Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

TV can learn from ad-makers

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast June 20, 2013

Why were there no TV creatives at Cannes Lions asks Kate Bulkley

I’ve been in Cannes this week – and no, I haven’t got the date wrong for Mipcom. I’m here for Cannes Lions, which is where the cream of the advertising industry gather to celebrate creativity.

Some TV sales guys are here, but I haven’t seen a lot of TV creative types, and I think they’re missing out.

The week is full of ideas, creative presentations and pitches with a whole lot of awards. The main stage and pop-up venues scattered along the Croisette are packed with talent, from Mel B and Martha Stewart to Vivienne Westwood, Annie Leibovitz and Bob Geldof, and what’s interesting is that they are talking about the way digital technology and social media have dramatically changed what they are doing artistically.

Not least of these changes is where the power lies. Actor Jack Black, who was a little worse for wear after an evening of too much rosé, talked about his upcoming series Ghost Ghirls, which is on Yahoo! and not the Syfy TV channel, which originally greenlit it, before suddenly deciding it “didn’t want comedy”.

“We just want to make stuff,” said Black, who then outlined several other online projects, including a US comedy festival called Festival Supreme to be streamed live on Yahoo!, an animated web series with his comedy rock band Tenacious D, and a project with the working title Citizen’s Arrest. The latter doesn’t look funny on page, but when Black explained it, trust me, it sounded hilarious.

The head of Yahoo! video Erin McPherson was on stage with him, and was keen to exploit what she called the “marriage of content and technology”.

She has plans to increase the amount of original content on the site, especially comedy, all overlaid with personalisation and curation tools. She calls it “TV on steroids”.

What’s also interesting for TV folk is that brands themselves are creating content faster than you can say ‘Google search’. But they want to work with media that ‘get it’, like Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, the Spotify music site and Yahoo!, and anyone else with a creative strategy that will get them the attention they want (so people can buy their stuff).

For example, documentary producer Dyllan McGee has won a commission from PBS for a film about pioneering women called Makers, but it was only after AOL came on board as a partner that Unilever’s facial skincare range Simple became involved, and her film became an interactive, digital brand that will be used by millions of people around the world.

On stage with women’s movement activist and Ms Magazine founder Gloria Steinem, McGee looked like a kid in a candy shop. “I thought we were going to have a website,” she said. “This is a brand, a living library online.” These are the kinds of relationships that brands like AOL and Simple are trying to create with audiences, and that creative agencies are working like dogs to build with their customers, the brands.

The TV business needs to not only understand this but also get in on it because there was a lot of creative juice in Cannes this week – alongside multiple glasses of quite good rosé, as Mr Black will attest.

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