Media Perspective: Adland goes by the book to solve its content problem
A view from Russell Davies

Media Perspective: Adland goes by the book to solve its content problem

Years and years and years ago, I helped make some work for a BT interactive TV trial. It was a huge deal. I think it might have been in Southampton. Or maybe Ipswich. That big of a deal.

This was before the web, when most people thought "new media" would come via your telly and your remote control. I remember sitting in a meeting pointing out how much content we'd have to make, to fill all the forking possibilities on the menu - hours and hours of video that people might just see if they happened to click that way.

Half the agency people were delighted - the mark-up on all this production was going to be immense. The other half had a terrible sinking feeling - there was no way our systems could cope with the required amount of material or that our clients' budgets could sustain it, certainly not if we made stuff in the way we'd always made it.

Similarly, a few years later, I remember working with a producer on a series about basketball for MTV - on behalf of a famous sports brand. He pointed out that we were making 12 hours of content for less than we normally spent on a 60-second commercial, and we were still spending more per second than most TV productions.

But, he muttered, that's not really the problem. The real issue was that he was the only person in either the client or the agency who'd actually watched the whole 12 hours of content. He had no idea how he was supposed to get everything approved. Would he sit in a 12-hour meeting with the client? What if they wanted to make changes?

This is why Bartle Bogle Hegarty's hiring of Jeremy Ettinghausen from the publisher Penguin is so interesting.

Jeremy's spent the past 13 years working with, understanding, thinking about and trying to monetise the effect that digital technologies are having on the longest of long-form content - books.

If you've got a scale with blipverts on the left and Wagner's Ring cycle on the right, most of the stuff Jeremy's worked with is way over on the right. And he's done it in a business that's used to making money from a long, slow product. (Not that it's an industry that's immune from disruptive challenges, far from it.)

Agencies, on the other hand, have pronounced on "content" for years and have done some bold and interesting things, but most still find it hard to integrate anything longer than 60 seconds into the creative process.

We don't have the creative, business or process skills for long-form stuff. I don't know if that's what Jeremy's going to be thinking about but it's not a fixed problem yet and he might just be the man to solve it.