July 31, 2007
Producers, Writers, and Advertisers Harmed by the Hype

How is the hype and bluster surrounding "branded entertainment," "transmedia storytelling," and "product placement" endangering real and meaningful developments in actually making these concepts a real part of the industry?

People who read our blog here regularly know that we are quite keen on these concepts. But, of course, we come at it primarily from a fan-centered perspective, and that fannishness has a lot to do with artistry as well. We are excited to know about how product placement might help escape from the confines of the simple-minded advertising models currently in place; how transmedia storytelling might help media properties better tell their stories without the confines of a particular medium; and so on.

But the over-hyping of some of these ideas cause great problems. See Wayne Friedman's take on product placement. He talks with producers about product integration, and he points out that many of them are sour on it? Why? Because of the instant desire of the industry to turn everything into a stream. You can't just have something appear on a show; it has to take over the show. We still haven't tackled the art of subtlety. And if you can't make a quick and simple metric out of it, what use is it?

Wayne writes, "Producers will say everything needs to be organic. But organic takes time and doesn't happen every day. It happens at its own slow and natural pace."

Quite true, but this to me doesn't mean that product placement isn't worthwhile. It means that it has to be conceived of quite differently. I devote a whole chapter to product placement in my thesis, for anyone who is interested. Soap fans, at least those on the As the World Turns site I looked at, were quite keen for organic product placement, especially in using P&G products on a P&G show in the home, when it makes sense. This isn't the "branded entertainment concept" that takes over a show, but it could prove quite valuable on a smaller scale. It's the hype that run so many people off from the concept altogether.

Meanwhile, take a look at another story from Wayne here, focusing on the battle between producers and writers that we've been covering here. He says, "TV networks are their own worst enemy. In recent announcements, executives have been proudly stating that in a few years they can grab hundreds of millions of dollars - if not billions -- in using theirs (or someone else's) Web sites to run their shows."

I think that this is an astute statement. The problem is that the reaction to new possibilities are either to slow down to a halt debating on how to get the metric down and monetize them to an easy quantity, or else to try and capitalize on them without understanding the cultural implications for fans/consumers.



..this is a mindset that really pervades the whole media, advertising and entertainment biz. I'd written some time ago about the industries short attention span, and look for the "quick fix".

We're really quick to jump on the bright and shiny objects, but not as apt to apply, invent, and evolve over time.

Recent bludgeoning of Second Life by press that once hailed it as the "second coming" (sorry bad pun)is a good example.

Some of us are more pragmatic, but most want quick, easy and definitive ROI vehicles in a media world that's become much too complicated to have such high expectations.


I concur, Andy, and I wrote in my thesis work on the soap opera industry and here on the blog about the dangers of quick fixes as well. I may even write more about it later, but I agree completely that all the sudden resentment directed toward Second Life is an indication of a misundersatnding of the whole value of Second Life in the first place...and the same impatience with the rate of change that I have been writing about recently, such as here.

The problem with a system is that the infrastructure you create to make life easier then makes handling change appropriately more difficult. And we don't live in a culture where slow investment nad preparing for the future is valued--from funding of education on the national and state levels to preparing for changes when profit can't be reflected in the next quarter. Seems like new ventures have to be immediately profitable or avoided altogether for many folks...