings to their living rooms. After all, every evening, families across India do gather around their TV sets.

There are lessons - good and bad - that people could be deriving from a host of reality shows such as Bigg Boss 4, MasterChef India or Kaun Banega Crorepati 4. These are randomly named and in no way mean that other reality shows have nothing to teach us.

There are four potentially harmful lessons. First, it pays to be bad. The louder you are, the crasser you are, the greater your fan following. Second, it pays to be self-centered. It is fine to speak the language of 'I, me, and myself' if you are anchoring a show - there's no need for consideration for others or respect for their skills.

Third, never try to separate fact from fiction. It's all right to add drama to mundane, everyday situations. When you add drama, you become a media star. Every channel follows you, wants your opinion on everything and it may even land you your own show.

Fourth, relationships are a matter of convenience. What's good today may not be good tomorrow. You must constantly evaluate your relationships to see what works for the moment. It's fine to switch sides if it works for you.

Fortunately, in the midst of a host of reality shows that teach dangerous lessons, there is a show that teaches humility, respect and compassion. The fact that the lessons of humility and politeness come from India's biggest movie icon, only add to overall weight of the lessons. The fact that his shows are pulling more eyeballs than any other show tells that people do hold old-world values in high regard and don't get swayed by gimmicks.

All this has implications not only on emerging popular culture but also on brands. All brands are a function of two contexts: the content of brands and their environment. Brands control their content, and leverage the environment. If a brand lives in the right environment, it creates the right feeling about itself. If it lives in the wrong environment, it weakens and can destroy its own equity.

There are many brands that are riding on reality shows. They are present either as sponsors, as advertisers or in programme placements. If a brand appears in an environment where the values propounded by the show are contrary to what the brand stands for, should it evaluate its presence? Brands go to great lengths to test their creative content, measure advertising impact, and track efficacy. Maybe it is time they also added the effect of environment on themselves.

So, will brands ever do that? Rise above the ordinary and take a wider responsibility? Or will we, as consumers, have to trigger the change?

The writer is Head - Strategic Planning, Dentsu Marcom