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):
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: