It was October 2010 when MSNBC pushed all of its chips to the left side of the aisle with the ad campaign “Lean Forward.”
Minneapolis ad agency Mono even procured the talents of Spike Lee to direct the commercial spots announcing the change. A big campaign. A big name. A big change for American network news. It was a gamble that network execs believed would pay off. From Rachel Maddow to Chris Matthews, the network was set to become the antithesis to FOX News.
And then the bloodletting of 2014 happened, causing the network’s president Phil Griffin to reconsider its position. Our sister site TVNewser broke the story yesterday via an internal memo.
Michael Wolff of USA Today fame summarized it perfectly: “MSNBC Loses Election.”
Yes, U.S. voters are extremely fickle, but you have to give them this — when they want “change,” they tend to unite behind a cause. America saw a new, gallant politician: someone who waxed eloquent and promised a new kind of government.
That was then, and this is now. We still want change, just not in the way that the Democratic party and MSNBC had hoped.
Ratings are why the network may choose to stand up straight again, starting with what Griffin calls efforts to “create a more nimble organization with greater collaboration between teams.” Back to Wolff’s article, in which he brings up the idea that the mid-term elections not only forced Americans to demand better from the U.S. government, but also from their news leaders.
The Democrats’ sinking fortunes have been pretty accurately charted in the declining ratings at MSNBC, the party’s house network, which culminated, on election night, in a 22% fall from the last midterm election in the all-important 25-to-54 age group.
MSNBC’s problem is almost exactly the same as the Democrats’ problem: It built its future around a vivid and dramatic hero who, unfortunately, turned out to be both opaque and conflict averse.
The article goes on to discuss Griffin’s questionable decisions, from giving the aforementioned Olbermann carte blanche to pelt Republicans to allowing Alec Baldwin to pose as a pundit for a mercifully brief period.
A study of network news ratings proves that Griffin’s choice to go young or go home has resoundingly failed One thing is clear — blaming Obama has become extremely popular. Unfortunately, even that isn’t a good story on MSNBC because voters have been watching FOX News say that for years.
The rebranding should at least be interesting. Anyone want to take on a challenging client?
UPDATE: We just heard from an anonymous source who applied for a top media relations job at the network. The source tells us that the planned rebranding played a large role in the interview process and that MSNBC demanded someone with close “White House connections” for the job.