Being a TV executive is a very stressful job. Millions of dollars at stake every week, and you’re only as good as your last project. Even worse, you are expected to give guidance and notes on shows you know you don’t have a clue about. That’s where science steps in. Introducing Focus Groups: what people want measured and quantified into clear numbers and facts. You can’t go wrong with facts. It’s a fact.

Unfortunately for the Grimm brothers, they didn’t have the privilege of such a powerful tool in their time. They had to write their entire body of work without any remarks from the research department. Just imagine how much better their work could have been. Take Snow White for example; sure, it’s a nice story, but send it to a focus group and you’ll get a real masterpiece.

Once upon a time {Focus groups indicate that 42.7% of audiences just love the ’80s so make the story in the ’80s} in a kingdom far far away {but still in America because focus groups indicate that Americans aren’t interested in anything outside the US} in a great big castle {drop any reference to real estate – following the subprime crisis mature audiences don’t like it} a princess grew up happy and content. Even though her father the king married a jealous stepmother {the majority of the female audience asked that the role of the stepmother will be played by an old overweight ugly lady, but males asked for a general MILF}. The princess was beautiful; with blue eyes {the group was ambiguous about it. Try one blue eye and the other green} and long black hair {53.8% of the males 18-34 asked for blond hair}. Her skin was delicate and fair, and so she was called Snow White {31% of the parents demand to change the name because it might refer to coke. How about A-bit-Pale White and the seven dwarfs?}.

Her stepmother was a wicked woman who felt threatened by Snow White’s beauty. In a fit of rage the queen ordered one of her huntsmen to take Snow White into the woods and kill her. {The group was divided about that part. The pre-teens asked to cancel this turn in the plot, 18-24 male asked for the huntsman to kill Snow White with weapons from Grand Theft Auto IV}

The Huntsman however was a kind man {Male 18-24 asked to replace kindness with sexual favors} and couldn’t carry out his mission and told Show White to run away.  She fled to the woods where seven little dwarfs lived {disabilities are unequivocally not attractive; the group agreed it must be something else – maybe cute babies or trained animals – or even better – celebrities. How about the Kardashians? They can give Snow White a makeover and say funny things}.  Their house was small and strange. {Great. but let’s wire it up with hidden cameras and put a confession room next to the house’s swimming pool. It gave great ratings for Big Brother}.

No. The Grimm brothers had to compromise on a piece that was much less audience-oriented. Think about all their other works – I’m sure that the focus group would ask for a catchier name than Rumpelstiltskin, at least something shorter that will be easy to pronounce or fit on baseball caps. A pipe is not the best instrument for the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Maybe a sexy drummer would have done better or an erotic guitarist, it will be a perfect feature for Rock Band console game. Come to think of it – it’s a pity not to use the structure of the tale for a commercial. Do you know how many possibilities for embedded content can be found in Sleeping Beauty with minor changes? What difference would it make if instead of a curse the witch will give her NyQuil and she will be woken up instead of by a prince’s kiss – by drinking Red Bull.  Thank you Focus Group, thank you very much.

Don’t get me wrong, focus groups are great tool. They can give amazing indication regarding issues and topics we could only guess about.

My point is, there comes a time where you need to go with your gut feeling and it can make the difference between you being just another TV exec or a victorious one.

Omri Marcus is an exclusive development partner of Red Arrow Entertainment Group. He takes part in the The Creator’s Tool Kit session at MIPFormats (April 3, 08.45). All Marcus’ new formats are being distributed by Seven One International.




About Author

Omri Marcus is head of Screenz Originals - a division of Screenz Cross Media. His role is to make things interesting by connecting entertainment and technology. He is also the founder of Comedy for Change, an initiative that connects prominent content professionals from around the world to push social change. Marcus is a frequent MIPBlogger & MIP-goer.


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