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Scott McKay is a Toronto writer, creative director, brand response specialist, relatively patient manager, half-baked photographer and forcibly retired playwright.

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    "They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket."

          – George Orwell






    "Advertising – a judicious mix of flattery and threats."

          – Northrop Frye






    "Chess is as an elaborate a waste of time as has ever been devised outside an advertising agency."

          – Raymond Chandler


    Entries in TV (4)


    are you trying hard enough to brighten your smile?

    I try not to comment on campaigns currently in market. It's not fair to trash other people's work, not when I know all too well the challenges of getting good work out the door. And I've done my fair share of, let's be honest, crap.

    But the Crest 3D Whitestrips spot out there right now is absolutely horrendous. (Okay, not as horrendous as the Days of Our Lives product placement stuff pointed out to me by Chris Seguin, but still.) You know, the "Audition in two weeks, brighten your smile," spot.

    The acting is at the level of a porn movie or, more charitably, a high school play. But the editing choices are ghastly, truly awful, as evidenced most brutally by the wink to camera at the end. It plays like an SCTV parody. It feels so programmed, such a transparent execution of the brief, that I almost wonder if there was a creative team involved at all. (And I know there was, I know they're cringing, I know there's a kernel of a great concept in the spot that got watered down and focus grouped to death.)

    I just saw the second phase of the campaign, where the same woman is getting married and yet we're not supposed to notice – they've even redubbed her in an effort to cover their tracks.

    There's so little respect for the audience in this work that I almost don't consider it advertising. It's simply a statement of product features that's been shot to look like an ad. And as much as P&G is, well, kind of a successful company, it doesn't get much more depressing than that.


    wow, there's a lot of suckage out there

    Having just got back from a week of lacking civilized things like Twitter, Chatroulette and the Slap Chop, it's literally overwhelming how much content is being hurled at the folks who reside in civilization every moment.

    I've returned to the inevitable 300 new emails (a low total due to the out of office notification) and out of habit threw the TV on. The lack of importance, relevance or, well, meaning in what I saw was astonishing. Assorted teen stupidity, assorted housewife stupidity, assorted stupidity from cultures all over the world, interrupted by infomercials for pointless kitchen products and get-rich-quick schemes. It really struck me that there's a lot of things being put on air just to fill up time, or to aid in the marketing of other things. And that's just not good programming. (Or smart marketing.)

    The repetition of all this crap is depressing. As the number of channels grows, the number of content providers seems to shrink, as do the budgets for producing shows. So the same homogenized content shows up across several apparently unrelated channels. And every network operates the same way.

    And given that we caught a lot of radio on the way home, it's depressing that radio, with its far lower operating budgets, also finds the need to repeat playlists and on-air talent from station to station, and community to community.

    The internet (for now) offers us more voices, more independence of thought. As traditional media cower from unique voices and do anything to maximize dollars, we readers and citizens and consumers must turn to the only medium that offers insight, and allow us a measure of control.


    you mean, broadcast TV isn't the only way to receive this so-called "video" in the comfort of your own home?

    Sitting here trying unsuccessfully to focus on work, and I've just realized that You Only Live Twice is on what used to be CHCH, Hamilton's local channel 11, but which now seems to be some wacky movie channel that shows a lot of old movies using really old, unrestored prints with old school pan-and-scan. (Unlike certain other channels.)

    Regardless, after seeing this in the Rogers listings, I hit "11" on the remote (which I still occasionally call a converter) and settle in to watch. Why? Because I guess I still appreciate the value of being a passive consumer of content – a viewer.

    I don't download any shows, or buy anything other than music off iTunes; I don't have a PVR; I don't often use Rogers on Demand; I don't have a lot of DVDs sitting around. I seem to prefer being dependent on the timing and selections of the once proud species known as network programmers. Which is idiotic, in a way; I hate being dictated to in other similar contexts, such as music. I'm a notorious radio station/CD/iPod flipper in the car.

    What makes this even more bizarre is that one of the few DVDs I actually own is You Only Live Twice; I can see this movie anytime, with far better picture and sound, widescreen.

    And yet here I am. I know it's part habit, part laziness. But there are two other factors here:

    1) Broadcast TV is, or was, a shared experience. The first time You Only Live Twice aired on ABC, in the mid '70s, it was like all the Bond movies a huge ratings generator; millions watched, and for lots of us it was our first exposure to Bond movies. We all talked about it the next day. Just as later we talked about MASH, or WKRP, or hell, the Star Wars Christmas special. You watched, all at the same time, or you didn't share the experience, because there were no VCRs, no playback, no rentals, no nothing. Now, the only comparable experience is truly a massive event, like the Olympic gold medal hockey game, or September 11th.

    2) It's also lack of commitment; if I actually put a DVD on, I commit myself to watching it. I'm doing something active. But with broadcast TV, I retain my distance and passivity. I pay only as much attention as I want. So I can do other things, like, say, write a blog post.

    Yes, I know it makes no sense. But it's how I am, and I suspect there are a lot of us out there – holdovers, weird analog/digital cyborgs. People who still use phones primarily for calling other people. People who, when it comes to sitting in front of the TV, still ask, "What's on?"

    And by the way, for having "taken a first in Oriental languages at Cambridge," Bond's Japanese is hilarious, truly bad.


    how to be a genius on absolutely no budget whatsoever

    In lieu of a real post, please enjoy a taste of The Sandbaggers, a brilliant spy show from the 1970s on British television. It shows you what you can do with pretty much zero budget – great writing and actors who absolutely believe in their roles combine to create the most tension I've seen outside of Hitchcock, and these episodes whip along at a speed that Peter Hunt would be proud of.

    The Ipcress File was marketed at the anti-Bond, and yes, it's cool in an unBondian way. But The Sandbaggers is the real deal – spies risking their lives in the midst of bureaucracy and politics. Pretty much, I think you'd have to say, the way it is.

    No one has ever come close to Ian Mackintosh's vision on this kind of budget, before or since.