Is the AlDub phenomenon losing its appeal?

The Eat Bulaga plateau and how the show can get out of it

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06:03 AM January 15th, 2016

By: Josiah Go, January 15th, 2016 06:03 AM
Based on data provided by Kantar Media Philippines, long-running noontime show Eat Bulaga was able to more than double the number of its household viewers in 2015, thanks in part to the AlDub segment. eat bulaga facebook page

Based on data provided by Kantar Media Philippines, long-running noontime show Eat Bulaga was able to more than double the number of its household viewers in 2015, thanks in part to the AlDub segment. EAT BULAGA PHOTO

Background: After 36 years in Philippine show biz, Eat Bulaga was able to reinvent itself with the Aldub segment back in July. Based on data provided by Kantar Media Philippines, Eat Bulaga was able to more than double the number of its household viewers.

From a base of 2.5 million households last July 2015, the number went up to 6.2 million on Oct. 24, 2015, with the additional 3.7 million households watching on Saturdays (the highest for the week).

These were mostly new viewers from the unserved market, excluding other segments such as overseas Filipino workers.

There are about 20 million total households in the Philippines. With some 15.5 million households owning a TV set, the market potential for noontime TV show viewers is still relatively high. Take note that not everyone is watching TV during noontime.

History Flashback: The last major brand that was able to almost double its number of followers within a three-month period in the Philippines was Pepsi in 1992. Unfortunately, Pepsi wasn’t able to sustain the efforts, having been affected by human error. Remember the infamous 349 crisis?

The company could have gained more had it extended the Pepsi Number Fever promotions. Coke got lucky as Pepsi sustained a self-inflicted injury.

Backtrack even further to 1977 and 1978, way before Eat Bulaga was born—John Travolta was the next big thing in Hollywood, starring in the now-iconic “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease.” He was certainly a cut above the rest as he did more than just the typical Hollywood roles. When he branched out from his usual image and repositioned himself to do other roles, his movies ended up becoming financial disasters.

It actually took him 16 years to be considered “cool” again, thanks to 1994’s “Pulp Fiction.” He was finally able to garner attention again, for a role that reminded people of who he was in his two early hit movies.

When success is phenomenal, brands and the people behind them may develop overconfidence. There is a tendency to feel powerful and unbeatable, until a blunder or a roadblock happens and forces them to zoom out and look objectively from a different perspective.

At the moment, people may still be gaga over Aldub, but marketing history (examples cited above) will reveal they are not entirely invincible.

Let me elaborate.

Aldub Decoded: In two previous articles, the author hypothesized that new viewers were mainly responsible for the rejuvenated Eat Bulaga that we are enjoying now. They were attracted because the show not just added the Aldub love team (albeit accidentally) within the “Juan for All, All for Juan” segment, but values were also injected within the show via Lola Nidora’s antics.

Eat Bulaga had de facto repositioned itself as an “entertainment plus values” fusion category that became distinguishable from the purely noontime entertainment formula that other networks have been doing. Aldub attracted family oriented households that felt like they shared the same values and sense of humor as Yaya Dub and Lola Nidora.

It wasn’t hard to like because the segment showed familiar themes in Filipino culture. #SaTamangPanahon was popularized when Lola Nidora shared the importance of waiting for the right time to take the relationship to the next level. It was a sure hook for households that wanted to stress the concept of proper “panliligaw (courtship),” something that is not so common in this day and age.

The many values of the Aldub  segment not only differentiated Eat Bulaga from its peers, but more importantly, provided relevance versus pain points expressed by non-customers. Instead of going with the same deprecating humor demonstrated by other shows, Eat Bulaga went the opposite route and became a positive icon beyond the usual “saya (fun)” and “kilig (heart flutter).” (Interestingly, Eat Bulaga also went the same “trash talk” route once and some of the hosts were even accused of more controversial issues. Imagine this case study as a 360-degree transformation.)

Data Review: A review of the latest number of viewers watching Eat Bulaga, as audited by Kantar Media Philippines in November and December 2015, is disturbing.

It showed a rapidly declining base of viewers. From a peak of 6.2 million households viewing last Oct. 24, 2015 when Maine Mendoza, half of the Aldub love team, wished “sana hindi kayo magsawa (I hope you won’t get tired of us),” the number has deteriorated rapidly to only 4 million households after a month on Nov. 28 and 3.5 million on Dec. 6.

This further dropped to 3.3 million on Dec. 19 and finally to 2.65 million on Dec. 26. Eat Bulaga practically lost all incremental customers it gained—losing 3.55 million viewing households in just two months while gaining only a measly 150,000 extra fans despite the numerous product endorsements that aired during the same period.

Critical Changes: Most followers of Eat Bulaga may remember the two critical events that possibly explain the deterioration in the number of viewers.

Mendoza, then better known as Yaya Dub for her role as a caregiver (yaya), was finally able to meet in person the other half of the AlDub couple, Alden Richards, in their much publicized event on Oct. 24 in the Philippine Arena after a strong resistance from Lola Nidora.

Secondly, Mendoza stopped being mysterious, which was part of her earlier allure. Instead of doing the Dubsmash, Mendoza has already revealed her real voice. She was also transformed from an underdog, girl-next-door caregiver Yaya Dub to a more glamorous up-and-coming talent Maine Mendoza.

Still, Aldub is a formidable team to the segment they attract. The couple helped the “My Bebe Love: #KiligPaMore” become a hit during the 41st Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). The movie got the biggest opening day gross in local cinemas, beating other Filipino films.

Perspectives: “My Bebe Love” had a limited run in Eastwood, a hangout of one of the show’s new viewer segments. The author watched it in the early evening of Dec. 29, the movie’s fifth showing day, and noticed how the cinema was far from full and actually very quiet throughout the duration of the movie (except for a few parts).

