The Good, the Bad and Ugly Answers to Recent Questions

Our Editor Riffs on 'Voyeur,' 'Somers Town' and the Recession

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I revisited a handful of questions that have popped up in my e-mail, on my Facebook page or even in good-old booze-based human conversation, in case any of them inspired a column. They did. Sort of.

Should Big Spaceship have been given credit for HBO "Voyeur"?
Er, yes. Big Spaceship should have shared in the bulging bag of awards given to BBDO for this campaign. Big Spaceship was responsible for creating the "Voyeur" site, and however much everyone talks up ideas, execution is what separates the thousands of clever thoughts floating around from the few pieces of work that end up lauded as, well, great ideas.

But that's not how ad awards work. They're still set up to recognize the ad agencies that enter them (often the large agencies that devote considerable time and money to the process). And they don't reflect today's collaborative processes, which often look more like open-source-software creation than something that can clearly be attributed to a single creative director. Of course, as anyone toiling in the trenches knows, this is the way of the world.

Ad agencies may pay a price for taking the credit. Several digital agencies that used to be quite happy to work through ad agencies are going direct to marketers on some big projects, and the lack of recognition for their efforts is a major motivator. In the amended-for-spam-filters words of one digital-agency boss: "We're going after those [agencies]."

So the JC Penney ad that won in Cannes was a fake, and now P&G admits in Ad Age that the Tide and Crest winners ran only in Buffalo. What's going on? Can we stop this?
There are the rules, and then there's the moral compass. And people are going to follow the rules.

What's good right now?
I am usually embarrassingly short of an answer for this FAQ, but I have one at the moment: "Somers Town."

It's a film from British director Shane Meadows that won best film at the Edinburgh and Berlin film festivals and the best-actor award at Tribeca, although it didn't make it past the shortlist for the Titanium. Mother made the film on behalf of client Eurostar, the train service that connects London to Paris and Brussels and has a terminal in St. Pancras near the Somers Town estate. It cost less than the average 30-second spot to make, is expected to be seen by millions without any media buy and tests as having a positive ROI in terms of prompting people to book train trips. Yet even the most cynical viewer would never guess it was funded by a corporation. This is the best incidence of art meeting commerce since Leo McGarry was induced to fall off the wagon by a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label in the "Bartlet for America" episode of "The West Wing."

What are you hearing on the recession?
In the first quarter, people were telling Ad Age that everything was still good. Not anymore. As we move into the second half, word from almost every marketer, agency or media owner is that they're making cuts (and there's a big wave of "account consolidations" sweeping through the 100 Leading National Advertisers).

Whether the diversification of the holding companies into marketing services helps immunize them against the recession remains to be seen, but clearly investors don't think it's going to count for much. As I write this, WPP stock just hit its lowest point since 2004 (maybe investors don't think much of the proposed TNS deal?); Omnicom hit a 52-week low; Publicis wasn't far off, nor was Interpublic, which last Wednesday closed below $8 -- meaning a buyer could snap up the entire thing for about $3.7 billion, less than WPP paid for Y&R.
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