Go Ahead, Experiment

Media Reviews for Media People: 'Squeegees'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With the TV season sort of back on track after the writers strike, Ad Age TV Editor Brian Steinberg casts a critical eye on new and continuing series -- on TV and elsewhere -- to help marketers determine which ones may prove the best showcases for their ads and products. This week, we look at "Squeegees," a series of offbeat vignettes for the web produced by ABC.
Squeegees Credit: ABC


Where/when you'll see it: ABC.com, with new episodes available Mondays and Fridays. Also available on YouTube.

What you'll see: Who needs outlandish special effects, long, plodding storylines or even continuing plot arcs that last several episodes? Not "Squeegees," a series of skits about a bunch of young window washers that has been making the rounds on ABC.com since Feb. 28. This isn't standard broadcast-network fare (which hasn't stopped ABC from promoting it during series such as "Lost"). A description of the program online promises "high-flying stunts; steamy romance; hairbrained adventure; and plenty of blood, vomit and nudity." Um, not really, but it certainly is a bit more edgy than your typical episode of more-family-oriented ABC fare such as "Samantha Who" and "Ugly Betty."

The vignettes focus on the trials and tribulations of four young window washers: crazy BC, lovelorn Adam, reliable Ronny and Gil, the entrepreneur. Gil's goal is to keep his pals from getting fired as they cavort around a multistory building, keeping the windows clean, peeking in at the occupants' doings and getting into trouble at nearly every turn.

In "Squeegees," every second counts, mostly because each episode is only four to six minutes long. There's not a lot of time for long soliloquies, complex plots or even much window washing. In one episode, Adam falls in love with a maid who works inside the building -- only to realize they'll always be separated by a thick pane of glass. In another, the team gets hired for a bachelorette party after one of them re-edits the group's TV ad to make the window washers look more like a coterie of male strippers.

Worth watching? It's not like this is stuff that automatically wins audiences. Viewers need their fixes of "Grey's Anatomy" or "Heroes," not of the antics of a bunch of skinny window washers. But given consumers' move from TV to web, it's worth experimenting in the milieu. Look, if this kind of thing catches on and becomes a viral phenomenon, then ABC (and any advertiser associated with these programming snippets) can only benefit. Still, if these low-budget sketches are the future of broadcast TV, then all hope for the next "St. Elsewhere" or "NYPD Blue" is lost.

What's at stake: ABC is known for launching colorful programming on TV, not online. With more viewers going digital, however, broadcast networks have to learn the ins and outs of programming for the computer screen.

Shorter, zippier stuff seems to work best; keyboard hackers are easily distracted and likely are click-click-clicking all over the place. An online success also would represent a stake in the ground for ABC, which in late February unveiled Stage 9 Digital Media, a "studio" of sorts aimed at creating original short-form programming. The goal is to bridge the gap between user-generated content and short-form video that uses storytelling and characters to reach those coveted viewers between the ages of 18 and 34. ABC is slated to debut "Trenches," a short-form sci-fi program, in the weeks to come.

Who's onboard: Toyota is a sponsor of "Squeegees" and has run pre-roll commercials before the window-washer vignettes and ads that stand alongside the ABC media player.

Your ad here? "Squeegees" is obviously aimed at the younger set, so pick your spots wisely. Autos should probably aim at first-time buyers. Movie studios and fast-food players might find that these window washers soak up consumers very much in line with their consumer base.

Media buyer's verdict: Go ahead, experiment, counsels Mark Henneges, media director at Studiocom, a WPP Group interactive agency that works for Coca-Cola and Dunkin' Donuts. "The development of highly produced shows is the next step in beginning to merge your network TV into the internet," Mr. Henneges said. "You need to be paying attention to it. You need to be trying it and experimenting with it. How much longer is it going to be before everyone is going to watch their favorite TV shows through a laptop connection that is hooked up to the flat screen?"
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