Skins: The most dangerous program ever for teenagers: Fact or Fiction?

The World of Youth-Culture & Entertainment

  • MTV launches what the Parent’s Television Council calls the Most Dangerous Program ever for teenagers. I would warn you if you want to watch the trailers. It is uncomfortable. It’s a show about teenagers drinking, doing drugs, having lots of sex, fighting, and just about everything else you can imagine. It’s so far over any reasonable line of decency as to be remarkable. And here’s the deal . . . there will be many of your students who will absolutely watch this show. Educate yourself. And your volunteers. And your students’ parents. This one needs to be on your radar.

We talked about this post and the linked “parental alert” tonight in our guys small group. I had been expecting more debate on the topic as to if it was the worst show ever, but what we did cover was pretty interesting as well. I think everyone agreed, that the warning, is the best publicity the show could hope for. Which kind of works against the goals of the PTC. Additionally, this is apparently not a new show, but one that has been in the UK for many years.

There is no such thing as a dangerous show.

The conversation was kind of ad hoc, and we covered several of the other items on the YM360 blog news round up. But this one I figured would spark a little more animation and engagement. As predicted in the article, about half of the youth had already seen the show. Those who had seen it were split on if it was even worth watching, one compared it to Degrassi. I had not seen either one, so I have to kind of punt on weighing in myself.

So I asked, “So is it the most dangerous show ever?” and the dea I had was I would pivot to “what is the worst show ever” but the clear vibe I got was.. that there is no such thing as a dangerous show. 

The logic being, kids are smart, and they can tell the difference between TV and reality. And anyone who would fall for this, was gonna do the things in the show anyway. This is true. to a point..

Kids are smart and not copy cats

Certainly for most teens, and for most but not all adults, they are not going to see a show and go out and copy it or try to be the characters.

Seems like a good argument, but then there is this:

So for some people, not 100%, not 50%.. and probably not even 2%. they will take a show like this seriously, and try to copy it exactly. its not a huge percentage.. and for 98+% the show is nothing worse than a bad waste of time. However.. if a successful cable show brings in 3 Million viewers, then tha is 60,000 people that will engage in behavior that they would not have before.. and that is big. For them and their families.

And this makes sense. Direct call to action marketing (aka infomercials, spam, cold calls etc) are typically designed for a 1 1/2% response rate or lower. So direct “I am going to emulate these people verbatim” response in the 2% range would be completely in line with established marketing practices.

What about more subtle, shifting of the Odds.

So bottom line is, I didn’t find a lot of support in the room for the idea that a show could be dangerous.

But consider this:

If our behavior could not be altered with just 30 seconds of video, then why do companies spend money on TV ads during the superbowl that are not direct calls to action?

Because the net effect of a small handful of viewings can impact our sub conscious process where we make snap decisions. The measures for this are very well established. In the hotel where my parents used to work, they would often conduct marketing studies. The pretense was that they we studying a TV pilot and would mix in commercials during the screening. But the real result was to measure brand awareness uplift. So they would ask questions like “Name three brands of cars” and they would ask some of the groups the questions before the show.. and other groups that question after.. and vice versa for different ones.

So I think that any serious marketer would agree that a 30 min once a week show could certainly shape the “top of mind” decision making process for the audience. 

Learning from bad examples?

But does this influence make teens less likely to engage in or less likely to engage in the portrayed behaviors? I am sure there is an answer here, but I have not seen the show so I can’t comment. It is conceivable that the show will portray the folks in such a negative light that the people watching will respond by saying “Man, no way I am doing that”. But if they become famous, and get book deals, and date famous people as a result of being a total mess.. then it could go the other way.

Bottom line 

If the *best* outcome for a show is that you dont copy it, and wreck your life, and just end up wasting a half hour. Then turn off the TV, go pick up a guitar, go outside and exercise, read a devotional or spend sometime hanging out with your real friends.