The broadcast industry and ad industry have long driven down parallel roads in the marketing world. To the uninitiated, the two might seem like kissing cousins. But having worked on both sides of the fence, I can tell you they remain distinctly different. Ad agencies work from a base where research and psychographic/demographic information rules. No self-respecting planner would bless a creative brief or Comm Plan without a fistfull of “insights that drive the brand” – consumer “hot buttons” truths about behaviour or belief that are sure to help the creative team’s creative solutions get the audience engaged and onboard. It’s like an engagement insurance policy. And yet in broadcast, research exists as a back-end tool … providing basic demographic information that informs which consumers the uber-network would like to attract, not necessarily who will be predisposed to watch that particular show. I’ve always found this incredibly odd. Very cart before the horse. Our network is very big on testing creative … to avert disaster, based on feedback from maybe 50 people if the research is rushed. Great for the network, bad for creative. Imagine a committee of 50 people, being paid to give an opinion – judging something never before seen? Disaster. But that’s the way we roll and you quickly develop a thick skin and various ways to say “we’ll look it” – the creative’s non-committal way of not agreeing to change a damn thing.
Whole different animal #2 – Agencies would NEVER work without a creative brief – the marketing contract between yourself and your client. Network-side, the creative brief is a relative newcomer to the game, and is often badly written by people who don’t really understand why creatives need one in the first place. Without a brief, subjective feedback will drive every project, so briefs are a part of our daily lives thank god. The flipside of course, because the glass is always half full, or else creatives would be driven mad, is that no one can really tell if creative is on strategy, and sometimes you can drive your creative truck right on through without anyone raising a red flag.
These are just two of the bigger examples of how processes differ between agencies and network marketing creative departments. And there are plenty of other examples, but I don’t want to bore you here because I want to get to the point of this blog post.
So why should ad creatives work in the entertainment industry?
A: Creating content is a collaboration.
When was the last time you groaned with disappointment at a :30 TV spot budget that was under $250K? When was the last time you threw your hands in the air with frustration at a 1 week deadline? When was the last time you demanded a face-to-face creative briefing? Or thought of yourself as a writer, art director or digital programmer/producer? The amazing thing about working in the entertainment industry – at a broadcast network, is the inherent diversity, collaboration and rule breaking that it encourages. While the downside are processes that are enough to make an agency person shudder with horror, the flipside is an open barn door … with green pastures beckoning. Wanna be a TV writer? Think you can write something suitable creepy for “Dexter”? Or a rant for “The Rick Mercer Report”? Yes, very often the budgets are small for TV “promo” shoots. But you have an arsenal of in-house crew available to make your big idea come to life … and very often celebrity talent attached – with an established brand – allowing you to creatively dabble, while selling, with access to content that at an agency would cost big bucks to secure. And guess what? You might be asked to turn your script around in a day … actually a wonderfully liberating experience – if you’re willing to let go of your preconcieved ideas of a real timeline. You will quickly put away your mantra “do you want it good – or do you want it fast” when you realize that pressure actually forces you to avoid the creative roads that include dead ends and circles. You get to the creative point much faster when there’s a gun to you head. Not always, but once in a while it’s a good way to evaluate your creative chops. Thinking fast on your feet these days is something we all need to encourage more of. While I advocate “enough” time for a project, I can remember a standard 3-week timeline for a TV spot agency-side. And I remember equally that the first 2 weeks work were usually a waste.
In an agency, you are what you were hired to do. At the network, you are what you can do – and sometimes can’t. There are so many creative outlets for advertising folks outside of the standard paid media. Several times a year, the networks hold “upfronts” – usually a big media and client event featuring the new shows for that networks upcoming season. It’s part presentation, part award ceremony, part live TV special, part Broadway extravaganza. At our network, we do most of the work in-house. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and pitches in – taking their skill sets and pushing them to a higher level. A copywriter for example, might be asked to write a speech, or write on-camera dialogue for a presenter. What to get back at all those lame jokes you suffered through watching an Academy Awards presentation? Now’s your chance to pitch your own witty banter for the celebs introducing the next show for the assembled press. An art director might get a chance to pitch ideas for sets. Or may be asked to come up with the overall concept for the event. The list goes on and on. Again – not the place for people caught up in process. This is collaboration central. But if you enjoy thinking on your feet and stretching your creative boundaries, it’s a great way to do so.
These are just a few examples, but I’ve saved the best for last. Ever noticed how networks advertising pretty much all looks the same? Other than a few bright lights out there doing really creative stuff, very few actually do. The challenge is to overcome the network exec. who says, “I’m paying millions of bucks for Mr. Famous So-And-So. I wanna see his face in the advertising.” Here is your chance to REALLY prove yourself creatively. It’s one area of marketing that is crying out for a saviour. For someone to change the paradigm. For someone to knock it out of the park. Who knows – that someone could be you.