Editorial: The power of one

Companies that depend on media advertising to sell their goods and services had better pay heed to the rash of recent incidents in which a handful of consumers - and in some cases a single consumer - has been able to...

Companies that depend on media advertising to sell their goods and services had better pay heed to the rash of recent incidents in which a handful of consumers – and in some cases a single consumer – has been able to force policy changes on large corporations.

Here’s a warning: They haven’t seen anything yet.

The coming of interactive communication technologies promises to shift the balance of power in the advertiser-consumer relationship squarely into the hands of the consumer.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact people everywhere are growing increasingly demanding of their governments and the large corporations that exist in their midst.

It is entirely possible that in a digital, interactive world, irate consumers will find ways to ‘flame’ offending media companies and advertisers much the same way internet users have been known to flood internet advertisers with angry e-mail messages.

Such mass-protest activities might be more than simply an annoyance; they could well hinder the ability of companies to conduct business.

Take the example of Global tv and the children’s program Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a watchdog agency to which Global voluntarily belongs, deemed the live-action show excessively violent.

The council was responding to complaints by parents, who did not like the idea of their children being exposed to the show’s frequent kick-boxing scenes.

ytv, which also airs the show, pulled the plug immediately, but Global has announced it will continue to broadcast a modified version, one that emphasizes the athletics of the combatants rather than the fighting.

A number of parents have already begun circulating protest petitions, but the fact is unless the cbsc backs them up or they write enough letters to scare off the show’s advertisers, their cause is futile.

Global executives can easily ignore the show’s critics, since few will take action and what action they do take cannot easily penetrate the broadcaster’s thick office walls.

But imagine a world in which interactive media would enable Power Rangers’ critics to communicate directly and easily with Global, its advertisers and, possibly, even the show’s producers.

If registering an e-mail complaint about a show were just as simple as changing the channel, wouldn’t you expect people to do it? The next step, that of boycotting a product, would not be significantly more difficult if the advertiser sold its products via interactive tv.

As the recent grassroots political movements in Canada, the u.s. and elsewhere have demonstrated, people do care and will stand up for themselves as long as they feel their actions will make a difference.

Companies that live and die by the media need to keep this in mind. People will no longer have to put up with being ignored and patronized.