iPhone applications & the marketing of reality TV

Some love it, others loathe it – but the truth is reality TV makes up a large percentage of today’s television programming. This marmite-like genre has been around for a long time now but it’s never had the presence it has today.

The ones of interest to me are the few that receive ‘annual national event’ status: the usual suspects, Big Brother, X-Factor, I’m a Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing. These four pull in eight-figure audiences regularly and provide fantastic ‘morning after’ conversation points.

With such a large audience-base across multiple markets, it begs the question whether these highly popular programmes are really utilising all the marketing platforms available to them?

For example, not so long ago I was watching X-Factor and going through my iPhone when I realised that an X-factor iPhone/mobile application would be ideal for avid fans. Though I am far from being a diehard X-Factor fan, I confess I would download it were it available.

Another interesting thing is that it’s not often you have three massive audience contenders showing all on the same night; with two on ITV, potentially giving them the edge over the BBC for total viewing figures. Yet none appeared to have an iPhone/mobile application.

With 100’s of free iPhone application downloads now available, it’s not uncommon for users to download applications on the sole basis that it’s free and easy to do. Tie a free application in with one of these premier TV programmes and there’s a huge marketing opportunity surely?

The music industry has already quickly picked up on this platform for consumer engagement with artists such as Pink, Snow Patrol and Akon providing official iPhone applications to promote their new albums.

The application could feature the usual elements i.e. daily news updates, programme clips and free downloads. This alone would cover off ‘brand presence’ but perhaps the true marketing potential lies in the potential to capture consumer data.

Fresh, reliable data is a key component in the execution of an effective strategic campaign. For example, you can have the best-looking campaign in the land but if it’s not communicated to the right audience then your efforts will be wasted.

Given the current downturn, with marketing budgets being slashed, and the recent losses and changes in phone-voting revenues – are these big branded TV shows missing a trick by not utilising the power of the iPhone?

My answer is a simple “yes.” With programmes like these, so much of their marketing budget goes into making things look ‘shiny’ that not incorporating an iPhone application – which serves a tangible purpose to both the programme makers and viewers – is definitely a missed opportunity. I’m sure this will be something the next really major reality TV show will pick up on.