Loyal fans said they will continue to be passionate of their affections for the couple. However, from the perspective of new viewers attracted to the fusion category, making them stay will be difficult for they are still longing for the same drama as the highly quoted #SaTamangPanahon. At best, some may still remain as occasional viewers, who sadly can also turn into lapsed, burnt-out customers.

Most new viewers who originally got into Eat Bulaga because of the fusion category/concept may not exactly be attracted to seeing selected people from a barangay getting prizes from advertisers and sponsors. This was a formula that was done by Eat Bulaga even before the Aldub love team was concocted.

Perhaps it was a reason why these new viewers never watched Eat Bulaga in the first place. They may not be attracted to reelectionist Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III engaging the recipients of these prizes. They may not be attracted to Mendoza co-hosting part of the show or performing a character where she is not a role model or Dubsmash talent/comedian. They may not be interested in the number of “#weeksary” tweets, even if another tweet record can be established. They may not be interested in the number of likes and shares on Facebook.

All these things simply please the existing fans. The new viewers may get out of the fad because they’ll eventually realize that they became new customers mostly due to a different value proposition, which is now not as strong as before.

In recent episodes, Lola Nidora was seen trying to revert back to the entertainment plus values formula, but it seems like the focus was not entirely there yet. Perhaps an increased consistent effort and commitment would bring back lapsed and non-customers.

Lessons: At least eight lessons can be learned about the sustainability of market-driving innovation in service, formerly seen in Eat Bulaga. As mentioned above, the numbers have switched—from a peak of 6.2 million viewers to only 2.6 million. These lessons are:

  1. Distinguish market-driven strategy versus market-driving strategy, with the former responding to the needs of the existing customers and the latter shaping the needs of new customers. These two types of marketing strategy are not mutually exclusive and can happen at the same time. Embracing true learnings on an accidental success is key in order not to keep losing millions of household viewers who tried watching but are no longer interested in Eat Bulaga.
  1. New customers are attracted to new features (i.e. explicit emphasis on forgotten values like #SaTamangPanahon, role model, unpredictability, etc.) of an offer and will be lost if the priority features they got attracted to in the first place will cease to exist. Over a period of time, these motivators become satisfiers. The problem with that is that it may become a dissatisfier if you remove or change it. New customers, one of the nine different types of non-customers, tend to behave differently compared to loyal and screaming fans who are less sensitive to changes.
  1. Understand different goals. For the market-driving strategy, it’s the acquisition and market penetration as reflected in the number of new viewers. For the market-driven strategy, it’s the satisfaction and loyalty as reflected in comparative ratings. Never fall in love with ratings (market share) alone, whereby superior rating can still be attained while bleeding millions of new viewers as in the case of Eat Bulaga.
  1. Dialogue partners are key. In a market-driven strategy, it’s the loyal fans. In a market-driving strategy, it’s the non-customers. Usually, brand owners listen to existing customers and assume that what satisfies loyal and screaming fans will also be valid for non-customers.
  1. Market-driving strategy’s first of seven principles—that being better is the enemy of being different. Eat Bulaga has attracted noncustomers by being different and being nontraditional. As the voice of the screaming fans went up, they became more traditional, addicted to market-driven metrics (ratings, number of tweets, number of likes) instead of market penetration and values shared or quoted in market-driving strategy (read two articles “Marketing and Strategy Lessons From Eat Bulaga’s Aldub” and “The Market-Driving Strategy of #Aldub”, both posted at www.josiahgo.com)
  1. Innovation is about two elements—offering something new, but being commercially successful. Success is about sustainability. It’s about the stickiness factor—making people try, retry, and repeat their behavior until it becomes part of their lives.

To make Mendoza co-host or do out-of-character roles in Eat Bulaga is not being different, and for now, not even being better, beyond her new found popularity. Aldub will just become another love team if this keeps up.

Unless Eat Bulaga acknowledges the white space in the fusion category of entertainment plus values, they will end up trying to be unique in the same way as competitors instead of being unique in a unique way, a fusion category of its own.

  1. Adopt different lenses in marketing: market-driven versus market-driving and growth marketing versus defensive marketing. The latter should be anticipated as progressive competitors may decide to pick up the white space abandoned by the innovator.

Imagine that ABS-CBN has more resources and a greater market reach. It could easily fill in the values void with a new segment, as it had possibly gained lessons from three successive incorrect responses (three top love teams guesting, Coliseum event, Pastillas Girl) catering to needs of existing viewers instead of new viewers.

Who knows, TV 5 may just get a headquarter mandate to jump in and tap the synergies of their sister companies in media, telecom and related businesses.

  1. The right vision makes the difference. No doubt, making fans happy is important. Ensuring the show is a stress reliever is a given, but having a dual vision entails humility to learn an innovator’s paradigm: Sharing more forgotten values explicitly like #SaTamangPanahon to a country where close to half of its households have no parents at home because of work elsewhere. A TV show, like or unlike Eat Bulaga, can be so powerful and effective to have the ability to address social issues and influence the mindset and behavior of its citizens via entertainment.

That’s the most exciting market-driving strategy in show business, a true fusion of entertainment and values. Hindi lang saya at kilig, but also saya, kilig at laman (Not just fun and heart-fluttering shows, but segments that have content).

(Josiah Go is the chairman of marketing training and advocacy firm Mansmith and Fielders Inc. To read his marketing articles or his interviews with business thought leaders, visit www.josiahgo.com. For Josiah Go’s seminars in Market-Driving Strategy or Business Model Innovation, please visit www.mansmith.net)

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