Jeremy Lee: Adland should stay in its comfort zone: commercial breaks

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 08 March 2012 08:00AM

With the benefit of hindsight, it was probably too much to hope that Channel 4's Mad Bad Ad Show would avoid the temptation to revert to type and present the advertising industry in a flippant and embarrassing light.

Jeremy Lee: Adland should stay in its comfort zone: commercial breaks

After all, we've been here before on so many other occasions. In its own lazy shorthand, the television industry thinks the advertising business is at best worth sniggering at and at worst populated by ludicrous arses (surely an irony of its own).

For example, who can forget the execrable advertising sitcom The Persuasionists on BBC Two in 2010? Actually, thinking about it, probably quite a lot of people - but there's still not much evidence to suggest that the media in general is planning to change its views any time soon.

Perhaps the best hope for The Mad Bad Ad Show - and, more importantly, those ad practitioners who volunteered to appear on it - is that it follows a similar route and fails to make much of a dent on the public consciousness beyond the memories of some of the more sensitive members of the advertising parish.

The early evidence suggests this might be the case. While the public switched off in droves as the minutes ticked on in the first episode, they also didn't come back to sample again on its next outing - the audience had dropped by a further third by the second, making it one of Channel 4's worst-performing shows in this slot. A further commission is therefore unlikely - a relief to all who watched, from either behind the sofa or between closed fingers.

This is cold comfort to those brave souls who fell for the smooth chat of the producers (and from what I'm led to believe, the original concept show touted to agencies that thought this might be a worthy project was a very different beast to the one that eventually ended up on screen).

Aside from Kate Stanners, two of Campaign's occasional columnists - Richard Exon and Rory Sutherland - were also tempted to participate along with Peter Sells and Rosie Arnold. These people are all clever, passionate about the power of advertising and certainly funnier than the comics on the show to whom their role appeared to be comedy stooges.

While the industry, with particular credit to the IPA president, Nicola Mendelsohn, has done much to make the advertising business look to the outside world the serious business that it is, there still seems much to be done. The focus of this should be the boardroom and not to a disinterested public with the cheap - but alluring - hit of a TV performance.

Perhaps the ultimate lesson is that agencies should resist the snake-oil sales patter of those pretending to be interested in how modern advertising works and just get on with filling the bits in between their editorial. Good rarely comes from it.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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