On Agent Anna, humourless realtors and dodgy viewing figures
Years and years ago, in another life, I fronted a television commercial for the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.
I don’t recall seeing the result on TV but I remember that I wasn’t very good.
After numerous takes the director took me aside and said, ‘We’re having a bit of trouble with the accent, Brian. Viewers won’t know what you’re talking about.’
I was naturally affronted.
‘What on earth do you mean?’
‘Well, it sounds as though we’re in the railway business.’
‘In the railway business! Is this a joke?’
‘Well, come and have a listen.’
I listened to the playback, but couldn’t hear anything unusual.’
‘Well Brian, you’re saying “Rail Estate Institute of New Zealand”, not “Real Estate Institute of New Zealand”’.
He was right. If you say ‘real’ with an Irish accent, it comes out ‘rail’.
Twenty takes later I’d got it right.
I can’t remember what I was paid for this gig, but it was a lot less than Kev got for flogging carpet.
Thanks to our gypsy lifestyle, Judy and I have had lots of dealings with real estate agents over the years, some brilliant, some dire. So we were quite interested to see how the profession would be portrayed on what the Herald has described as ‘TV One’s new hit comedy series Agent Anna starring Robyn Malcolm.
My verdict – mildly amusing. Judy, whose credits include ‘TV dramatist’ (Close to Home, Gloss, Shortland Street to name but three), thought it was better than that.
My former employers, the Real Estate Institute, and assorted realtors weren’t so happy. The programme showed real estate agents in a dim light. A dim light might well be the kindest to show real estate agents in, but they definitely weren’t amused. The programme, they said, just reinforced negative, often misleading stereotypes.
Barfoot and Thompson’s MD Peter Thompson said it was ‘a load of rubbish, to be honest. It’s anti real-estate agents. I would just love to do the same thing for media, TV people, plumbers or politicians. I find it incredible they can create a programme like that. Let’s do one on actors.’
He obviously hasn’t seen Seinfeld, Extras, The Thick Of It or about a hundred other TV shows and movies poking fun at all those occupations with the possible exception of plumbers. It’s a thought though!
REINZ CEO Helen O’Sullivan was equally unimpressed. Referring to the lying, backstabbing, cheating and promiscuity shown on the programme, she said, ‘It’s TV, it’s not real life.’
By Jove, I think she’s got it.
And she should let Peter in on the secret: they aren’t real people, they’re actors; and it never really happened, it’s a story; and it’s not meant to be taken seriously, it’s a comedy; and like many comedies, it pokes fun at one social group, which is just what Peter would like to see done to TV people, plumbers, politicians and actors. I mean, we really wouldn’t want people thinking that the real estate industry was full of hypersensitive, humourless people unable to laugh at themselves, now would we?
But this isn’t the end of the story. TVNZ turned out to be a bit hypersensitive itself about the criticism levelled at its new comedy and, adopting the ‘never mind the quality, feel the width’ approach, told us that more than 1.2 million people had tuned in so far and on average more than 400,000 viewers had watched each episode.
Now I’m going to hazard a guess that the 400,000 figure is what we in the industry call a ‘cume’. ‘Cume’ is short for ‘cumulative’ and records how many people over the age of five tuned in to a programme for more than 5 minutes. So if you watched for, say, just 6 minutes, decided you hated the programme, turned it off or switched to a different channel, you’d still be counted as a viewer. With a cume of 400,000 it’s extremely unlikely that anything like that number of people were watching at the same time, let alone for the entire programme.
Then we come to the 1.2 million. Now it’s not entirely clear from TVNZ’s statement, how many episodes the figure refers to, but if the average viewership per episode is 400,000, then it ought to be three. Three times 400,000 = 1.2 million. Fair enough.
But hold on, that would only make sense if the 400,000 who watched Episode Two were new and different viewers, not the same 400,000 who’d watched Episode One; and the 400,000 who watched Episode Three would have to be more new and different viewers, not the same 800,000 who, added together, allegedly watched Episodes One and Two. You can’t just multiply an average audience of 400,000 viewers per episode by three and claim that as a total of 1.2 million people who’ve watched the programme. It’s the same bloody 400,000 watching each episode (give or take a few thousand or ten thousand).
Now I really, really didn’t want to say this, but TVNZ’s 5+ viewing figures for Agent Anna do seem to be rather misleading. But then we’re all entitled to exaggerate just a bit, aren’t we? Ask any real estate agent.
Media trainer and commentator Dr Brian Edwards blogs at Brian Edwards Media.
POSPTSCRIPT: NBR ased Nielsen for the first two episodes' ratings (click to enlarge):