Answering my own questions since 2001

Television Preview: Thinly-Veiled Ad Focus Groups

Today I received a dubious-looking invitation from the people at Television Preview. Here’s the opening paragraph of the letter (emphasis and caps, theirs):

DEAR TELEVIEWER:


YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED TO PARTICIPATE IN A SURVEY WHOSE FINDINGS WILL DIRECTLY INFLUENCE WHAT YOU SEE ON TELEVISION IN THE FUTURE.

YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED TO EVALUATE NOT-YET RELEASE TELEVISION MATERIAL THAT IS BEING CONSIDERED FOR NATIONWIDE BROADCAST.

YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED TO HELP REPRESENT TELEVISION VIEWING PREFERENCES OF THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.

The language is crucial here. ‘What you see on television’ and ‘television material’ are intentionally ambiguous, suggesting that you’d be watching and evaluating new TV shows. According to my 5 minutes of research, they show you a couple of dated TV pilots, complete with commercials (the invitation is unambiguous about that).

They’ve been showing the same pilots for years, because the real purpose is to test the ads. After watching the shows and ads, you complete a lengthy questionnaire on the ads. All for the chance to win part of $250 worth of prizes. As there are typically at least two hundred people in attendance, your odds aren’t fantastic.

There’s a clever old-school marketing tactic in the invitation. They include four printed tickets, complete with the location details. These look impressive, and are influential in encouraging the recipient to attend or pass them on.

Here are a few of the Television Preview scam (or at least sham) reports I found:

19 Responses to “Television Preview: Thinly-Veiled Ad Focus Groups”

  1. Sue

    I attended one of those preview sessions a few years ago. It’s exactly as you have described it. What was interesting was sitting in a room among a cross-section of Vancouver’s demographic groups. They somehow manage to bring in a very diverse range of people. It’s almost worth attending as a sociological experiment.

  2. donna

    When I was much younger, and much more gullible, my best friend & I tried to go.

    They also overbook the damn things so much that if you don’t get there half an hour in advance, you’re not getting in.

    I guess they expect a lot of people to say “hey, this is bullshit!” and not show. So, they make sure they pack the room. Meh.

  3. Bryce

    I’m still bummed that I didn’t win the bag of groceries. And I’m still waiting for the return of Valerie Harper to the airwaves. :)

    BTW, thanks for the link to my silly post! Have a great day!

  4. Andrea

    We just received tickets and some sort of prattle for a conference on making money on the Internet. When we got the spam, I thought instantly of those TV previewing scams. And then your post appeared. Weird.

  5. Jan

    If you like telemarketers, attend this!!
    I mean it, after filling out everything they need to know about my feelings on the commercials, I got called and was asked more questions. DON’T GO TO THIS!!
    TELEVISION PREVIEW IS A BUNCH OF LIARS!!

  6. Doug

    I attended the Television Preview on January 25, 2006 in Vancouver, BC and I won the shopping bag (worth $250.00) but was told to allow two to four weeks delivery. Today in the mail I received a cheque from Television Preview in the amount of $42.00 with a letter that states in part “as a substitute for the product coupons, we hope you will accept the enclosed check, which is equivalent to the coupons of those products”. What a bunch of scam artists!

  7. paul

    My friend and I went last week. By the time we got through the first questionnaire we knew it was a scam. But we were parked in the hotel garage and they weren’t passing out the validation tickets till the very end. So we were either stuck there or out about ten bucks for the garage. We stuck it out and had some fun with the second questionnaire. Oh, and gotta love the follow up phone calls. My friend told them the person they were looking for had moved…that stopped his. I just yelled at the two different people that called me on the same day. We’ll see if it works. Wish I had done the research first…

  8. fairnhite451

    Went to one of these tonight. They’re not using the Harper show any more, but they are still using “Soulmates” (a show so dreadful, you can’t find it in the IMDB listing of any of the participants) and a 1997 pilot called “Dads”.

    Bless her soul, my wife figured it out right away (we knew something was up, just not quite what they’re approach would be), so we had a lot of fun with the questions.

    Now to prep my riffs for the follow up marketing calls next week.

    ha!

    What killed me was how many people put up their hands to say they liked one or the other of the shows. It’s what’s wrong with out culture today that that kind of crap gets a pass in any forum.

    blech.

  9. markindetroit

    I just got home from one of these. Figured the scam after the first pile of questions. My daughter notice how old Soulmates was and I noticed the old style, cordless phones.
    Dads was a giveaway when the mentioned getting Barney for the party.
    Of course after that, my two daughters and I had some fun with the questions and we had our whole row laughing.
    We made the best of a waste of time.

  10. Nick

    Went to the preview in Cleveland back on 2/19/08. I won one of the prizes valued at $47. Allow 2-4 weeks for delivery. Well, guess what, still have not seen the prizes yet. It was na interesting way to waste a Sat night.

  11. Dennis Huss

    Thanks for the comments.
    Thank God there are folks out there that will take a moment to provide info
    on scams like this.
    I hate wasting precious life time so good to get a heads up on these cheap money grubbers…
    Cheers, Dennis, Ontario Canada

  12. bab

    When I got he tickets today I knew it just didn’t feel right. It was to vague and too slick at the same time.

  13. Tom

    We got tickets yesterday for a panel tomorrow night, so they’re still at it.

  14. Christi

    Oh boy, am I a sucker with a capital S. I SO wish I read about this scam before me and my friends went tonight.

    So, it’s many years later and they are still doing the same scam!

  15. Jay Jay

    Just got invite in Livonia Michigan. Glad I read this review!! BTW – We are NOT going…LOL

  16. Television Preview « Belligerati

    [...] except to check that it wasn’t a time-share scam, but when we got home we were stunned at all the websites complaining about this company. My recommendation is to not go to this if they invite you. [...]

  17. Kelly

    Just received 4 tickets in the mail (San Diego) for a Jan. 12 showing. So glad I checked here first. Thanks everyone!

  18. Hilda

    Ha Ha Ha this is soo funny. I just recieved my tickets, I actually considered goin when I saw the $250 in attendance prize.. but they way they worded it had my a lil hesitant. So I went to their website which had lil to no info at all.. pretty much had the same info as the letter tha came with the tickets. I ALWAYS google these kinda “Too good to be true” scams.. and this one was no different. I immidiately found info on this company and many many many complaints from people who attended one of their previews.

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