Friday, October 17, 2008

No Longer an Issue?

By Thomas Henning

I am all about my “stories.” I have a few of them and we all get together one night a week and, along with mistress DVR, spend some quality time together. It is a delicious escape, sitting there watching The Hills, Gossip Girls, or Lipstick Jungle and not thinking about the twelve thousand items on my to-do list. I will even watch the commercials, now and then, to see if there is anything interesting. There rarely is.

Why is that? I know that commercials are evolving. Dove teamed up with MTV and Alicia Keys to create a micro-series with fully realized episodic content shown during the commercial breaks of full-sized shows. I was watching The Hills the first time I saw it.

Since then I have seen others on LOGO, TNT, and elsewhere.
They are interesting and I was excited about the idea of commercials telling stories in a longer format spot because it seemed like an effective hook to keep the audience engaged with your message.

I admit that I was excited because of the potential for cause-marketing initiatives. I spent more time looking for the longer format cause-related PSAs but I didn’t find any and I began to ask myself why? Other countries have done it. One of my favorites is from China.

How incredible would it be to have something like this, starring celebrities from sports, music, film, television, and beyond? I mean, why haven’t we done this? This commercial is two years old. It was aired on the subway, on television, and this is China we are talking about.

Look I am not saying it is perfect, but it featured some of China’s biggest film stars, including Andy Lau, which contained grade-school-level content in an engaging format that addressed a number of myths and misinformation. Easy to understand and fun to watch. Come on. The money and effort put into the piece clearly demonstrated to the consumer that the government was putting some effort into addressing the issue. Again, this is China we are talking about. Whatever your position, it marked progress. Are we showing that same progress?

Airtime is expensive and a seven minute spots would be costly. It would cost more to produce and the airtime value would be higher. I get it. That said, I still want to know why? Why are other countries doing this and we are not? Is AIDS really no longer an issue? With the recent announcement of infection rates being higher than previously reported…40% higher…are we still not paying attention?

I don’t know. It makes me sad, and then it makes me mad. There are companies that could pay for it. Pharma could pay for it. The piece could be a tool used by local communities all over the country. It could get us talking about it, again, and keep us talking about it. It could be shown in schools, on the web, in subways, and in-flight movies. I am just saying.

I spend some time, each week, with Blair, Serena, Wendy, Niko, and Lauren Conrad. It would be great to know that while I spend that time with them escaping from my day to day, I could walk away with some tools to make better, more informed choices for the next day. It would be great to know that those tools were made available during programs that didn’t air at 2am. It would be great to know that after 26 years, people still get this isn’t someone else’s problem. It would be great to hear people talking about it at the water cooler.

I don’t think a micro-series is the solution. I don’t think that an AIDS commercial in the form of a musical is the solution. I do think that it can be an innovative approach to finding solutions. Look, if Disney’s success with High School Musical shows us anything, it has shown us that there are new ways to reach younger audiences with great results. What are we waiting for?

No comments: