Thanks to Matthew Weiner and Don Draper, pop culture's interest in the inner workings of the ad business, albeit early 1960s Madison Avenue, is at an all-time high. But what about the industry circa 2009?
TNT's new show Trust Me, which premiered on January 26th, aims to give viewers a peek at the inner workings of a contemporary agency. Created by Chicago ad veterans Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny, colleagues at Leo Burnett before moving West in 2001, the show revolves around the creative team of Mason and Connor, played by the amiable likes of Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) and Tom Cavanagh (Ed).
"I think most people sitting around their art director/copywriter offices, spend a lot of time procrastinating and part of that is talking about movies and TV shows we wish we had written or could write better," says Coveny on the show's genesis. "We did that for quite a while, so this idea was definitely there."
The two purposely set the show in a large agency, not only because that's where the bulk of their experience lies but also for dramatic effect. "One of the things we wanted to hit on is how the business is changing and how some people are more successful at changing with those times than others," says Baldwin. "We wanted a real, middle of the pack, big agency that's going through whatever growing or shrinking pains that part of the industry is going through."
Another intriguing aspect of the show is how much the ficticious agency will mingle with real world brands. In the first two episodes, visible partners include Apple, Starbucks, the NHL and Campari. Baldwin and Coveny cite their past work experience as invaluable in finding partners willing to loosen the branding leash a bit in order to fit the show.
"Many advertisers now realize that if you allow the creative people behind the show to do what's right for their characters and storytelling, you'll end up winning even if you have to give up some of the control you're accustomed to," says Baldwin. "The more you demand a product is in the frame at a certain size for a certain time, the more it'll stand out and end up not reflecting all that well on both the show and the brand."
Leading up to the show's premiere, Baldwin says he couldn't believe the show had actually made it on TV until he saw the real proof: "I don't think it all felt real until we saw the ads for it."