From the makers of pop culture
A JWT Panel Discussion in Cannes
Content created by Huffington - a cornerstone of the online blogging world, Sheen's riveting President Bartlet and the likes of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City are examples of "big ideas" that have become part of pop culture. Advertising is increasingly becoming seen as irrelevant to consumers. They are switching off. What can advertising learn from these creations and how do you keep content fresh and edgy?
In his introductory remarks, Craig Davis laid out the challenge that advertisers are facing, saying that the marketing landscape has become "a consumer driven phenomenon" in which the audience "is no longer in a commercial-induced stupor. They're awake. And they're empowered. In one hand they've got a remote control for the TV and TiVo. In the other, a mouse. Propped up before them, a BlackBerry. Jammed in their ears, an iPod. So many ways they have to say 'no' to us..."
He then laid out the task facing advertisers and their clients: "Advertising must be as interesting as all that other stuff. The challenge for us all is to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in."
MARTIN SHEEN, STAR OF WEST WING
What was the secret behind the West Wing phenomenon?
Martin Sheen credited the writers, the script, especially the first four seasons to set the show’s momentum.
“It tapped a nerve. America has a love- hate relationship with the White House and no one has done a show like this before. Many people thought it wouldn’t work on commercial TV, it was a pay per view product, the
gamble paid off.”
"We knew that the attraction was big issues not being discussed in other drama. We were like a parallel universe, the real administration conservative, republican and reactionary. We were liberal and democratic."
Sheen seconded much of what various advertising gurus say when it comes to what clicks in content – being safe is risky.One of the reasons why The West Wing gained popularity was because we spoke of topics that are otherwise considered controversial. This played a critical role in more people speaking about the show and taking it to the heights that it did.”
In a nutshell: what can advertising learn from the West Wing?
Sheen answered that the show tried to unite the will of the spirit with the work of the flesh.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, CO-FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF THE HUGELY SUCCESSFUL AND INFLUENTIAL HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
Why are people choosing her site over mainstream news brands?
“It is the speed with which you can create a brand these days. It used to take 30 years, they have done it in one. The network of 750 bloggers can instantly contribute and get the conversation around news going - that is part of the combination we have brought together.”
How when audiences are fickle and move around do you build loyalty?
“We have more and more user generated content now. Remember when Cheney shot his friend - before the President was informed we had a blog on the site about it. We had video and blogs up so fast and were days before Jay Leno and David Letterman got onto it. You can see quick responses online immediately. You don't have to wait until the nightly news shows."
Is there more freedom online?
“Online is much more 'naked' and intimate. It doesn't need to be polished. A mantra given to site bloggers is - first thoughts, best thoughts." "Sometimes people deserve to be satirised in real time." “Blogging and online world works when you have a passion or obsession for something.
How do you make money?
"We are profitable now. We see advertising, you guys as the future of the HuffingtonPost. Don't try the New York Times model of putting your best content behind walls. This is the old model. I think we can be sustained by ads but not that interrupts the site. The likes of viral will perhaps be the future, not intrusive pop-ups and the like that we often see now."
SEX AND THE CITY CREATOR MICHAEL PATRICK KING.
There was a lot of criticism about the subject matter and the language, that women didn't talk like that in real life?
He said they may not have spoken like that but they certianly thought like that and the show brought it into the public domain. "We brought sex into the living room. Women would talk like that if they had a writing staff. No matter how bizarre, it has to be real. TV is a dream state where you like to be, but the moment it is something that doesn’t really happen, the audience is switched off.”
Carrie Bradshaw, a fictional character, has been voted one of the most influential figures in the last decade?
“The winning formula was to create a character that had real human frailties. Carrie was flawed and therefore readily identifiable to the audience at large. That is the key to engagement.”
At then end of the session, Davis asked each of them what five words of advice they'd give to advertisers.
Sheen quoted James Cagney: "Don't get caught at it."
King said, "Reflect life in exciting new ways," then quickly added, "I know that is six words not five but that's my point to you: Push what is asked for just a little bit."
Arianna Huffington went back to Craig's comment about the need to change ads from interruptions to things people actually enjoy and said: "Make coitus interruptus the real intercourse." "Okay, that was also six words (I was taking Michael's advice to heart)... and no one seemed to mind," she later wrote in her own blog in huffingtonpost.com