The Problem & The Solution / by Chris Weigl

The problem, at least as we see it, with entertainment today isn’t that there is too much commercialization or not enough artistry, but that no one likes the current relationship that TV, film and entertainment have with businesses and mainly advertisers.  At it’s most basic level, the problem in entertainment is that the people who write the script, direct the film and produce the movie are at odds with distributors and businesses that want to partner with creative enterprises to help build their brand.  Let there be no doubt films are brands.  This is the subtle lie that writers tell themselves: that films and other written media is somehow different and therefore better than the thirty second ads being played during the football game on Sunday.  No side is right in this situation because each side is wrong.  The advertiser using women as objects to sell more beer are wrong.  The film studios using women as objects to sell movies are wrong.  Car companies are just as wrong for using high speed chases in their ads to sell cars just as movies are wrong for making car chases to sell their movies.  It’s all a matter of degrees.  The current situation as it exists isn’t a matter of right or wrong, but a matter of who’s worse.

The previous paragraph means nothing to the advertiser.  It means nothing to film studios, writers, executives and creative types of all kinds.  It means nothing to the Fortune 500 companies who invest in both football and the Simpsons or the companies that invest in the next Hunger Games film.  Companies look at the situation in creative industries and they’re trying to out maneuver the consumer and this is why everyone is wrong.  You’re trying to sell your product to the consumer, but in trying to sell your product you’ve forgotten about your audience.  In trying to spot the next trend you’ve forgotten who is already supporting you.  So many businesses and artists are focused on the next big thing that they don’t even know what’s going on right now.  Let there be no doubt that you cannot understand the situation tomorrow if you do not understand the problems of today.  It’s the biggest lie in media that the future is someone else’s problem simply because you’re not adequately planning for it.  That problem is going to hit you in the recession that we got caught up in via your 401k or whatever.  Everything is related and oftentimes we get too invested in our own self-interests that we become blind to the problems that affect all of us.

We’re not going to pretend like we’re above it all.  As much as we’d love to sit back and tell you about how brand-funded entertainment can solve a lot of your problems the truth is that it can’t solve all of your problems.  Our new integrated approach to advertising isn’t going to solve the problem that networks have in developing new content and addressing the change in their viewer’s viewing habits.  Putting more Coke or Pepsi in your next blockbuster isn’t going to put more people in the seats.  At some point you’ve got to sit back and ask yourself what you want to stand for and make no mistake everyone stands for something.  The question you should be asking yourself is if a neutral observer came in and judged your company would they be excited about what you’re doing?  The answer for most of the giants of the entertainment industry is an emphatic: no!  And that’s exactly how the audience for your products feels as well. 

What we do; what we get up every day and work as hard as we can to change is the role that businesses have with filmmakers.  We believe both sides are getting a raw deal.  Artists feel like they’re selling out to big business and big business doesn’t feel like it’s getting it’s monies worth.  Something has to change or the industry will continue to get more and more polarizing until it becomes too hard for anyone to make a profit at all.  This is great if you want every studio to become part of a multi-national corporation.  This is wonderful if you want to make sure that not another single writer gets paid for working in the film and television industry.  This is fine if you want video games to continue to tap into the market that used to be filled by TV and movies.  This isn’t how it has to be though.

We believe in an approach that benefits all sides, but it’s not without it’s drawbacks.  In order to change you will have to give up all your existing measuring sticks for how advertising works in media.  You’ve got to toss out Nielson and challenge them to come up with new metrics to measure advertising share because there aren’t going to be any more commercials.  You’re going to have to find a different way to promote movies because there will be no more than two coming attractions per film released in theaters.  There will be no commercial advertising before films in theaters and the only times you’ll see ads during television are during six timeouts that each team has per game.  That’s the only way to make it fair.  The good news is that networks will now be able to charge more for those advertising slots.  There’s more good news though too because advertisers can now tie-in their products to the storylines and events of the shows that they advertise in.  It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s only a lot of work to the slackers who shouldn’t be writing in media anyways.

What an integrated marketing and brand-funded entertainment model will look like is no more commercials during original programming, fewer ads overall, very limited advertising in theaters, and no advertising on DVDs.  If you pay twenty bucks for a DVD you should have the right not to sit through five ads before you see something that you already paid good money for.  This will be a difficult transition for the people with all the money.  The studios will complain, businesses will be challenged to come up with new ways to sell their products, and artists will have to work in more creative ways to help studios and advertisers reach common ground.  But, you know what the benefit of all this is?  The consumer is happy and everyone gets paid.  This is the future folks.  A more equitable arrangement for everyone where rather than brushing aside a problem for twenty years we decide to phase out our current system that is not only failing businesses and advertisers, but most importantly consumers and instead phase in a new approach to media that shows the viewer that we value their time as much as their money and we are going to respect it. 

Respect is earned and when it comes to media we have not earned the respect of the consumer.  They spit at us and we have to take it because the crap we are shoveling in their faces isn’t worth the price they’re paying for it.  This isn’t just an issue of fairness, but of decency.  We owe it to ourselves and to subsequent generations to put together better programming, more original content, and entertainment that actually does what it sets out to do and entertains the consumer.  This is our vision for the future and we believe that if we work together we can make entertainment media the respected force in American culture that it has been for much of it’s storied past.  We hope that you will join us in this venture.  Check out the steps we’re taking to revolutionize film and television and find out how you can become a part of the sweeping change that will revolutionize the way we entertain America.