Stupid Marketing Tricks: TNT’s fake mix tape doesn’t ‘Say Anything’ interesting

men of a certain age

Cable network TNT sent its marketing team in the wayback machine this week to send out a “sneak peek” at a new show, Men of a Certain Age. Which, based on the cast (Scott Bakula, Andre Braugher and Ray Romano) is somewhere in the late 40s to early 50s. Presumably, these men of a certain age made romantic mix tapes for their would-be loved ones in their youth. Or a mix tape to enjoy while driving around. Or, and I’m just guessing here, to enhance getting baked in their mom’s basement.

The “mix tape” is an iconic touch point for anyone of a certain age, especially those who know what a “tape” is. (Was.) These men of a certain age most certainly spent some quality time in mom’s basement making mixes to celebrate love, mourn getting dumped and generally show off their masterful knowledge of hot jams. (For the ultimate example of this male prototype, see John Cusack in High Fidelity.) Naturally, these men are now older, but somewhere deep inside each one, an insecure teenager is dying to find audio perfection.

Which brings me to the marketing experiment that arrived in our snail mail this week (for no apparent reason!). TNT has spent at least a few bucks to create a giant faux tape box containing a tiny-but-heavy rubber “mix tape” that’s really a flash drive that plugs into your computer’s USB port. The drive contains three songs in a play-only Shockwave format (alas, no MP3s) that presumably represent the three men at the heart of the show. I say presumably because I can’t imagine any person on Earth putting “Up Around the Bend” by Creedance Clearwater Revival, “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake and “The Best of Times” by Styx on the same tape voluntarily.

My expectation is that these songs will play while the three men bond in the car, driving in the perfection that is the Magic Hour (right before the sun sets). Or perhaps while smoking weed they stole from one of their children in the basement. I’m pretty sure they won’t be playing any of these songs while holding a CD player over their heads. I just don’t see wooing the Mrs with Whitesnake.

I’m just guessing, of course, as I didn’t bother to watch the core marketing piece on the tape: a “sneek peek” for the show itself. I just can’t get excited about a show revolving around middle-aged men who like Whitesnake, CCR and Styx. I’m also curious as to how I was targeted to receive this particular piece. The best theory I’ve had to date, based on the name used on the address label: cable cousin (via Time Warner) HBO sold/lent my name to TNT.

I purchased a True Blood tee directly from earlier this year, and fully expected to get marketing from at least HBO. They have not disappointed, letting me know every single item that has entered the store related to every show on the air. Every HBO touch has been via e-mail, however.

TNT clearly spent at least some marketing dollars to get attention for their show. The question is, did  it work? Yes and no. No in that I still don’t have any interest in the show, and in fact any chance I might have given it (based solely on the cast) pretty much died when presented with these music choices. (I now have a mash up of “Up Around the Bend” and “Here I Go Again” stuck in my brain. I fear I may go insane!)

On the plus side – at least for TNT – they got exactly what every show desires: a free plug.

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