I'm smiling as I write this.
But I missed the show.
So why am I smiling? You guessed it: because I've been viewing the premiere on NBC.com. As I'd hoped and expected, the writing and acting are smart, funny and provocative. The witty dialogue, particularly when Perry and Whitford make their appearance, would have kept me laughing wildly, except that I was afraid of missing the next lightning-quick utterance.
I'm smiling, too, however, because of what online video has made possible. NBC, struggling to rise from the relative hell of being the fourth-place network, and to recapture some of its glory from the days of Seinfeld and Friends, can boost buzz about a new show by airing it online, in its entirety or in a two-minute preview.
From an advertising standpoint, it was interesting to see how NBC set up the preview. I had wondered if NBC would include commercial breaks in the online version. Instead, it looks as though a single company, AT&T, is sponsoring the streaming version. When I clicked "Watch the full premiere episode online," a new screen opened and a short, pre-roll video played for AT&T before the episode began. That's relatively standard for online video.
Placement like this, by the way, is a wonderful opportunity for an advertiser to do something unusual. Each pre-roll video, for example, could have taken me to the next level of understanding about the services AT&T is offering. Instead, the same ad is shown before each part of the show. Over. And over.
The ad shows a roomful of people watching a football game. Some watch via television, some via laptop and some via a cellphone. A voiceover says: "Three screens - wireless, broadband and TV - are coming together. Another innovation from AT&T. The new AT&T. Your world, delivered."
AT&T could be accused of dropping the ball. The voiceover doesn't tell me anything. How much more effective would the ad have been if each of the five ads offered the a new iteration of the message, in the same way that the five parts of the episode are each a mini-episode in themselves?
On the other hand, it's difficult for advertisers and their agencies to create relevant content each time a new online opportunity presents itself. So perhaps they can be forgiven for using a unique opportunity to run a boring ad.
But online video opportunities are expanding at the speed of light. Yahoo and Current TV, for example, have just announced a collaboration that will combine professional and user-created video clips for four different online channels. Most clips will be preceeded by pre-roll video of 15 to 30 seconds, and Current's editors plan to vet the videos to be sure they don't contain content that will be offensive to advertisers (one of the biggest obstacles currently keeping advertisers from jumping whole-heartedly into the user-generated content space).
Still, AT&T's sponsorship made it possible for me to view Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip in its entirety, for which I'm grateful. Lame advertising spot or not, the show itself was terrific. And so, I'm still smiling.
The world of online video increases in complexity every day as networks, cable companies and media giants (not to mention amateur producers and directors) scramble to get in on the action. Join me every other week as I sift through the video universe to find quality clips worth watching.
Clip Pic #1. My life is: continually getting better
American Express and Tribeca Film Festival sponsored a 15-Second Clips competition, in which participants created a clip based on completing one of a variety of phrases ("My first job is...," "My wildest dream is...," "My biggest challenge is...," etc.).
I love this example of participatory media coming together with advertising because of its simplicity. The clips are short, yet each ends with a thoughtful, amusing or downright hilarious punch as the filmmaker wraps up his story with the completion of the sentence, "My life is (blank). My Card is American Express."
Consumers take the familiar slogan and make it their own. And for those of us who have no desire to create our own advertising messages, it's enough to smile at the clever workings of the minds of others.
For example, the clip that won Top Honors shows, in grainy sepia tones, a man hammering at an anvil, climbing a flight of iron stairs with something unwieldy tucked under his arm, crossing a rooftop in the rain. He stands on its edge, raising his arms to unfurl what one can only assume is a pair of homemade wings. The voiceover says, "My wildest dream is unfinished." The closing message: "My life is yours."
It's provocative, but my favorite of those in the finalists gallery has to be #12791, "My Indulgence Is Chocolate," in which a white bowl is placed on a counter and filled with Hershey's Syrup. A man dunks his face into the chocolate and rises up, dripping, with a sigh of satisfaction that even non-chocolate lovers can understand. The closing message: "My life is continually getting better." (To find the clip in the 15-Second Clips gallery, search by filmmaker Federico Hatoum.)
Clip Pic #2. "Treat Me Better"
Anyone who has ever played with Matchbox cars will love this clip.
Filmed to a driving beat from German techno band Northern Lite, Treat Me Better shows a robbery and resulting police chase. During the four-minute video, police cars slam into buildings, burst through fences, get crushed by bulldozers, and crash into the obstacles that the suspect's car manages to avoid. Predictably, the cops win out as the bad guy spins out of control into a police barricade. Dust flies, sirens wail and good prevails, as the suspect is apprehended in front of a billboard urging, "Serve your city. Join the police."
What makes the clip so wonderful is that the scenery is all handmade, the cars are the size of Matchbox cars, and they are "driven" by people's hands who steer and push them through their paces.
