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Campaign Brief (AUS/NZ) Online.
Campaign Brief Magazine : July August 2008
T HE IND UST RY WillGruenruin As everyone now knows, The Gruen Transfer was named after Victor Gruen, the guy who designed the very first shopping mall, and describes that split second when the mall’s intentionally confusing layout makes our eyes glaze and our jaws slacken. The moment when we forget what we came for and become impulse buyers. Swap the word ‘buyers’ for ‘viewers’ and you could say the ABC show produced by Andrew Denton’s Zapruder’s Other Films, had the same impact on the television viewing public, becoming the surprise hit of the season - and making unlikely stars out of Todd Sampson, CEO of Leo Burnett Sydney and Russel Howcroft, chairman/ managing director of George Patterson Y&R Melbourne. CB takes a closer look. “THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF POSITIVE feedback, but what we h ave most appreciated i s people g oing, t his show is scar y t o us becau se we didn’ t re alise adve rti sing had s o much to it, and could be so inter - esting and that a show about those things could be entertaining at the same t ime,” says Denton, who co- created the show with Jon Casimir. Along with exe cut ive pro duce r Anita Jacoby, they are in dis cus- sions to sell the format internation- ally and the ABC has committed to a second series next year. Hos ted by Wi l An der son , it debuted with 1.287 mi llion people nationally, making i t the hi ghest- rating launch for an entert ainment programme on ABC1. Averagin g 1.2 million throughout the s eason, the finale was the hig hest r ating wi th 1.45 mil lion v iewe rs. Th e show’s web site has attracted over a mi llio n vi ews , and s ome 8,0 00 mock ads have been produced by viewers using the Ad Remix Tool. The s how’s re gular panelist s Russel Howcroft, chairman/manag- ing director o f Geor ge P atter son Y&R, M elbou rne, and Todd Sampson, CEO o f L eo Burnett, Sydney took to television like sea- soned veterans, hamming it u p for the c ameras , becomin g min or celebrities in the process. Howcroft, a former ch airman o f the Advert ising Fed erat ion of Australia, comes across as the more conservative suit who’s a s taunch defender of the industry and some- time fall-guy who patiently explains how th ings work. Sampson, wi th his fu nky t ’shi rt s, and ar tfully mes sed up hair , is th e rebe llious one who explains t he d ark s ecrets lurking behind the ads. “We a re no t acting, we are no t playing any roles, we are just being who we are. There’s no scr ipt fo r us, there’s no set exp ectations, we just do whatever we like, actually,” says Sampson. “Russel a nd I a re very different and we just come at things from very different angles. We don’t agree on many things.” Denton says Sampson and Howcroft worked it out for them - sel ves quit e early on that i t was good that they were opposites, but if t he y had n’t , he mig ht have encouraged them to do so. Says Denton: “They play it up a bit; they are performers in that way. Russ el , God bless hi m, will di e defending e very thin g ab out th e industry and that’s his self appoint- 18 CAMP AI GN B RIEF ed role, that’s what he believes, he is not doing it for show. I l ove the fact that Russel took that role an d that he puts together really persua- sive arguments …. and then Todd will say something t hat you might strongly disagree with, but is just as persuasiv e. That to me is a gre at TV show when you don’t sit the re and go, I know what is coming next or this just confirmed my vi ew of the world. I would rath er be con - founded than confirmed.” Casimir says that 80 pe r c ent of the people on-screen had no experi- ence on TV, which was a big risk to take , but the panel did such an extraor dinary job t hat nobod y notic ed. Rotati ng paneli sts we re Smart’s Dan Gregory, DDB’s Matt Eas twood , Saat chi & Saat chi’s Bram Wil liams , c ummi nsni tro’s Dee Madigan, freelance copywriter Jan e Car o, an d two from New Zealand - DDB’s Br idget Taylor and Consortium’s Darryl Parsons. To go from zero to one hundred in publi c is very h ard, co ncede s Denton, joking their confidence has increased s o much th ey are now demanding stretch limousines. What is it they saw in S ampson and Howcroft in the first place? “They were people who have been pr epar ed t o t ak e t he r isk an d enjoye d t he e xperien ce,” says Denton. “They were comforta ble on camera and weren’t the type of people who are happy t o talk over the top of others to wi n the po int. They were happy to fence with each other and hear what o ther people had to say and enjoy t he fen cing without ever taking it personally.” While there’s been a fe w s hots fired at them from within the indus- try, Dent on thinks the in dustr y shou ld be than king t hese t wo unli kely bedfellows because they have been the best adver tisement for an industry much maligned. A guy called Bruce, who c ame up to Howcroft on the tram to tell him how fascina tin g a nd interestin g adve rtisi ng is, is ju st one of the many a pproaches h e’s ha d s ince starting on the show: “Perhaps like cooking shows that ma de i t mo re interesting to be a chef, hopefully a show like this ha s made i t a little more interesting to ge t into adver- tising and that might mean that we get some more talent coming in, ” says Howcroft. Gawen Rudder, manager industry issues, AFA, agrees th at t he show has been a great ad for the advertis- ing indust ry. As well as the 450 enqui ri es the show’s producers received about a career in advertis- ing that they passed on to the AFA, ther e have been over a thousand unique views t o t he G raduat e Tra ine e P rogram section on the AFA’s web site. Rudder cautions that they weren’t monitoring the site’s numbers this time last year, but given they peak on a Thursday after Wednesday night’s show it’s reasonable to assume those people are coming in aft er watching The Gruen Transfer. “No one really expected the suc- cess it has had and no one expected the impact it would have on the advertising industry,” says Rudder, adding tha t it has done a l ot to demysti fy what is pret ty much a closed industry. “People are always suspicious of what they don’t understand and I think people have an interest in advertising – bad, good or mediocre – and this had tended to de-mystify it,” says Rudder. He applauds the producers’ coop- eration with the advertising indus- try. The show was previewed in Sydn ey to AFA and AWARD member s o n May 27, and mid- August there will be an AFA-sup- ported lunch in Melbourne with Denton and Ca simir taking ques- tions from the floor. Rudder accepts there’s also been some flak about t he industry and the show, saying television puts you in the public domain. “There were some peopl e who appeared on the show who I thought were not as good as others, but once you are in t hat publ ic domain, once you are on television, you are open to all sorts of criti- cisms and individual opinions and that ’s what tel evi sion i s,” s ays Rudder. While Denton deflected questions on ratings before the show started, he now admits he expected it to st ar t ar oun d 850,000-900,000 viewers, maybe reach a million. He thinks it rated so well because it was a “bloody good show”. “There’s endless analysis of televi- sion and films, but what is it that people see most of? It’s ads and I think there was an underestimation from a lot of peo ple about how much the audien ce actually paid attention, were angered or amused, entertained or intrigued by them,” says Denton. “By doing something that wasn’t just putting together ? JU L Y /AUGU ST 2 0 08
May June 2008