September 24, 2009By Lynn Leahey Posted: Sep 24, 2009
There was an interesting article in yesterday's New York Times, explaining how the U.S. Census Bureau is using a storyline in a Spanish-language soap opera to help wary Hispanics get comfortable with the census process. The telenovela has incorporated a plot in which a main character becomes a recruiter for the United States Census Bureau, and the storyline is intended to gain Hispanics' trust. This isn't just about imparting information — it's an effort to change people's thinking. That even the United States government recognizes soap opera's power to persuade makes it surprising that the genre is struggling to survive. If I wanted to convince people to use a product, I'd rather advertise in a show with a rapt, devoted audience than one with bigger ratings and distracted viewers that channel surf as soon as a commercial comes on. For further proof of the power of daytime, look at the bereft GL fans. We actually have people call the office crying because their show went off the air — it's like they lost a friend. And of course, in a way they have. I just wish the power of soaps, a genre that makes people laugh and cry, or reexamine their attitudes about interracial couples and homosexuality, or get a mammogram because a character on their show did, was better understood and capitalized on. Because I would hate to lose another friend.