CW's New Mind Candy: 'Gossip Girl'

Media Reviews for Media People

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With a crop of shows making their debuts on cable and the fall season upon us, Ad Age TV Editor Brian Steinberg casts a critical eye on some of TV's new and continuing series to help marketers determine which may prove to be the best showcases for their ads and products. On Wednesday, CW debuts its teen angst drama "Gossip Girls," set in New York's tony Upper East Side.


"Gossip Girl"

Where/when you'll see it: CW, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

What you'll see: Every generation of teens needs a drama to call its own. Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials tuned into "Beverly Hills 90210, "Dawson's Creek" and "The O.C." Now here comes "Gossip Girl," which transplants teen angst to Manhattan's tony Upper East Side, where privileged underage kids can slurp martinis at a ritzy hotel bar, smoke weed in Central Park or have sex in mom's townhouse (am I so old to think that bartenders still check young kids for I.D. when they order martinis?!).
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The creators must have had that campy 1999 rich-teens-unleashed classic, "Cruel Intentions," on the brain when conceiving this drama. As in that movie, rich kids can show off 15 new kinds of cruelty, because their extremely busy, business-oriented parents leave them with lots of unsupervised time.

The new conceit here is that an unknown blogger who goes by the handle of "Gossip Girl" fills everyone else in on all the action, which centers around Serena van der Woodsen, her rival and best friend, Blair Waldorf, and their various hangers-on. There's even a brother-and-sister pair who live -- heavens! -- solidly in the middle class and still manage to get in on all the action. (They have the advantage of having a father who was once something of a rock star. Seriously.)

Some of this is shocking. Some of this is silly. But it's all eminently watchable mind candy that is just for fun -- nothing more. CW's entire raison d'etre is to appeal to young kids. There's no reason they won't hook on to this until the next gossipy teen soap-sudster comes along.

What's at stake: CW needs to add scripted fare to its lineup, media buyers say, and it could use a few more hits in its sophomore year. Wednesday is a competitive night -- ABC will be showing "Private Practice," the "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off, at the same time, so "Gossip Girl" will have its work cut out for it -- though it can't hurt that it has "America's Next Top Model" as a lead-in.

Who's onboard: "Gossip Girl" ought to play into the sweet spot of CW's ad base. The network's largest advertiser is Procter & Gamble, followed by Cadbury Schweppes and three big telecom players -- AT&T, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Communications.

Your ad here? Marketers squeamish about today's teen behavior might not want their ad or product appearing as Blair and boyfriend Nate go at it in someone's bedroom while their pals party elsewhere. But otherwise, there seem to be plenty of opportunities. The kids use what seem like dozens of portable communications devices, and CW has already sewn up an unspecified sponsorship pact with a telecommunications marketer, according to a person familiar with the situation. P&G's "Cover Girl" is an integral part of "Next Top Model," the show on prior to "GG," so if Procter wanted to make use of CW's "content wraps" -- a series of connected commercials that unfurl over the course of an evening -- it would seem like a show aimed at teens would make the feat that much easier.

Media buyer's verdict: "'Gossip Girl' could become another one of those young-woman and female-teen magnets that WB used to be so good at developing," said Steve Sternberg, exec VP-director of audience analysis at Magna Global.

"There is an audience from 'The O.C.,' and that show is no longer on TV. If this can do the ratings for CW that 'O.C.' did for Fox, I think CW would be very happy," said Brad Adgate, senior VP-corporate research director, Horizon Media.
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