Going back twenty, even ten years ago, TV was a vital focal point for businesses. Companies that advertised, or even ran programs on TV would see a marked return from audiences. Viewers would grant their attention, and purchase the products featured. Ideally,t his would translate into word of mouth, which would lead to future sales. Godin referred to this as the “TV-Industrial Complex,” a play on the term “Military Industrial Complex.”
In the anime world, we’ve seen this effect first-hand, as Cartoon Network helped catapault numerous titles into cult hits through their Toonami and Adult Swim blocks. Gundam Wing, Tenchi Muyo!, Cowboy Bebop, and Dragon Ball Z were all launched into mainstream consciousness through their Cartoon Network runs. Many older fans cite the Saturday morning runs, as their first exposures to Sailor Moon, and still look fondly at the hours they spent with Samurai Pizza Cats, Robotech, and Voltron.
In recent years, I’ve heard calls for a return of Toonami. I’ve heard people call to get anime into prime time, and onto prime TV slots. I’ve seen people claim that such moves would “save” anime. However, times are changing. In today’s market, it’s impossible to re-capture the same impact as the Toonami of old. The world no longer relies on the picture-box to dictates what people buy. The market shifted from “We tell you” to “Me, me, me!” ‘
In short, the TV-industrial complex is dying.
To take the place of the loss of the TV-Industrial Complex, we’re seeing the market shift toward stories. As peoples’ attention spans shrink, and traditional advertisements grow less effective, customers are taking to social media for their product recommendations. Facebook has thriving communities around products, Twitter buzzes about any niche one can think of. People tell their stories, of fantastic service, and of horrible experiences.
To make new customers, companies are now tasked with the difficult responsibility of making friends first and foremost. They need to find a way to access their market’s precious permission, to get the customers to reveal what they want. Then, they need to go the extra mile and turn these customers into sneezers, by delighting them with the purple cow.
In a sense, the anime market is already ahead of the curve.
Anime customers draw from a diverse market of many demographics. However the primary audience tends to be ready to adopt technology more quickly than the average person. Anime customers were a major set of the early adopters of both DVD and Blu-Ray formats, and they were among the very first to embrace digital distribution in cough some form or another. They take to social media en masse, and are eager to share their opinions both with their friends and the companies they patronize.
The major players have developed some way to respond to these users, across the web and the social networks. FUNimation keeps a social media specialist in-house to handle customer interactions, Sentai Filmworks and the Anime Network maintain active Twitter and Facebook communities, and Bandai… well, Bandai’s trying.
In the post-TV-Industrial world, we will see the tides continue to change, and the market scramble to produce the next purple cow. So long as the battle for customer permission continues to rage, the narrative will continue to shift as well. The customer has become the one true king of the market, and their attention will become an increasingly important key going into the next phase of the market.