Reality Show Nation

Summer 2010 could have been dubbed the “Summer of Snooki”, named for the much discussed breakout “star” of MTV’s hit reality show Jersey Shore. For months, Snooki and her male counterpart The Situation have been getting more than their 15 minutes of fame via constant exposure – tabloid TV and magazines, website chatter and tweets – all anxiously reporting on every drunken stumble, questionable wardrobe selection and salacious hookup. It’s been widely reported that Snooki was paid $30,000 per episode to appear in Season 2 – not bad for a 22 year-old former veterinarian technician student; and Elle magazine has just selected her as one of Hollywood’s most powerful women, alongside studio heads, network chiefs and Oscar winners such as Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock.

But this discussion is not about the supposed shame Jersey Shore’s cast has brought to the Garden State, but rather some thoughts on the impact of extreme personalities in our dynamic media and marketing environment. Some, including The Atlantic’s Mark Ambinder posit that the pervasiveness of reality show characters has made wacky, crazy political candidates more acceptable:

But all the reality shows — and the characters who have been mainstreamed and are now a part of our lives, people who we would otherwise encounter when we browsed the tabloids at the supermarket — have conditioned us for “wild and woolly” candidates. Culture bleeds into politics, and the other way around.

Next week’s elections won’t spell the end of the parade of dysfunctional loudmouths – the winners will take their places in Washington DC and state capitols around the country to pontificate for the next 2, 4 or 6 years. And some of the losers will leverage their new-found visibility into talk shows, book contracts and continue to assault our senses for months to come. And every night we’re treated to another batch of reality show contestants – teen parents, addicts, alleged singers and dancers – will marketers’ messages be able break through this cacophony?

As mass media content (both entertainment and news) becomes extreme will marketing tactics need to become even more extreme to capture the attention of consumers? Or will a softer tone get the message across more effectively?

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in Comments.

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