The somewhat facile mainstream press accounts of the horrors afflicting the ad industry have failed to take into account the huge content-creating opportunity that lies before the agency and production communities. Intensity of competition for consumers' attention, you see, has not meant a commensurate increase in the quality of the content vying for space on all those meat hard drives.
One need only to look at the new fall network shows for a lesson in the inverse relationship between desperation for audience and originality. As soon as one leaves the lush, fragrant realm of HBO and niche outlets, the landscape turns arid. The most highly touted new shows are either third or fourth incarnations of past hits ("Law and Order: Alternate Side Parking," is one, I think), or "reality" shows (which are just lower-cost scripted shows with marginally less attractive people).
The most inventive writing and jaw-dropping fiction on the small screen to date this season were from the GOP convention. And from advertisers.
Last week Ad Age reported Amazon and Fallon were undertaking a new series of Internet films with a somewhat big cast attached. That may not excite every reader, but I anticipate the films more than almost anything on any TV schedule. Well, yes, I am a geek, but recent TV and Internet projects from the post-BMW ad world justify the anticipation and demonstrate the creative potential of the ad industry in the realm of commercial content.
A series of shorts for ESPN and Miller from agency Ground Zero slid quietly onto the sports broadcaster's schedule, but word for word was probably better written and had more heart than a whole season of the highest-rated show on any of the nets. The always-entertaining Diesel through its always entertainment-oriented agency KesselsKramer recently fronted a series of Internet films called Diesel Dreams, among which were genuinely inspired gems like "Kaboom" by director Pes; and on the reality tip, there was Butler Shine Stern & Partners' series of films (online and TV) made by "real" Converse aficionados and independent artists. This is to say nothing of the Nike Speed films or the shoemaker's Battlegrounds MTV program by W&K and @radical.media.
This isn't to say Internet films and TV shows are the one true salvation of the ad business-content can be any part of the brand experience. But it seems there is a clear demand for the kind of storytelling-whether it's 90 minutes, 24 minutes or 24 seconds and destined for the TV, computer, cellphone, or combinations thereof-that agencies and commercial producers have honed over the course of decades shaping small segments of film that convey information and emotion. Now, if the industry can turn its hand to new ways of creative team-building, it could deliver advertising from some of its nightmares and deliver us all from "CSI: My Bathroom."
Teressa Iezzi is editor of Ad Age Group's Creativity. Randall Rothenberg is on vacation.