Claire Beale On Advertising: Adland’s version of Sex and the City

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The Independent Online

We don’t know, yet, exactly what The Broadroom is going to be about. But let’s take a stab. We’ll be in New York. There’ll be powerful women, but not enough men.

Still, there will be sex and plenty of it. Not that this will make the women happy. They will bitch and backstab. But then they’ll bond, most likely over a shared fetish for stilettos.

And there’ll be lipstick. Definitely. And lots of it. Not long till we find out all about it all, though. The Broadroom, a new web series, launches this autumn. It’s been written by Candace “Sex and the City” Bushnell and it will star a brace of actresses not quite famous enough to appear in the official press release without qualification: “Jennie Garth from Beverly Hills, 90210; Jennifer Esposito from Samantha Who?; Talia Balsam from Mad Men; Broadway actress Mary McCann.”

The director’s got form, too. Ellen Gittelsohn has directed Roseanne and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. So it’s a professional job, which is more surprising than you might think. Because the series is not intended to be a Sex and the City for the digital age. It’s a commercial confection created by a publishing company as a vehicle for one of its magazines and as the backbone for an ad deal with L’Oréal’s Maybelline brand.

It is also a sign of the media times, and a blueprint for the sort of advertising packages we can expect to see more of over here: content-led, media-rich and ad agency not required. Advertisers don’t want off-the-peg advertising spots any more. They want bespoke, multi-media deals built on content that is tailored to their brand’s market and message and amplified across different media channels.

Not for nothing is the US media company behind The Broadroom called Meredith 360. Meredith publishes almost 200 magazines, owns 12 TV stations, controls 32 websites and publishes over 300 books. Its 360 division packages up audiences across these myriad assets to sell to advertisers. Media owners here have tried similar cross-media sells, but it’s not yet an established advertising pattern. The sum has rarely been greater than the parts. But don’t imagine that, say, Rupert Murdoch’s media interests aren’t moving towards this sort of cross-media (and cross-border) deal-making with advertisers. It will come.

And TV on the internet is where it’s all going: it’s cheaper and less messy than the old broadcast route, with none of those annoying broadcast rules about things like product placement to comply with, and you don’t even need to convince a commissioning editor that anyone’s going to watch the damn thing. So advertisers are beginning to exploit the ease of access and lower entry costs to bring their own ad-funded shows to the web.

Now, ask an advertising agency about this sort of long-form commercial content, and they’ll have their sleeves rolled up before you’ve even finished the question. We can do it, they’ll say. Just let us at it. But, deep down, ad agencies know it’s not really their game. The TV production industry is better placed to make this sort of content for advertisers, if only it could bear to become more aggressively commercial.

So Maybelline is not using an ad agency. It’s using Meredith and American production company Co-Op TV. Anyway, there aren’t many writers like Candace Bushnell tucked away in your average creative department. And the beauty of doing this sort of venture with a media owner is that Maybelline can leverage the ready-made audience of More! magazine readers and exploit its deal with Meredith to leverage off-line promotion for the show. Expect more examples of advertisers working direct with media owners to create new cross-media ad-funded content models. And who knows, The Broadroom might even be quite watchable.

Best in Show: Johnnie Walker (Bartle Bogle Hegarty)

This week’s Best in Show is a wonderful film made by one of London’s best ad agencies for a global brand andit stars an award-winning actor. But we’re not supposed to see it. Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s new film for Johnnie Walker is for internal corporate use only, created to educate and inspire the people at Diageo about the JW brand and its heritage.

Which is a shame, because this six-minute monologue, in which Robert Carlyle stomps through the Scottish Highlands telling the story of the JW brand, is fabulous. Filmed in a single shot, apparently it took 40 takes to get it right. Find it on the web, it’s worth it.