Mark Wnek on Advertising

Viewers vote with the remote over mind-numbing TV ads

One of the many fun projects I've dabbled in during my sabbatical has been helping conceive and fail to sell a television series. Some mates and I got together with one of Britain's biggest independent TV production companies and spent some time buffing and honing our project and hawking it around the major networks. (I can't give you details of the project because, although the networks passed, our production co partners believe it may one day be a goer. Suffice to say it was to do with football). One wag wondered why I had relinquished the heights of a cut-throat business (advertising) for the lower reaches of an even more cut-throat one. And it is true: the "fun and games" of trying to get a TV programme bought and made is massively more complex and political and random than making ads.

One of the many fun projects I've dabbled in during my sabbatical has been helping conceive and fail to sell a television series. Some mates and I got together with one of Britain's biggest independent TV production companies and spent some time buffing and honing our project and hawking it around the major networks. (I can't give you details of the project because, although the networks passed, our production co partners believe it may one day be a goer. Suffice to say it was to do with football). One wag wondered why I had relinquished the heights of a cut-throat business (advertising) for the lower reaches of an even more cut-throat one. And it is true: the "fun and games" of trying to get a TV programme bought and made is massively more complex and political and random than making ads.

For instance, we were reliably informed that Claudia Rosencrantz, the big programming cheesette at ITV, hated football (and maybe also - pick a subject at random - crocheting, who knows?) and so our idea was likely to get short shrift from her. In the event it got no shrift whatsoever - she didn't even take a meeting. While it's possible that the lady actually adores football and holds the Bedales keepy-uppy record and we were completely misinformed and in fact it was simply that our idea was poor, I've worked in advertising for more than 20 years and I've never heard of anyone - creative director or client - with an out-of-bounds subject area.

OK, in our business there are many people who lean too far the other way towards endless spirit-stifling, creative spark-extinguishing research; but I think I'd rather take my chances with the latter than - making a character up totally in my head - some capricious, megalomaniacal programming directrice whose Cheltenham Ladies and Oxford-educated gut tells her that what those charming, ruddy-faced working classes with their dirty handkerchiefs and heavy worsted trousers held up with string are crying out for at Saturday evening prime-time is a rehash of the dreadful It's a Knockout, though vastly less good and starring retired soccer referee Paul Durkin.

Yes, I know, I'm a rotten loser. And to be fair to the TV programming sorority, there's a higher percentage of dreadful commercials than TV programmes these days. With the advent of gadgets such as TiVo and Sky+, which let people record their own groups of programmes and watch them as and when they want, more and more people are simply whizzing past commercial breaks teeming with mind-numbing tosh.

Advertisers and their agencies are in an increasing tizz over this: according to an article in the latest issue of Marketing magazine, three-quarters of all US advertisers are going to cut TV budgets because of it.

Which is a massive shame because many great brands have been built by TV. And there is a guaranteed way to make sure that people don't whiz past commercial breaks: make the commercials unmissably brilliant.

It's impossible to imagine that anybody in their right minds starts out to make a bad commercial, yet the vast majority of commercials end up that way - inescapable conclusion: achieving uniformly brilliant commercials requires a standards directorate with legally binding powers which every TV commercial script must pass through for approval. The standards directorate would need to be of unimpeachable seniority and TV pedigree: John Hegarty (creative head of Levi's agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty), Tom Carty (one of the creators of the Guinness "Surfers" commercial) and John Webster (TV commercial-creating deity with too many credits to mention) for instance. They would be expected to offer their services pro bono, with knighthoods further down the line implied.

I know you think I'm being satirical but I'm not. If the Wnek Directorate - as I think it should be called after its founder - stopped even one moronic commercial concerning oiks wandering about in a whale's gob or racing each other home, like, really excitingly (yawn) for a can of beer (you what?! Triple yawn!) then it would be an institution well worth having.

And finally. Not really my remit this, but I'm shoe-horning it in under the heading of "worst advertisement of many a week for the human race". I wonder what all of you who helped raise money for Comic Relief (and even those of you who didn't) made of an article in London's Evening Standard, where someone called Victor Lewis-Smith actually wrote, "I can't see any need to send money to Africa (those children out there don't seem poor or hungry to me - I've seen pictures, their stomachs are huge, and they're too idle to brush away flies.)" I'm trying to write a witty punchline, but words fail me.

Respect to the great white shark of agencies

If you were casting around for the best single agency in the world, you'd have to bring Ogilvy's flagship New York agency into the reckoning. Ogilvy New York is home to Shelly Lazarus, the worldwide CEO, and controls the advertising accounts for mega-brands such as IBM and American Express with an iron hand. The successful management of such accounts is something that even top UK ad-agency luminaries would get into a sweat just imagining. The IBM account, for instance, employs around - wait for it - 1,000 account handlers. Accounts such as Amex aren't exactly small potatoes either, yet the work, like the extraordinary Robert De Niro commercial directed by Martin Scorsese, manages to be fresh and compelling. I was in the lounge at JFK the other day, and when the commercial came on CNN, I witnessed the phenomenon of 20 or so businessmen stopped in their tracks and silently transfixed by the spot for its duration.

Even Ogilvy NY's embroilment in an unprecedented billing scandal, which may see several employees receive jail terms, seems as if it will not hinder this great white shark of an agency from moving inexorably forward.

Most impressive of all to industry watchers is that Ogilvy is the only ad agency not to have been seconded to one of WPP's holding-company pitches. Maybe Shelly Lazarus is not keen on the idea. And what Shelly Lazarus says, goes.

mark@adguru.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Guru Careers: Business Analyst / Digital Business Analyst

£50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Analyst / Digital Bus...

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales

£30 - 40k (£65k Y1 OTE Uncapped): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Deve...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before