Boo and other salutations of the season!
Cyberspace is a powerful tool. In a matter of seconds you can email or post to hundreds, even thousands of people requesting they join your cause, buy your product, or visit your favorite website. Soap celebrities are fast becomming aware of it's power. Cindi Reinhart, who hosts a local soap segment on a network affiliate out of Seattle, Washington, has taken to the net (www.soapqueen.net/index2.htm) asking websurfers to join her campaign for a national show. Real Andrews (GH), www.realandrews.net, and Walt Willey (AMC), www.willeyworld.com, use their websites to raise money for charities. Others us the internet to sell products or promote different aspects of their career. Catherine Hickland (Lindsay, OLTL) sold her CD "Sincerely Broadway" at www.hickland.com before it got retail distribution, and it's still available at the website. Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Y&R) markets a line of cosmetics at www.monthly.com/melody, and Joshua Morrow, (Nicholas, Y&R) promotes his rock group at www.3deep.com. Make no mistake. The internet is the 21st century way to target market products, people, and causes.
And it works!
Some months ago, Turtle-Run ran a story on cyberfans who mounted a 2-year campaign for Cady McClain's return to All My Children. Their efforts were effective (See Soap Suds>Past Articles>Fans Fare for Cady).
Prior to that, in late 1995 -- early 1996, AMC fans rallied to support Robin Mattson (Janet) who learned the network was about to write her off the show. Through cyberspace, word of Robin's predictament reached the staff at EXTRA Online. Recognizing how the internet could make the network take a second look at Robin and her fan base, EXTRA created an entire site for Robin, dedicating it to her campaign.
"The power of the internet was not yet understood by the networks," said the former EXTRA Online associate producer who championed Robin's cause. "It was more than likely the network was not yet conscious of the possibility that this medium had the potential to change the face of soaps. Up until that point," she continued, "ABC had launched a site on America Online that provided photos and a community for fans, but they continued to use a useless, remote-controlled system of answering suggestion box mail -- a standard response letter," something they still do. "EXTRA built a Robin Mattson campaign site, complete with message boards, articles, and a progress report," the former associate producer said, "and we invited Robin to be our guest at a major auditorium chat."
"EXTRA Online sought us out and offered to help in the efforts to keep Robin on the show," said Henry Neuman, Robin's manager then and now. "They indicated there was a great outpouring of support from Robin's fans, and they wanted to set up the auditorium, which we graciously accepted. We felt it would be a wonderful way to get information out to the fans. All we wanted to do was let the fans know what was happening and why, and give them an opportunity to be heard. Something Robin felt she owed her fans. She has a great deal of respect and love for them. She never loses sight of the fact that they are the ones who make her job possible, and that they are the ones that this is all about." However, ABC had other ideas.
"Out of courtesy and protocal, we approached ABC and told them about the EXTRA chat," continued Neuman. "ABC preferred that we not go online live at EXTRA. Instead, they offered to host a chat with Robin, and said they would contact EXTRA and thank them, but they wanted to keep the chat at ABC Online." Not only did ABC host Robin's chat, they gave her a new contract.
Both Neuman and EXTRA's former associate producer agree, the turning point in Robin's contract negotiations was the offer of the EXTRA online auditorium, as it demonstrated the magnitude of her fan response. Unfortunately, the one associate producer at EXTRA who headed this project never heard back from Robin or her staff after it was all over. "With the goal achieved (Robin getting a new contract), and the campaign officially over, it seemed as though Janet had returned to her planet," she said.
Neuman insists that could not possibly be the case. "EXTRA was doing something on our behalf, how could we not be pleased? And grateful?" He does not recall ever receiving any phone calls from EXTRA after it was over. "Absolutely, positively no one rang here," said Neuman. "We would have fallen over ourselves to express our gratitude to EXTRA. As we did when they first called. We were so grateful that they were willing to go to all that trouble." Neuman feels that maybe there was some snafu in the attempt at communication. "After the network took it over, we never heard another word from EXTRA," Neuman said. "At the point when EXTRA wanted to do the chat, things turned on a positive note for us. When we realized the magnitude of the fan response, we were thrilled and elated with the scenario. We were, and always will be, grateful to EXTRA for their support and willingness to help." Neuman went on to say that he and Robin were very grateful for everyone's support. "We were very vocal about our gratitude, and EXTRA was very near the top of the list!"
Robin dedicated a chapter in her cookbook "Soap Opera Cafe: The Skinny on Food from a Daytime Star" to the fans saying: "Many voiced their opposition to the decision (of Robin being written off the show) on the Internet, and one group even picketed the studio, carrying signs declaring their support. I was deeply moved. More importantly, the reinstatement of my character is a testimony to these fans, for whom, after all, the show is created in the first place."
"Robin is and always will be very grateful to everyone who helped her at that particular time," reiterated Neuman. "And EXTRA's willingness to do that particular chat room was the turning point."
AMC fans are once again taking center stage to make their feelings known. A major campaign is underway to bring Michael Nader (Dimitri) back to Pine Valley. Look for my article on Michael and his cyber fans in an upcoming issue of Soap Opera Weekly and see our feature on Michael Nader Fans Call for AMC Tune-Out, here at Turtle-Run.
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