Reality shows continue to flood the airwaves and consume our newspapers. The diverse demographics that are reached through these programs forces me to ask the question, is this just trashy TV or quite possibly the smartest PR tool ever created?
Every summer, tourists flock to destinations that were once the homes of America’s greatest leaders and innovators. These historic areas have now been overshadowed by the temporary homes of America’s latest and greatest reality stars.
Shows like “Jersey Shore” and “DC Cupcakes” have turned their host cities into iconic tourist attractions. While many of America’s historic icons have been forgotten, the legacies of “Snooki” and “The Situation” live on.
Seaside Heights, home of the aforementioned “Snooki” and “The Situation,” has seen an increase in daily beach revenue by 38 percent from 2009 to 2010 partly because of the show’s impact. The publicity raised by these “unique” characters pushed Seaside Heights to create a new and definitive form of PR. The Seaside Heights Business Improvement District launched a marketing campaign boosting retail items and dinner entrees with different “Jersey Shore” motifs like the “Snooki Sandwich.”
Maria Maruca, executive director of the Seaside Heights Business Improvement District, said, “Celebrities draw crowds. That’s going to give us an edge that we didn’t have before. The exposure that the show brought to Seaside Heights — when every late-night host is talking about Snooki… — we could never have afforded that type of media. This is more than we could ever have asked for.”
Not only have these shows increased tourism, but local businesses have also prospered from the notoriety. The buzz surrounding shows featured on The Learning Channel, such as “DC Cupcakes,” helped launch sales and led to lines stretching around the block of the store. The chance to participate in one of the nationally televised episodes drives cupcake enthusiasts to the store in addition to increasing its revenue. The show and its television coverage carry the store’s brand much further than the product could have on its own. TLC even has a line of merchandise based off of the show, as well as order forms for delivery on its website.
As reality shows continue to top the charts, the towns and businesses involved will continue to ride the coattails of their successes. The hype these shows create opens the PR world to a new concept of publicity: reality TV PR.
What reality shows do you think have caused a significant boost in their featured cities?