Dec 24, 2007

30 Seconds of Fame

Sometimes it takes a posh TV shoot to remind yourself why the industry is so addicted to the 30 second TV spot. But for agency and client alike, it’s a chance to go Hollywood, to vicariously experience the glamor of the film industry. I mean just being on a set is an incredible contrast to sitting in an office, as is watching the whole process of actors bringing your ideas to life. Add to that the usual perks of 5 star hotels and 5 star meals and suddenly doing a really cool microsite seems hopelessly dull. Especially if you’re a marketing client at a company that doesn’t give marketing a whole lot of respect to begin with and the week you spend in Los Angeles making TV spots, spotting celebs at Shutters or the Four Seasons, and having dinner at the Ivy is the only thing you have to look forward to all year.

Now all this is clearly not a reason to adopt a TV-centric policy. But it does help explain why so many clients- and agencies- are so addicted to the medium. And (as I’ve mentioned on here before) it plays a big part in whether we, as an industry, will continue to attract the type of top-rate talent we need once the glamor is all gone.

One solution is going to be bigger budgets for web videos, be they viral-wannabes or video that lives on a website. But we do need to bear in mind that despite the allure of things like social media, it's the high production video work that makes advertising into a glamorous business, one that attracts people with a strong creative bent. The video work we do for clients- online and off- are mini-movies at best. Social media solutions, well-designed websites: those are another skill set, the sort that attracts people with a very different mindset. That's something too many people tend to forget as they blow the battle cry for the brand new post-TV world.

Caveat emptor and all that.

PS: Merry Christmas to all those celebrating it.


Anonymous said...

Heh. i know what you mean. i just did a spot on the universal studio lot. angelina jolie shooting a new clint eastwood movie on one side of us, ben stiller shooting on the other. stars in our eyes.

i hadn't shot a spot in ages. websites and branded content mostly for the past year. had a lovely time. so easy. i've always maintained that if the rest of the country ran at 25% of the efficiency and intensity of hollywood we'd be in pretty good shape. you need a grizzly bear? they'll get you one. male or female?

Anonymous said...


So true, so true. It's hard to combat those experiences with arguments that call for more practical strategic marketing that produces greater ROI.

Nice perspective!

Lewis Green, bizsolutionsplus

Anonymous said...

The disturbing thing about the end of commercial TV from my perspective is that the attention of the mass audience didn't simply migrate to another easily conquerable mass medium. it splintered into a billion tiny pieces. "doing online" is no replacement for TV in terms of audience generated and therefore the potential to affect the culture. it's really hard to compete with a sneezing panda. i don't think we can.

Alan Wolk said...

Excellent point, TSR.

Nothing online, no "interactive" game can garner the type of buzz or entreé into the common vernacular that a TV spot can.

That's because the interwebs are primarily a solo activity, while TV is a group activity. So it's natural to share and to talk about what we've seen.

I'm also surprised at the amount of (decidedly anecdotal) evidence I come across that people are still watching live TV and still paying attention to the commercials. Not everyone is as time-crunched as those of us who live in big cities and work in advertising and marketing.

Anonymous said...

But in a way, traditional TV spots, while maybe not competing with them, already lived among the sneezing pandas brought to us by Bob Saget. These channels were more segregated for sure, but at the end of the day, I’m not sure the Bud audience ever cared about production value the way we do.

Then I see an online short like this, and this, or this and it gives you hope that maybe meaningful, interesting content has a home online.

Next to clips of Shatner performing Lucy in the sky with Diamonds of course and self-promotional blog whores like me.


Anonymous said...

" ... TV is a group activity ..."

a rather broad statement, considering:

A:not EVERYONE has the recommended 2.5 children... and,
B: the 2.5 children in the room couldn't give a rat's bum about the beautiful new truck spot and,
C: neither could your wife.

so you're kind of back to singular event aren't you?

it's a rare group of folk that sit back after a strenuous night of TV viewing and get into the meat and potatoes of that great spot for _________ rather than the plot twist of the show. as a matter of fact, the spots get rarely a mention, while we spend a fair amount of time discussing this or that site.

Alan Wolk said...

@LD: Someone kick you this morning?

TV is a group activity. McLuhan and all that. It's not meant to be a "personlized" or "interactive" experience, the way the interwebs are. Everyone who watches TV, alone or with their family, shares the exact same experience. Movies, theater, radio- they all work the same way. That's what makes them "group" activities rather than "solitary" - not the number of people in the room at the time.

As for who's discussing commercials vs. websites, your experience is different than mine. I'm always surprised when I meet someone and tell them I work in advertising, how many current commercials they're able to spit back at me, and rarely the ones discussed on ad blogs.

