NEW MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON WEB CREATIVITY - TV and web convergence will see more creative innovation. The digital arena is starting to interest mainstream ad creatives

It is notoriously hard to get mainstream advertising creatives interested in anything digital. It's not just the gratuitous jargon and the militant technophilia they find when they venture down this particular corridor - although, heaven knows, that can put anyone off.

Surely it's down to something scarier than that. Perhaps the realisation that the odds of creating interesting work in the digital domain are depressingly low. Who in their right mind would want to wrestle with the problems of creating poster executions within postage stamp formats? Or, if they absolutely insist on moving pictures of some kind, have to choose between childish Tom and Jerry-style animated graphics or Edwardian-era moving pictures that are flickery and jumpy.

But we may have witnessed something of a breakthrough the other week in Brighton. During a D&AD judging session, the assembled talent came across the work, which had been entered in the TV category. The BMWfilms website features five mini-movies directed by the top filmmakers John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guy Ritchie.

In the films the BMW product is thrown about in ways that would make seasoned members of the BACC committee blanche.

The D&AD judges had sort of heard of this stuff, but they'd comfortably managed to dismiss it because it was accessible only on the web. It didn't really count. But what they were seeing now was evidence that the work had life beyond the web - on web-TV, for instance, and video on demand. Or even, in this case, the cinema. So maybe, the lines between the web and TV really are blurring - and this work might be the way to make the most of that creatively.

Some of the judges left the session convinced they'd seen the future.

After all, they'd heard the theory that in an era of a zillion digital TV channels backed by interactive domains, advertisers would become programme makers. They'd soon be doing everything from infomercials to "brandcasting".

Marcus Vinton, the founder of the interactive TV specialist Spring, was one of the D&AD judges who was already up to speed on this work - and he was heartened by the reactions it received. He states: "For the past 15 years, BMW iconography has been part of advertising's lesson number one, so it was a bit of a shock for some to see how they played with that within films of up to 15 minutes long. Culturally it was hard for some to adjust to. They knew it wasn't a movie nor was it a commercial. It was a brand in action - advertainment, brandcasting - and it was great to see their reactions."

But this sort of thing has limited applications across the market as a whole, doesn't it? There are very few brands that will excite talented filmmakers to this extent. And anyway, if everyone's looking to do this, the whole thing loses it's novelty value, doesn't it?

Not necessarily, Ajaz Ahmed, the chairman of AKQA, says. AKQA recently formed an alliance with a company called Treatment that specialises in the creation of branded entertainment. It already has a film in production with Universal Pictures and has just completed a series for Discovery called Eight Minute Expert. More projects are in the pipeline.

Ahmed comments: "Most brand managers, and increasingly TV companies, understand that there is life beyond the 30-second commercial and press ads. Consumers want to be entertained. Brands need big ideas, so film and TV programmes give us a far bigger canvas to work from. The challenge for everyone involved will be creating an idea that is better than those that already exist. The other challenge is distribution - once you have created the new content, how do you make sure that you get an audience for it? If you fix the first challenge, then distribution is not a problem."

Some observers have reservations about all of this. It's fine in theory, they argue. But does it work in practice? Paul Longhurst, an interactive consultant to The Allmond Partnership, agrees that we have still probably got a long way to go yet.

Longhurst says: "Creatives have always been excited by the potential of bigger canvasses - and their attitude to the digital domain may change when they realise it's a bigger, not smaller, opportunity. Remember that Fiat Strada ad (from CDP, directed by Hugh Hudson in the late 70s) that filled the whole break?

It only ran a few times because the media cost so much. In digital you get a lot more for a lot less in terms of capital cost. On the other hand, that doesn't mean the audience is there to make it work. It's a complicated debate. The thing about using the web is that the bandwidth is free and you can have pieces of film that are accessible globally."

More than ten million users viewed the BMW films during the first six months - which is good but still a tiny audience in mainstream media terms. There's a bigger audience potential offered by convergent technologies and digital TV, but the bandwidth isn't free. Far from it.

Vinton, though, is optimistic about the broader picture - and he says Spring has several similar projects in the pipeline. "Television is changing rapidly,

he points out. "By Christmas, half the country will have digital television. There are hundreds of channels screaming out for content.

There will be no problem here. There will be massive opportunities to communicate through TV rather than around it. And the great thing is that we have the creative disciplines in this country to take full advantage of that."

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