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Archive for August, 2008

[Note: This was originally written at the end of January/beginning of February, when Hollywood was in the grips of the Writer’s Strike. So dial your brain back to those halcyon days before reading]

One of the most interesting aspects of the Writer’s Strike in Hollywood has been the repercussions. The Golden Globes, the Grammys. And here’s one more: Advertising Agencies.

Consider this: A company hires an advertising agency to advertise it’s product. Most of the time, that happens on television. The agency says “Show X is watched by 10 million 18-year-old men, so if we run our commercial during it, ten million 18-year-old men will see it and stop whatever they’re doing and run out and buy thirty or forty of your product.” Or something like that.

But what happens when people stop watching TV because there aren’t any new shows on? I mean, the company still needs to advertise their product – because they still need to sell their product, because they still need to make a living, right? So where do they turn?

Increasingly, they’ve turned back to their advertising agencies and said “Okay, we can’t do TV – do other stuff that will make my numbers.” Other stuff? Like on the web, at the point of purchase, on cell phones, via guerilla stunts and viral tactics, or even good old print and billboards.

Now here’s where things get a little sticky. Because even though advertising agencies have been talking about integrated marketing  – advertising across all the places a consumer might be – for a decade, very few of them are actually built to make it happen. And most of those that are, are really only able to do it if it’s anchored by, you guessed it, massive television advertising.

That’s why the Writer’s Strike has created a tremendous challenge for most advertising agencies. On the one hand, they’ve needed to quickly ramp up their non-television-commercial capabilities (so that their clients don’t go hunting for those skills elsewhere), while on the other hand, they’ve been praying like crazy that the strike settles quickly so they can go back to making tv commercials again – which are lucrative and safe and at which they are king.

In the long run, this will force both agencies and companies to be more creative with their marketing, finally forcing them to try some of the media they’ve jawed about at conferences for so long. Someone asked me if I thought it would kill the television commercial? No – but if it did, how ironic that it was writers who held the gun?

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