I’m not a binary person. So while I say online will triumph, I don’t truly see video, digital or otherwise, as a zero sum game. Online and traditional broadcast can coexist, if not peacefully, better than some Middle Eastern countries.
What got me thinking about this? The debut of a new TV show and the discovery of an ongoing online series, both set in the ad world: one a relic of the past, the other a promise for the future.
A Relic of the Past
A few weeks back “Trust Me” debuted to average numbers that have since cratered. While I wanted to hate it, it wasn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. But neither is it very good.
The show, set in a Chicago-based ad firm, stars Eric McCormack (from “Will and Grace”) and Tom Cavanaugh (from “Ed” and the little-seen “Love Monkey”). Beyond its tone-deafness, what bothered me was that it had more in common with the rather ancient “thirtysomething” than the superlative “Mad Men.”
There was nary a digital mention in the whole show.
Here was a perfect opportunity to create a modern TV drama with digital advertising links on ostensibly mainstream TV. It could have been a seamless blend of on-air and online with real and fake products being touted to the consumer, driving online and on-air viewing, and taking the entire scripted drama to a new level. And all those online elements alluded to in the TV show could have created inventory for TNT’s marketers to advertise against.
Instead, it’s tired and trite. TNT has completely blown the opportunity to create a truly compelling video offering.
One of the exhausting yet great things about the ad business is how much work is involved in creating a pitch. If the creators had a clue about where marketing is today, they would have realized this goldmine of inventory potential. And it wouldn’t even need to feature high-priced stars. They could have nonunion actors do the online elements that complement the cable show.
A Promise of the Future
On the flip side is My Damn Channel’s “Agency of Record,” which is the story of young agency upstarts pitching for the Adobe business. Yes, the production values are radically different, and no, “Agency of Record” won’t reach the same number of viewers as “Trust Me,” even over six months. But the message’s effectiveness and the content form’s matching to the brand are flawless and speak of where marketing is going out of necessity.
Moreover, the very realness of the creative endeavor of “Agency of Record” highlights that creativity tools have truly migrated from being possessed by the very few to being possessed by the masses. And it’s a more true representation of what a consumer will respond to. Seriously, who would you be more inclined to listen to, the creatives that actually use Adobe or actors playing ad men?
The deftness of the product integration in “Agency of Record” highlights online’s flexibility against TV’s rigidity.
The outmoded TV model has the network, be it cable or broadcast, developing a show in its own corner of the universe. At some point they share the program with salespeople. Then nice media buyers and media planners look at their media mix to see if they want to buy against this delightful program.
It’s a shot in the dark that the program the network creates will resonate with either an audience or marketers. And that, to a large degree, is where the process is broken.
“Agency of Record” came from the team that created “You Suck at Photoshop,” which was both humorous and a marketing tool for Adobe without the software company having to pay for it. It’s medium (online video) meets marketer (software company) exactly in the middle. “Agency of Record” is funded, Adobe has a brand message delivered, and we all get entertaining programming.
That’s why online video will get more dollars. It is closer to the bone, resonates with the end user, and is more in sync with the times.