Long-running programmes sometimes need a little TLC. Sometimes that TLC can involve promotions and marketing. If EastEnders is to hit the ground running when it returns on 7th September it will need that.
But the problem is it will not be making quite the full return its fans are waiting for. Initially the 4 weekly episodes will be just 20 minutes long.
So here lies the dilemma. Should marketing swing into action now to get fans excited or should 7th September be a “soft launch” ahead, it is assumed, of a full return as quickly as feasible. The challenge is enormous.
Soaps rely on habit viewing. There have been no new episodes of EastEnders since June while ITV’s soaps remained on air. ITV’s soaps will make a full return next month though the exact date has still to be announced. A full return to normality on ITV could steal any thunder from EastEnders.
The scheduling of 20-minute episodes is potentially tricky too. Do they start “late” or finish “early”?
There is more to judging the success of a programme than its ratings and EastEnders is no longer BBC One’s most popular programme. But it has a strategic role as a banker in the schedule which brings in viewers who may not otherwise be big BBC fans.
If EastEnders is to regain what its fans would see as its rightful place as the country’s top soap, marketing and promotion will be important. On air promotion alone will not be enough: posters, newspaper ads and social media have a role. One of the BBC’s first real marketing campaigns came ahead of its launch in 1985.
Not running a big campaign soon could inadvertently send out the signals that the show is no longer loved or valued.
PICTURED: EastEnders titles. COPYRIGHT: BBC.