The Chaos of TV Creative: Agency or Client?

Like you perhaps, I have had time over the holidays to relax a bit, and get caught up on some TV movies/shows not seen in recent months. Now I could be wrong, but just from watching on a single night…I noticed a slew of *very* bad Holiday ads, with all kinds of things wrong with them.

Not naming any names here [as many seen were from clients/agencies/brands I have worked with previously, and am sure to work with again in the future], but the quality levels were so noticeable…in an off way…that I have to wonder: Client or Agency?

Granted, both parties facilitated these ads ever seeing the light of day to begin with [or light of TV/Video screen, if you prefer], but in my experience, it is usually one prevailing over the other. This is just some of what I saw was wrong with these spots:

  • Having absolutely no identifiable ‘message’, or point, to the ad. [And worse, trying to tie THAT, whatever “that” is, into some form of ‘Holiday Sale’ notifier.]
    • “Abstract” may work as Art form, or Music composition. Not so much in conveying meaning in a :30 or :60-second spot.
  • A fragmented, false or undeveloped “premise”: This is advertising at its full-cliche’ best. Or worst.
    • What do I mean here? The cliche’ part arises, as many ad concepts for commercials build around a “premise” that either creates a problem/solution, a statement about the product, or a goodtime humor element, hoping to create a positive feeling about the brand with laughter.
    • Examples: the ecstatic aunt, dizzy over your new floor cleaner. Or the ‘whoosh’ of hair from a car commercial…even though the speed limit is 65 in most of the US.
    • Viewing these, as a consumer, there comes that feeling that ‘something is missing’ from the ad. Or it ‘feels out of place’ somehow.
    • This is a result either of poor concept, poor conception, or lack of development. Somehow there is a disconnect that no one saw during production, or just allowed to pass. Not good either way.
    • Last, many times an issue with premise will result from faulty dialogue, poor editing [where scenes or dialogue are cut short], or lack of a coherent, cohesive theme to begin with.
  • Is the context relevant? Even if the ad is free of glaring errors or problems, does it make sense to its audience? Did the setting work? What about that “premise”? Was the theme of the ad clear, and did it convey a message, one that most in the audience could identify?
    • Just because you got a wry smile from someone, did that actually further the brand? [Too often, I may snicker at the humorous “premise” the ad postulates. But that may be an uncomfortable one…and may also do nothing to aid recall or interest.]
  • Being too damn “cutesy”. Yes, sometimes being cute DOES sell. But, except in very rare cases, being cutesy does not.
  • On both of these last two, some would say that just noticing the premise or the cute factor alone, is the greatest faux pas. While I might agree overall on that point, that also may not be giving quite enough slack, especially on an item that subjective. [In the end, all of these are subjective anyway, so this takes it just one step further.]

From there, the related, crucial questions from the title of this article then arise:

  • Did the client insist on the creative/message, regardless?
  • Or, be honest here – Did a too-small/reduced client budget, with a too-short turnaround window, force the agency into something not fully developed?
  • Even worse than that: Did the client at some point, insist on an add-on to the original message? Basically changing something with a theme, into something with a theme…and some type of Direct-Response “action” message, thereby destroying the original concept? Happens quite often, I’m afraid.
    • I think we are seeing more of this, as marketing/advertising is required to justify its “ROI”, to corporate Purchasing departments.
  • Next…what about the agency; was the spot something they thought was “clever”, to which the client deferred judgement?
  • Did the agency insist on forging ahead? Was the approach/concept taken, one the client agreed with or understood? Sometimes you wonder.
    • The one related to this of course, concerns whether the agency was ‘chasing awards’ with the work, or not. More than once in the past [but not always], the Grand Effie or Gold Lion winner at Cannes, has been something few have ever seen, let alone brought attention to the client. You see this debated in AdWeek/AdAge every now & again.

At this point, many of you could be asking, “OK, so what does this have to do with Media Sales, exactly?” Good point. And the answer is easy: As more ad/commercial content is ported to the Digital side [whether you call it Digital Media, Second-Screen Content, or something else], it is YOU, that will be held responsible in part if or when the ad ‘doesn’t perform’. And with the many metrics available, this is a very real concern.

Now, all of this could in addition be seen as issues of a Branding nature. And I would note in closing that, while this largely is a “What’s Wrong” list, it is not meant to be a complete summary; it is mainly a starting point for dialogue. Nor does it mean, that the opposite of these items would by definition be the only things that make a *great* ad. Far from it.

What about you? See anything you have liked, or not liked, in late-2013?

– – –


~ by MindOnMediaSales on December 27, 2013.

One Response to “The Chaos of TV Creative: Agency or Client?”

  1. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative and
    engaging, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is something that too few folks are speaking intelligently about.
    I am very happy I stumbled across this in my search
    for something relating to this.

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