Back when I was developing movies and miniseries for television, I lamented how the broadcast products were being placed against premium cable products during awards season as they had a fundamental difference – broadcast movies had to have a seven act format that required some heightened element to draw people through the commercial break while cable movies were able to maintain a traditional three act format.  When comparing the two, I even felt that the traditional was more palpable as there was no annoying manufactured cliff-hangers or “Fake High” leading into each commercial break.  Looking at other forms of storytelling, I enjoyed and had emotional connections to the instances where they were able to convey narrative, and just plain breathe. 

Now, it seems like everything is reliant on the ultra-kinetic energy that was witnessed in those days of longform television.  Even watching television shows on pay cable that have no commercials has become exhausting as it feels like they’re afraid you’re going to walk away or change to another show that’s saved in your DVR.  Maybe its not because of our collective ADD, but because of our collective desensitization to all things shocking.  We’re not just talking graphic elements, but storyline as well.  Some of our favorite protagonists are serial killers, drug dealers, meth manufacturers, vampires and they just get zanier by the season. Images of death, destruction, sexuality, insanity and grossness just don’t register as being different or exceptional like it used to. 

We’re also seeing this type of reaction to the general population’s higher threshhold for advertising gimmicks and attention grabbers.  Just a few years ago, there was an outrage when Calvin Klein posted billboards with the following image:

Now, those types of images are standard in billboards.  It seems that there might be a fuss when one campaign does something shocking, but then we all forget about it and it becomes the norm.

But this isn’t about billboards.  It’s about the drive to just do something that will grab people’s attention but with seemingly no attempt to even convey what the product is – either through storytelling or description.

One such example of late is the commercial for Toshiba’s Thrive Tablet.  It is all about noise with giving no details about the product other than saying its the “First one to get it right.”  Huh?  With iPad being the leader nowadays and the the fact that they convey the multiple uses of their tablet in every outlet possible, why would Toshiba think this is a good use of their advertising dollars?

We’ve always seen the same thing in TV, Movie and Home Entertainment Television spots – where the emphasis is on breathtaking images and review lines without conveying much, if any part, of the story.  The thing I hear as being so good about RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is the humanity and storytelling.  It is almost like the special effects are just an assist to that instead of the main focus.  If you watch any of the spots on TV, all it shows is action, reviews and one out-of-context intimate moment between two apes.  I’ll see it because I am a fan of the franchise, but my intent is not helped by the spots.

There is so much emphasis put on “New” and “Groundbreaking” when it comes to marketing these days that it is collectively losing any meaning or power.  It reminds me of the early days of the internet when ads were just made to flash on and off or have a starburst around it or some lights or more lights.  it all became just a bunch of nothing.  We’re seeing it today where the rich media expandable ads provide no additional experience or connection that a standard unit could not have smartly shown.  There is such a drive for data but no real push for analysis and real strategy.

I recognize that Social Media is still relatively nascent, but many people are looking at it as their bully pulpit by just shooting stuff out into the ether with no real plan for enhancing engagement or community. 

This post is all over the place – just like all of the media exploding at consumers – it all just seems like noise.  The true challenge is to just take a breath and begin the connection to the audience or consumer.  The communication does not need to be loud – just thoughtful and well targeted.

It is much more easily said than done, but we’ve got to find a way to make our screams matter and our whispers mean even more.