But let me point out my initial use of the phrase "decidedly anecdotal" here - you may not have similar experiences, but it doesn't make either of our experiences invalid.

Alan Wolk said...

Just to clarify- what I call a "group" activity" medium is one that while it lends itself to group viewing/listening, can also be enjoyed solo. Print and the internet don't really lend themselves to group experiences, hence they are more "solo" activities.

Anonymous said...

I got into the business in order to learn how to package and present ideas. I thought the skill might come in handy someday.

Anonymous said...

mcluhan and all that do not make it an absolute due to the nature of people and the social matrix. everyones experience of the same stimuli is different due to their particular state of mind, experiences, conditioning and all that. otherwise, we'd all go by trucks at 3 in the morning when the TV tells us to.

no one kicked me this morning, as for being smarmy with people that don't agree with you, save that for parkers site... : p

Alan Wolk said...

We're getting way out of control here, LD.

I made two pretty straightforward observations:

1) A big difference between TV and the internet is that it's not uncommon for people to watch TV in a group setting, whereas online tends to be primarily a solitary activity.

2) I'm surprised by how many people I still meet who do not work in the ad industry yet who are still avid watchers of live TV (as opposed to DVR'd or downloaded TV) and who like and remember specific commercials.

Not sure if I just wasn't clear or if you came here looking to pick a fight, but somehow we've wasted a lot of time and energy on something that's not really an argument.

Anonymous said...

my apologies...not meant to pick a fight, just have a different viewpoint is experience shows a different side...

more and more people i meet, advertisers or not, are tending to stay away from the mainline TV and are loading their new sets with ethernet cables and surfing the web, downloading movies, getting involved in single/community game playing etc. hi-def is becoming more and more affordable, bringing with it all that that entails and so on.

and more and more are bitching about TV spots and their intrusive nature, disrupting your favorite show in mid-stream.

check out the major networks. they seem to back that up by all starting to offer on demand sections. Law & Order, Bill Maher (counting HBO as a major player here because they are) and loads more are catering to the publics need to not be sold anything while going to watch a flick.

i didn't really see any wasting of energy anywhere...just a guy at his desk typing his opinion on a keyboard over the internet...apologies again...

Alan Wolk said...

Apology accepted- your commentary here is valuable, intelligent and always welcome. (Not to mention frequent,a good thing for a blog!)

I'm with you on this one too-- most of my friends are in the same category as yours- fed up with TV, digitally savvy, etc. But as I've been traveling this past month, I've been surprised at the number of people I've encountered who don't have the slightest clue how any of this fits together, who as me about some local Mazda dealership ad with "cute bunnies" or some such as I wait at the airport lounge for yet another delayed flight. I read on jaffejuice yesterday that about half of people with HDTV haven't figured out how to watch them in HD - they're just using them to watch analog.

So to loop back to my original point: it's easy for us to forget that much of the US isn't as sophisticated as we and our friends are. Digital is coming, but perhaps not as fast as many of us are thinking.

Anonymous said...

let's not forget that the TV industry needed a mandate to define WHEN HD content should be provided...another lesson in the mind-searing series "how things really happen" ...

most people are (slowly) catching up to the potential of viewing options, i've found, but are stymied as to what it really means in their day-to-day, thus keeping the system staus quo... i guess i'm antsy for the day when content, message and shill are all available but left up to us to actually decide the engagement.

at this rate, it looks like philip k. dick was right. my HD version of Bladerunner just got here so i'm off....cheers...

Anonymous said...

i found myself watching commercial tv with my kids for the first time in ages (we usually watch on demand only) and was slightly repulsed by the commercials. noisy, annoying spots for burger joints like Wendy's and other things my kids can do well without. but the bigger annoyance was the constant disruption. i'd forgotten how annoying it was to have my viewing flow interrupted by ads. it felt weirdly anachronistic in 2007.

Unknown said...

1) McLuhan actually was a bookish fellow who would rather be by himself in an easy chair reading Joyce than watching TV. The thing he loved most about advertising seemed to be the visual puns that occupied so much of print ads at the time.
2) What surprises me is the effectiveness purveyors of "new media" have had convincing so many in the ad business that TV, print, radio do not deliver a return on investment the way "their" medium does. It seems too that the spokespeople for the "new medium" are viewed as some kind of neutral consultants whereas someone who opts for television is portrayed as an old hack trying to hand on to his job.
3) I, too, once had a shoot on Universal. The highlight of which was the trams coming by and the poor tourists on board being told that this group (us) was shooting an airline commercial in the 747 mockup.