The opportunity cost of over-engineering / over-producing TV commercials.

February 29, 2008 at 7:03 am | Posted in Digital thinking, General, Segmentation, Traditional, video | 1 Comment


Back in the good old days before audience content consumption fragmentation, it made sense to invest heavily in the crucial staple 30 second commercial. We relied heavily on it’s ability to drive demand. We made an art of measuring the frequency of exposure and constructing it’s content became an unquestionable `high ticket`art form.

Contrary to advertising doomsday analysts, the content landscape is definitely changing, but no, the 30 second commercial is not dead and will not be as long as marketers have the need to stimulate mass demand. Video will remain an extremely powerful content form and TV is still the most efficient content mass distribution form ever invented (that is if they don’t break the model by spending rediculously on High definition).

A cynic may also say that it’s still good business to spend someone else’s money the easiest way possible and increase production values.

My question though is, has this game gone too far?

When developing genuinely innovative connection ideas and insights are either too expensive, or beyond the capability of an antiquated structure, or when a brand has nothing worthwhile to say, it is much easier to mask our charade and wow a client and customer with `bling, bling` special effects and mega productions.

I fear that it may just be one more case of an old (very profitable) industry holding onto it’s business model. Ad agencies make easy money producing just a few expensive mass messaging commercials. Likewise, film production companies refuse to erode their very profitable business model.

Web video is reminding us that the idea is the key to start a conversation, not the production values or the expense of the production.

At the same time, we are approaching a tipping-point between mass and segmented messaging and that TV film production, and possibly bad advice from ad agencies is robbing new media of production investment and retarding much needed content diversification and interface design.

So, what’s the solution?

OK! Ad agencies will argue that producing more video and other content forms will be way too expensive and work intensive. Sure, planning departments are not structured to generate the multiple segmented insights required for more molecular messaging.

Similarly, clients are not structured for the increased vendor roster, project management / approval burden.

Also, there is a definite political risk for clients who dare to expose themselves and support change. No IT manager will get fired for buying Microsoft (regardless of the bugs and flaws), but by forcing a change to Linux, even if it is a smart decision, every disruption is amplified.

The reality is that there is too much inertia / too many structural problems in the agency model to drive the required change. If disruption to their business demands more segmented messaging or a innovation from a diversified content & contact mix, this change needs to be driven by clients.

Risk is merely perception. To affect change, I think we also need to take a step back and re-look at our perception of `too expensive`. Is mass messaging with short term, often totally unaccountable effect a wise place to over-invest??

The real question that we need to reflect on is; If diversified content forms and more segmented messaging produce more relevant and effective brand / consumer conversations, are they actually more expensive?? Is there a larger opportunity cost to ignore the change or set a measured (even if it is perceived as more costly) action plan to find a communication mix that makes our brands relevant to our consumers again.

Cheers, BC


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