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"I never would have thought they were so pervasive, but obviously they're effective." So says Pamela Maythenyi of The Source Maythenyi, the always bustling TV commercials database service in Boca Raton, Fla., talking about the continued popularity of the good old ripomatic. When it comes to pitching concepts or campaigns, the rip seems to be the basic building block of television, sort of like the relationship between amino acids and protein. Agencies large and small just can't seem to pitch a TV spot without first having to show a client how they think it might look, and cobbling together these video blueprints seems to have become a big business-at least that's what it's shaping up to be for The Source, which recently (and rather quietly) kicked off a service it's calling Scenes On Demand.

Essentially a stock footage service, Scenes On Demand makes available for an agency's internal use just about any images that are currently in the voluminous Source library. This includes its collection of vintage spots from the '60s and '70s (if you can call anything from the '70s vintage) as well as material from The Source Commercial Showcase reel. The reel, which The Source has been putting together for six years, is assembled thrice annually and consists of work solicited from roughly 100 production companies, all of which are asked to submit a single spot for each of its directors that represents the best piece of work done over the past four months.

That's a lot of scenes, Maythenyi says, estimating that there are close to 8,000 spots in the entire Source collection. That each scene in each spot has been cross-indexed in The Source database by setting, theme, subject matter, product category, demographic and executional style means that someone in Florida has been watching a lot of TV commercials very closely. To boot, all of it has been digitized, which allows The Source to whisk these scenes, in MPEG format, over its ISDN line to agencies hither and yon or to put it up on its Web site in a password-protected folder, waiting patiently for a paying customer to download the images and start ripping off the work of some of the best directors in the business.

Since launching Scenes On Demand this summer, Maythenyi says she's sent ripomatic images to over two dozen agencies; about a quarter of this work has actually been sent via modem, with the remainder shipped overnight on video dubs. Recently, the Scenes On Demand staff put in four weekend stints working for agencies participating in new-business pitches, one of which was Y&R/New York, which recently snared a share of the United account.

For some clients, Maythenyi has sent what she calls a full ripped spot, consisting of 20 to 30 separate scenes with three to five versions of each scene. The price range can go from about a grand for this full rip to as little as $300 for 20 examples of one scene (a beer pour, for example). Agencies have faxed her everything from storyboards to concept sheets indicating what they're looking for, leaving it up to the staff to pull an appropriate selection of rippable scenes.

For agencies that have meticulously cataloged the material in their libraries, the Scenes On Demand service may seem redundant, but for the rest of the world it could possibly be a lifesaver. And while there are those who feel that the widespread use of rips has had a negative effect on the overall originality of television advertising, like video assist, the technique seems here to stay.

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