Monday, July 20, 2009

Masterchef: Not a show, more a huge piece of research.

A giant piece of real research into the Australian character has just been completed. You can access it for free. If you watched the final of Masterchef Australia last night, you took part in the study.

Australians have put down the tea towel and wandered into the TV room in record numbers.

It’s been said that Masterchef has captured the spirit of the times (or zeitgeist for the show-offs): that we’re staying in and learning how to cook again.

Maybe so, and that’s nice, but the show has also handed a gold plated gift to all Australian marketers and agencies. What the producers of Masterchef have done brilliantly is turn ‘likeability’ into an art form. They have spent millions supplying advertisers with a picture of the perfect consumer.

Let me explain.

The original gang of contenders were no random bunch of kitchen wannabes. Each had the potential to be Australia’s most loved person. The producers selected a cross section of middle Australia. Young, middle aged, pretty, average looking, Asian, even black.

Then they made them jump through culinary hoops as we grew to know and like them. The contest was not really about cooking, it was about who had the grit to pick themselves up after a near loss, dust off the flour and come back fighting the next day.

Gradually contestants were eliminated until a group small enough for us to remember their names remained.

Up until then Masterchef looked like any TV contest show (albeit a much friendlier one). ‘May the best cook win’ and all that.
But suddenly 3 eliminated contestants were given a second chance and brought back! Back came pretty blonde Justine. Back came pretty Asian Po. Back came gentle black Tom.

Justine was fairly good but Po and Tom were bit hit and miss when it came to cooking. Could it have been that the punters just liked this trio? Were they too good for the ratings for Masterchef to let them go?

The game continued. Tom left. The ratings climbed.

When Justine left the judges cried! Now that’s taking your ratings seriously!

Finally Po, slightly overweight Julie, and zany, hat wearing Chris were left.

Again if viewers thought this was just a cooking competition Chris’ departure answered that. He had been a strong performer throughout. His dishes were for the most part original, tasty and well presented. But had his confidence started to become cocky-ness? Had Australia fallen out of love with him?

Chris was astonished when Julie’s incomplete, unfinished, mess of a meal beat his unusual but professional offering. If Chris had won, as he should have, the final night could well have had a smaller audience than it did.

But as it turned out, over 4 million Australians (a fifth of the nation) stopped to see if Julie would beat Po. She did.
And now we know the kinds of women Australia loves at this moment.

Po is attractive, creative, experimental, hard working, organised, gutsy, determined, and ready to laugh.
Julie is middle class, a little overweight, obsessed with her family, a bit messy, brave, undaunted, focussed physically tough, and good humoured.

Australian marketing community, meet your ideal consumer. 4 million Aussies say so.

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