The clip is funny, but also haunting: in a subtle way it's a reenactment of childhood. It's exactly how I used to play with Matchbox cars, acting out high-speed chases, complete with mouth noises. But I could never get the cars to crash into each other in just the right way, and I never had such cool obstacles for the vehicles to crash into. The makers of Treat Me Better managed to make the Matchbox car chase look exactly as I envisioned it in my head all those times.
Clip Pic #3. CBS Fall Previews
Those who follow the media (but who don't get to head to New York for the upfront presentations) may be eager to see previews of the new fall shows that are being announced by the networks.
I was disappointed that CBS is the only network I found so far that showed video of next season's new shows -- I was hoping to see a clip of NBC's The Black Donnellys, about four Irish-American brothers who live a life of crime in Manhattan -- but I'm a sucker for previews and the nearly three-minute-long clip is worth watching if only to see James Woods, smarmy yet apparently likeable as a charismatic, self-confident attorney. (Spike Lee directs the pilot.)
Other shows previewed on the clip include The Class (which had me chuckling but made me wonder if it was one of those where all the funniest moments are in the preview) and Jericho.
But for those in-the-know, CBS hosts a site for the "CBS Upfront" which includes the entire schedule for next season plus some selected video clips, including one devoted to Shark alone and another really quite hilarious one for The Class.
By Kurt Brokaw, Culture Editor
1979: One actor who can lay claim to giving the most realistic portrayal of a Madison Avenue adman is Dustin Hoffman. His best Actor Oscar as Ted Kramer is richly deserved. Hoffman and writer/director Robert Benton's carefully nuanced script (two Oscars for Benton) establish his character in swift strokes.
The picture opens on "one of the four best days of my life," as Ted wins the Mid-Atlantic Airline account. It's the day Ted's wife (Meryl Streep, Best Actress Oscar) walks out on him, leaving him to care for their six-year-old son, a boy he barely knows. Ted's been the classic absent dad, but now he has to learn the basics of parenting. These sequences, his wife's return and decision to reclaim their son, the ensuing court battle, and Ted's loss of his agency job, form the core of "Kramer," which was also voted 1979's Best Picture Oscar.
What Were They Thinking? Maybe this:
Forgive our "tongue in cheek" discourse here. In our view, this "PSA" is best critiqued with Shakespearian-like irony, similar to Marc Antony's "Brutus is an honorable man").
As we all know, the purpose of PSA's is to provide a close-up of important community-based medical issues confronting society, with particular attention in the teen segment.
Recently, Close Up launched a new campaign aimed at youth which many on the street are applauding. A leading agency manager was quoted during an Advertising Week function last week, stating, "The Close Up PSA Campaign attempts to shed light on an all-too-embarrassing physical ailment, commonly referred to as TASTY.. Its communication solution should receive "special recognition" for its creativity and tasteful treatment."
Those seeking to learn more about this increasingly serious medical condition, TASTY is short for TASTTY-CAKES, a largely ignored compulsive oral-hysteria-based behavior found among sweater-clad American teens.
Medically, TASTTY-CAKES ("TASTY" for short) stands for:
Closer up, not everyone agrees. On one side, Close Up's campaign has been plagued with controversy. Family-values advocates accuse the brand as using offensive and exploitive actions of a sensual nature which promotes promiscuity. They say the campaign is a blatant attempt to sell product using the lowest common denominator.
However, during Advertising Week festivities last week, many attendees expressed their view that it's the exact opposite. They believe the creative approach Close Up used to bring attention to this situation actually reflects the similar values and approaches Madison Avenue culture is known for.
The campaign received much buzz. Agency creative directors and account planners were particularly vocal, commenting that the campaign is mis-understood. They challenge what they refer to as "overly zealous groups" who are not in touch with contemporary American cultural values. "Close Up's efforts are in fact a brave attempt to promote family values. It's an example of the social responsibility of business too infrequently found in the market community today," said one Advertising Hall of Famer.
A Study In the Rapid Evolution and Intrusion Of 21st Century Language
By Richard Fusco
I have a friend who entered law school last year. After 6 weeks, I found her perspective on life and her verbal and written communication changed to a surprising degree. Had a specific law school-related product or service ad reached her with some message or invitation, 2 years before, she might have discounted or ignored it.
Never before has the success of an ad campaign, PR campaign or any other communications effort been so dependent on its specificity to its audience. Many years ago audience of course meant the group of people in a theater and not much more. Today, it means a much larger group.
Well, the evolving meaning of contemporary vocabulary must now make room for another wealth of new words and expressions. Just as VCR, DVD and VHS were once-obscure terms term and acronyms, add the word podvertising to your vocabulary because it is coming. In fact it is here.
I invite you to create a term yourself to define the new group of users, largely characterized by their usage of podcasting. Then, help Madison Avenue with defining a new term, or use an existing one that describes those audiences open to both podcasting AND Podvertising. For the moment I am pondering it over myself.