Al Gore Chimes in on the ‘Sustainability’ of Ad Agencies

Al Gore came to New York on Wednesday to do some saber rattling at traditional ad agencies — and to talk up his media company.

Current, a cable and satellite television network and Internet site, streams news and other content created by viewers and professionals. It also promotes development of consumer-generated video ads on behalf of businesses such as Toyota, Sony, and Hewlett-Packard.

“Instead of spending $350,000 and up to produce an ad…we put a creative brief on the [Current] Web site,” said Gore, chairman of Current, while speaking at the Digital Content NewFront hosted by Digitas and its brand content business, The Third Act.

Typically, 200 or more people create and submit videos in response to a Current creative brief or assignment to produce a so-called viewer-created advertisement or VCAM.

For one assignment, Current is seeking a video to promote Axe Hair products. “Guys don’t want to hear that they have bad hair,” the assignment reads. “We’re hoping you can help us show guys the truth about what real girls think about their hair. Tell it like it is!”

A person who creates an ad is paid as little as $1,000 if an advertiser decides to evaluate the ad. If an ad is aired on Current, the creator gets $2,500 and if the advertiser decides to air the ad elsewhere, the creator can get up to $60,000, according to Current’s Web site.

Gore, former U.S. vice president, pointed out that the Internet is known for the “disintermediation of some long-established functions and entities” and that ad agencies are among those businesses affected by change. “Some agencies are fighting against this trend,” he said. “But I’m not sure how long that will be sustainable.”

Ad agencies that succeed will be the ones that redefine their roles, focusing instead on helping businesses shepherd brands. “They will make sure there’s a consistent protection of brand DNA as it moves from one platform to another. That’s one of the new roles for successful agencies,” he said.

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