"This one's for fans of NFNS runner-up, Jeffery Saad- the Ingredient Smuggler is back with exclusive web-only videos! http://bit.ly/tIoqC"Avid viewers like myself immediately recognized the name of the second-place finisher on their wildly-popular show, "Next Food Network Star." And, if they're anything like me, they immediately clicked on the link to be regaled by Jeffrey as he made tilapia tacos with Anise seed.
Jeffrey was an early front-runner for the show's grand prize, a series on the Food Network, and was clearly very popular with FN viewers. But this strikes me as something exquisitely more well-planned than just a bone-throw to the runner-up and his fans. What the Food Network is doing is exhibiting excellent understanding of audience, medium, and content.
In the end, NFNS judges deemed Saad's appeal slightly too narrow for an entire series on the network. Saad's "culinary point of view" focuses on unusual ingredients folded into everyday cuisine. It is hip, exotic, and appeals to a different set than the deserving winner, Melissa D'Arabian, whose specialty is providing helpful tips to survive everyday culinary challenges drawn from her equally impressive reservoir of food knowledge.
It strikes me that the Food Network's marketing team did its homework in launching Saad's online series. Generally speaking, the set attracted to Saad's style view food in an almost recreational capacity: It is sustenance, to be sure, but for these adverturers food also represents a hobby, a way to experience new cultures, and a chance to branch out from the mundane. These are seekers and travelers who enjoy spice in their lives as much as on their plates.
The most effective way to reach these people - and they are still a demo FN should reach - is not a 30-minute show airing at 12:30 PM ET on Sundays (when D'Arabian's show airs), when many of them are mid-weekend adventure or recovering from it. Instead, this audience is better-served by cutting the "unnecessary" portions from a 30-minute show, briefly describing a new ingredient, and showing how it is made in 5-7 minutes online, when it can be viewed at their leisure.
My hunch is the FN was looking for a chance to try this web-only launch of a show. In Saad, they found a known entity with a built-in fan base through which to give it a go. Kudos to them on a fine job of marketing and audience recognition. Content is always king, but it is surely helped by providing the right medium to the right audience, as Food Network has done.
Marketing/PR colleagues, you feel me?