Broadcasting pioneer Ralph Edwards, host of the once-popular 1950’s “This Is Your Life” television show, died Wednesday. Edwards was also once the host of “Truth or Consequences,” the first commercial show for NBC. Edwards said, “A ten-second commercial on the program cost $9.”
Ralph Edwards represents a face of television–and how it has changed. His syrupy-sweet “This Is Your Life,” held viewers spell-bound hearing life stories unfold in the space of 30 minutes. It was respectful, plodding and dripped with sincerity.
Just like TV today… uh-huh, right.
Whether media reflects us or we reflect it, changes in both since Ralph Edwards first visited our living rooms is undeniable. And yet, so many times are the practices of that era are carried forward into this one as if by habit.
There’s a new face reflecting our times from TV screens: it’s one part cynical and two parts savvy. Ralph Edwards’ “This Is Your Life” has been replaced by the E-Channel’s endless loop of slimy exposés. News is no longer sacred, but grist for sharp social commentary paraded as comedy. You may not like it, or even “get” it. But, this is the market we’re living and working in.
This isn’t a call to arms. It’s a wake-up call. In the nine miles I drive between home and office, I’m assaulted by a stream of ad-speak encrusted messages no doubt zoning out listeners quicker than an HR department slide show. Yours doesn’t have to be one of them.
Be your ad and take a hard look in the mirror. Do you reflect what your customers care about most? Are you speaking their language? Is your message genuine and credible? Unless you can absolutely say yes* to all three questions, perhaps it’s time to do some face changing of your own.
*Okay, fair’s fair… That’s a trick question. Truth is, you CAN’T answer those questions without first taking time to ASK your customers. You’re too close. Your involvement is too emotional (or, self-serving).
Understanding what it is that turns your customer on is the first step to communicating with them effectively. Knowing what to ask and how is the key. Applying what you find out is turning the key.
[Originally published 17 Nov 2005]