There’s a hoary old cliche about the ads on television being better
than the programmes. With audience levels for some of the main
commercial channels falling, it’s possible that this platitude may well
have a more than a little veracity these days.
Traditionally, of course, it’s the agency creative departments that
blush with pride at the suggestion. Some of them have even been
encouraged to launch their own programme production teams. First there
was Simons Palmer with the Mission, then St Luke’s decided to have a go
and open its own production unit.
Neither of the two companies has exactly got the programming luvvies
quaking in their Patrick Cox loafers but, always quick to spot a trend,
the media strategists, Michaelides & Bednash, are now piling in to give
it a go.
A lot of the traditional media agencies will already be groaning that
this is just more pretentious wank from the M&B camp.
After all, there’s a whole industry of people who make TV programmes and
as anyone who’s ever been to the Edinburgh Television Festival will
testify, the void between the programming and commercial sides of the TV
industry is still, sadly, colossal.
But M&B’s ambitions lie outside the commercial box. For a start, the new
venture has absolutely nothing to do with advertising or clients. This
is not about the oh-so-now advertiser-supplied-programming thing. It’s
simply about coming up with ideas for programmes that people might quite
like to watch. Making the shows will be left to the experts.
Again, why should M&B be better placed than the programme makers
themselves to work out what we want to see when we collapse on the sofa
Their answer is that its expertise in tracking consumer behaviour and
predicting trends gives it a real insight into what we want, not only
from our consumer goods and the way they are advertised, but from our
media - or, for that matter, any other aspect of our lives.
It’s not exactly a new phenomenon: media agency turned media owner.
Robert Ditchum and Adam Stanhope, big cheeses at Initiative Media until
a couple of years ago, threw it all in and are now proud owners of their
own cable channel, Rapture, targeting the youth market and doing it
rather well, by all accounts.
Whether or not M&B’s initiative comes to anything more than a couple of
nice press articles about what a forward-thinking company they are, we
shall see in a year or so’s time.
But what’s certainly true is that media companies are increasingly
better placed than their creative counterparts to understand consumer
behaviour and demands. And if that translates into better television
programmes (or magazines, newspapers and so on), then all the better for
the advertising industry in general.