The Serious Faux Pas: Reality TV

In today’s segment of our Serious Faux Pas series, we’re looking at how Millennials’ attraction to the irreverent over the self-serious has changed the reality TV landscape.

 

In early April, Bill Simmons’ Sports Guy Q&A segment on Grantland featured the following exchange on reality TV:

 Q: I'm flipping back and forth between the NCAA tournament and MTV's retro marathon of the 1993 San Francisco season of the Real World. Is this really how people acted in the 90's? These people suck. There hasn't been any sex, barely any drinking and all conflicts have been resolved through open discussions. Did everyone in the 90's take themselves this seriously? Did everyone feel they need to take up a cause? Why are they rock climbing so much? Watching this is making me thankful to be in my 20's now and not then. —Pat, Chicago

 SG: And you wonder why everyone from Generation X is so bitter.

The question (and response) highlights a huge shift in the kind of reality TV that young people want to consume. The Real World has been on MTV since 1992 when the series kicked off in New York. That is 21 years of 20-somethings being documented living together while they stop being polite and starting being real— and a lot has changed.

The early seasons of the show, which many consider the first reality series, were full of earnest Xers making impassioned statements about their views on life and social issues. Serious topics like prejudice, AIDS, substance abuse and sexuality were tackled by roommates who were also figuring out how to live together when they came from such different backgrounds. Flash-forward ten years and the show had shifted considerably to focus on hook-ups, heavy partying, and roommate drama that was more likely to stem from people getting on one another’s nerves than judging…

 
 

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Millennial News Feed

Quote of the Day: “Adventure Time is the show that best represents my generation because we like the nostalgic aspect of watching cartoons but we also like off-the-wall plots.” –Male, 21, MI 

Snapchat is ready to take over another space: teens’ faces. The app is introducing Spectacles, a new wearable that combines sunglasses and a camera, allowing wearers to capture video of their point of view and share it immediately to their Snapchat Memories. Though comparisons to Google Glass are inevitable, these specs come in bright colors and cool designs, making them more aesthetically appealing—a vital element for wearables’ success. While some might be skeptical of Spectacles, if they are as popular as Snapchat’s other efforts, “the youth will have made wearables cool in the blink of an eye.” (The Next Web)

Campaigns encouraging young consumers to vote are a hallmark of election season—but in 2012, 62% of young Americans reportedly didn’t cast a vote. So this year Rock the Vote has partnered with Doritos to spread the voting message in a unique way. The brand created a limited edition pack of “no-choice” chips with no flavor, no crunch, and boring packaging to show that not voting allows someone else to choose for you, and you might not get what you want. For a spot promoting voting registration, Doritos created a vending machine that dispensed the flavorless chips to any not registered to vote. (Creativity Online)

According to Alton Brown, Millennials have forever changed food entertainment. Ten years ago, cooking shows were all about simple instruction, but the generation’s “preference for bolder, edgier programs” and cooking savvy has changed the content and expanded the “food media landscape” beyond the TV screen. Those Millennial foodies, who might have watched Brown’s “kid-friendly” Good Eats growing up or on Netflix, are the audience for his new web series, designed specifically for mobile. For these viewers, all content will be under five minutes, and “f it doesn’t work on a phone, [he’s] not going to do it.” (Business InsiderFast Company)

Cheetos is bringing their museum back for Halloween. The brand’s summer contest asking consumers to submit their uniquely shaped Cheetos for cash prizes was reportedly one of their most “successful digital engagement programs of all time,” generating over 100,000 stories and photos. Thanks to that success, the brand is rebooting the effort, asking fans to build a Cheetos Monster with the snacks for a chance to win $50K. Turning brands or products into an experience a major marketing trend to attract young consumers. (MediaPost)

Millennials might use more apps than older generations, but they’re also spending more time on their top ranked apps than anyone else. According to comScore data, there are 20 apps that 25% of 18-34-year-olds are using monthly, compared to just 15 among those over 35-years-old. But the top 10 apps among the group are receiving 50% of Millennials’ mobile time, indicating that while younger mobile users have a more diverse range of apps they’re using, their few favorites are still getting the majority of their attention. (comScore)

Quote of the Day: “Bojack Horseman was my favorite show last year because it was funny and real. Maybe too real, just beautiful.”–Male, 23, AZ

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