Fashion Star is the latest and greatest marriage of media and consumerism to hit the airwaves. The show premiered Tuesday night on NBC to mixed reviews, but its debut marked a new and significant advancement in the way advertisements in media reach target audiences.
Following the path laid forth by programs such as and Shark Tank, the American spinoff of the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, which gave entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their ideas to wealthy investors, Fashion Star puts clothing designers (a la Project Runway) in front of decision makers from major retailers like Macy’s , Saks Fifth Avenue, and H&M to show off their designs. If the judges are impressed, the contestant wins more than just cash or a dream vacation; their designs are purchased, manufactured, and sold in stores the day after the episode airs.
The model is revolutionary in that it allows stores to seamlessly embed not only their products-to-be, but also a strong marketing message directly into the competition, rather than with clunky placements and forgettable advertisements. Buyers are exposed to a product through a major channel and immediately have access to purchase it. For the first time, media and consumers can be instantly entangled in a relationship that results in a transaction.
Online, social media is alight with conversation discussing the show and its immediate impact at the cash register. On Twitter, personalities from the show such as Jessica Simpson spiked in popularity and the designer-contestants joined in live conversation with viewers. After garnering thousands of mentions on Facebook, one design purchased by Saks Fifth Avenue sold out by the morning following the premiere. Social media’s involvement also introduced an element of competition amongst the retailers; designs offered by Macy’s and H&M that generated less buzz remain available. The next episode will undoubtedly see a push across these networks from both companies.
Fueled by the increasing influence of outlets like network TV and the internet, marketing and advertising are more effective than ever before. Fashion Star illustrates that the gap between advertisers and consumers is constantly shrinking. The show could become the prototype for an entire genre should it prove beneficial to both business and consumer in the end. Being crowdsourced, contextual, and integrated might help make it so.