Saturday, October 20, 2007
A Monster Communicator Interview: Rich Becker
Rich Becker of Copywrite Ink needs no introduction to Jericho fans. He began writing about Jericho shortly after the cancellation and continues to write occasional articles even now.
I wanted to ask him some Jericho questions while we await CBS' announcement of Jericho's second season. As always, Rich impresses me. I appreciate you taking time for this interview Rich.
1. What makes Richard Becker tick?
There is nothing like an open-ended question. Nothing
and everything at the same time. Ha.
I fell in love with communication a long time ago
because I have a passion for learning about
interesting people and new things. Advertising, public
relations, journalism, and now social media
continually open doors to meet people, experience new
products, learn about various industries, and listen
to some amazing (and a few not so amazing) ideas. Even
before I committed myself to the industry, I had
already dabbled as a writer, poet, artist, and even
had an opportunity to design a company logo and work
on a casino advertisement while still in high school.
Ironically, I almost did not go into communication. I
studied psychology my first year in college and earned
enough credits in that field that I could earn a
second degree with about more two classes.
Other than that. My family makes me tick. We have a
lot of fun.
2. If there were no Internet where you be and what
would you be doing today?
The same, but with many more location limits and fewer
opportunities. When I first started Copywrite, Ink. in
1991, the Internet was still in its infancy. Most
material, whether for publications or advertising
agencies, was delivered by hand on a 3.5-inch floppy
disk, along with a hard copy just in case. Looking
back, there was a significant amount of time invested
in simply driving across town dropping off and pick up
What the Internet has done has expanded our
capabilities to work with anyone in the world as if
they were next door. And, with the advent of social
media, it has provided a new communication tool for
which my company is very well suited. As we develop
more clientele out of this market, we’re considering
additional markets as a base of operations.
3. What interests you the most about Jericho from a
consumer marketing perspective?
Social media continues to provide people with an
opportunity to connect and collectively promote or
enact change as consumers, within companies, in
communities, and all over the world. The majority of
businesses tend to underestimate this, but eventually
they will have to participate in social media on some
What fascinated me about Jericho was how quickly the
fan base came together as a show cancellation protest.
Within weeks, fans from all over the world were able
to collectively protest the decision of a major
network. Now, my interest is in seeing if this fan
base can promote the show they saved by securing
enough viewers to keep it alive. If Jericho fans can
do that, they will have effectively created an
influential model for others to follow.
4. If you wrote a pitch to ask people to watch Jericho
what would it say?
Well, it wouldn’t be a pitch as much as it would be a
complete rebranding of the way the show is marketed.
It is not a "nuclear apocalypse drama” as much as it
is a “small town survival” story in an alternate
universe that tests our country.
This might change during the truncated second season,
but it’s currently about how people react and cope
facing disaster as individuals and as a community. The
cause of the coup is pivotal to the plot, but most of
the story relates to how people handle the disaster
response. Anyway, when I do talk to people about the
show, their eyes light up with interest after the
"nuclear apocalypse drama” myth is dispelled.
5. Why do you think CBS is not actively promoting
Jericho and the DVD?
Supposedly that have a print advertising campaign, but
I haven’t seen it. So I can’t really speak for CBS.
What I can say is that by not aggressively promoting
it the message that they are sending is that they are
not committed to the show.
In sum, they want to retain the option to buy, but are
not ready to commit to the purchase. Unfortunately,
this is undermining CBS’s credibility.
6. Do you think CBS understands consumer marketing as
it relates to Jericho?
I don’t think many people understand consumer
marketing. In CBS’s case, they have missed multiple
opportunities to corral and help organize the fan
base, basically leaving it up to the fans to figure it
out. That is not how they sold their show cancellation
reversal. They sold it as a partnership and then went
right back to treating fans as passive viewers with
exception to a few cosmetic improvements to the Web
It’s a shame, because inside of reinvigorating the fan
base to put all that energy into positive outcomes,
they allowed it to create a general feeling of
mistrust. The relatively few mixed messages they have
put out do nothing but to erode that level of trust.
7. How could CBS use Jericho fans' marketing efforts
to their benefit?
There are so many ways they could have and not all of
them are still viable. What CBS failed to recognize is
managing a fan base is not unlike managing a
grassroots effort. They could have engaged the fans,
involving them in marketing efforts, and supplying
them with the material, art, etc. that the fan base
has been asking for all along and energized them to
promote the show on the Internet and, even more
importantly, off the Internet.
Now, especially because they missed yet another
opportunity with the DVD launch, their best bet is to
wait until season two is on the air. With a truncated
short season however, I’m not sure how much they will
do. If they want Jericho to succeed, they need to
focus on a message that appeals to new viewers, not
the existing fan base, and provide the material fans
need to promote the show.
8. How much, if any effect, do you think Jericho
bloggers have on CBS? New viewers?
I think Jericho bloggers have had more impact on other
networks than CBS. Other networks, and I’ve spoken
with a few, recognize that fan engagement will be key
to marketing shows in the future. Bloggers are part of
The reason is simple enough. People who care the most
about Jericho read these blogs faithfully. Many,
including, Jericho Monster, are mini Jericho online
publications that are largely dedicated exclusively to
the show. One thing is for certain, CBS might
appreciate Jericho bloggers even more if they abandon
9. Do you think CBS' foray into social media will be
They don’t have a choice but to be successful with
television advertising budgets down, its measures
questioned at every turn, and some programmers seeing
webcasts outpace regular programming.
Some days I think that it might take a major network
closing its doors to motivate the others toward
convergence. I’m not saying that network will be CBS,
but I haven’t seen a single successful model unveiled
from any of them.
10. Will you come back again and do another interview
about other subjects?
11. Any closing comments?
Sure. Right now, as it stands, the success of Jericho
falls squarely on the shoulders of the fans. Their
ability to get along is paramount to this success.
That might not be fair or even reasonable, but that is