BIGging up British: TV & Cinema

When they said "big up British TV and cinema", my response was to punch the air and shout: "Just try and stop me." And as advertisers rightly embrace the new world, it strikes me that this unique medium needs bigging up more than ever.

But what exactly is "British TV" in 2010?

I love Nike's "write the future" film, but it's as global an ad as it gets.

I'm very proud of our Robert Carlyle film for Johnnie Walker but it wasn't designed for TV or cinema. Indeed, its eventual cut-through was as a viral film.

Isn't it all just about film-making now?

The globalisation of brands and explosion of "new" media has had a huge impact on British TV commercials.

I can still remember the early days of trying to crack international briefs, frustrated that Italians didn't understand Ken Dodd.

But then, of course, we all got good at it, and global ads just replaced words with music and regional eccentricities with simple, human truths. The result is that we're a bit less comfortable being British these days, which is a shame because when we laugh at ourselves we're very funny.

And while Britain and the States once had a monopoly on great TV advertising, now everyone's good at it, from Thailand to Brazil.

Meanwhile, media fragmentation has also effected the quality of commercials.

At any given time, there are only a finite amount of brilliant thinkers working in our industry. Years ago, these people only had to focus on TV, print and radio but nowadays their talent has been stretched far and wide.

"The new world" has become an exciting opportunity for original film writers because it represents the next frontier; film you can actually play with. So a lot of our industry's best talent isn't focusing its energy on traditional film-making at all. But, in the long term, I think new technology will have a positive impact on TV. As narrowband and broadband media converge, so all of our best creative talent will descend on one screen. With the advent of Google TV and TiVo Premiere, traditional films and interactive films will sit side by side, vying for our attention, knowing that if they don't entertain us, we'll edit them into oblivion.

And let's agree that we're still wonderful storytellers in Britain. We can spin a great yarn and drench it in the most seductive production values. Take the new John Lewis film. Now here's a British ad made by a British agency and director for a British client. It's not the most original idea. But it's exquisite, from beginning to end. It draws you into the screen and moves you to tears. It makes you re-evaluate Billy Joel, which is quite an achievement. It's a beautifully told story.

And people will always want to hear stories. It's just that in the future, brands will become stories in themselves. They'll keep us interested across different media channels by way of an ongoing dialogue. T-Mobile's "life's for sharing" won a BIG award last year with TV that documented a series of spontaneous events. The events themselves were the big story. The films only delivered it to our screen. And the more films we've seen, the richer that story has become.

The new world is an exciting place, and we should all embrace the opportunities it affords. But let's stay in love with the larger screen and recognise its magical properties. Sixty million British viewers love to be entertained, and when it comes to great storytelling, we don't need Mr. Cowell to remind us that Britain's got talent.

- For more information and to enter the BIG awards, visit


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