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Victoria’s Secret: The Secret is Television

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As glamorous as fashion may be to the media and social public, it’s actually surprisingly rare to see fashion events be televised to the extent of the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Fashion is an immensely popular subject matter in media otherwise, whether in reality series’ like Project Runway, or in movies like The Devil Wears Prada, or certainly the many popular fashion magazines and blogs. Fashion also, as we’ve explored in the past, is a tremendous sector in the business of live events. Fashion Week is one of New York’s largest event productions in any given year as measured by the people it draws to the city, and product launches and sales promotions in fashion account for tremendous business in the events and retail industries.

But despite these many examples of inextricable bonds between the worlds of fashion and media, there seem to be some mysterious disconnect between the formatting of live fashion events and the consumer demands for good television. Now, one may argue that any red carpet event is really a fashion event, and there certainly is a case to be made for that argument. But from an event production standpoint, to integrate fashion into the prelims of an awards show is a different endeavor than to create a fashion event designed and optimized for television. Award shows in fact, have been one of the most repeatable formulas for live events making onto television, with new media companies seeming to create award shows out of thin air every year, and each being only slightly modified versions of each other in terms of the production and presentation.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is the only runway production in the country that gets live network television coverage. It’s a show that’s been in production every year since 1995, and has been part of the truly innovative and exemplary marketing for the Victoria’s Secret brand.

Between this show and the Superbowl Halftimes — alongside a number of award shows that we’ve explored in the past — I might go so far as to generalize that what makes for good television is having performances by celebrity singers. Although I do find the Victoria’s Secret strategy of designating their models as “Angels” to be brilliant, and the added resonance of this group of girls undoubtedly plays a role in consumers caring more about them than the less organized groups of models at other brands’ runways, I don’t think that the Angels themselves make the show the success that it has been. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show went untelevised every year in its first four years of production — so it was like any other brand’s runway — and got webcasted for its 1999 and 2000 productions. Since 2001, the show was televised every year on CBS, and incidentally, it was only after this televised coverage that every year these Fashion Shows have featured major star performances.

As much as these two institutions seem on the surface to have clashing interests, my theory is actually that broadcasting and live events universally improve one another across all sectors. The clash, as many in the events industry might argue, is that nobody would attend a live event anymore if everything can be accessed through virtual broadcasting. But in examples like the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, one would be hardpressed to find any reason why this most televised runway event in the world isn’t also the best produced runway event in the world, and one would be equally hardpressed to find any reason to say that the CBS coverage and improved ratings year after year hasn’t done its part in fueling the annual improvements of the Show’s production as well. I think these improvements benefit the live experience, and increases people’s interests for attending these events live rather than detracting from it.

See you at the next exploration!

Harry

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