There seem to be two main topics headlining recent conversations amongst those living in ad land.
Putting aside the massive elephant in the room ‘where is our business headed?’ the other is more of an exclamation ‘no one is producing great work!!’ Exactly. What happened to the great cut-through ad? Truth: The word quality seems to be fading from our business, like a wonderful memory of great ads that once belonged to a different era.
There is no doubt that the quality of TV advertising has been on the decline for the past few years. And as with anything, I believe that this is a result of not one particular event but rather a congruence of multiple factors. Brands will have their own explanations for this as will agencies. From our experience, it is in large part due to the decrease in spend and ideas being shoe-horned into extremely tight and sometimes unrealistic budgets.
Everyone seems to face challenges of having a presence in a market that is frankly over-flooded. The increase of on-demand TV, where brands are having to output volume ‘just to have something on the screen’ has shifted the focus in the wrong area. Effective advertising makes you feel something when you watch it. Like any good film, whether you laugh or cry, the main point is that any viewer wants to be entertained. It’s still 30 seconds of your life so spend it well. Consumers want to be entertained. But it seems the demand for quantity has replaced the need for quality.
I don’t believe that we, as creative humans, have run out of good ideas. With all the wonderfully talented people I have met in our business, the issue is NOT coming up with the idea, the challenges are in selling it. For various reasons, we have all found comfort in being risk averse.
But we should not lose our balls, even if we have lost our marbles. There is nothing wrong with being brave and taking creative risks. A few global brands have used short form branded content as a way of cutting through – and I think for many of those brands, that choice has proved to be very successful. We have even seen a series of shorts for Bombay Sapphire where one of the films won a BAFTA. Brands are now using it as a benchmark for producing ad-funded content with cut-through.
Any production company is looking for work that is inspired as much as it inspires. Isn’t that the point? I think we should all be looking to create the very best quality work we possibly can, if for no other reason than to entertain ourselves. My mother once said to me ‘if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it’. I would go so far as saying ‘if an idea isn’t good enough to be watched, don’t make it’.
Jani Guest is the managing director of commercials producer Independent Films