Monday, 27 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #755: Marketing Is Not Making & Vice Versa

Momentum Worldwide, a global marketing firm, is branching into making its own content with a new entity called Momentum Entertainment Group. This new media conglomerate will have three divisions, Momentum Entertainment, Artist & Brand, and the production company Branded Pictures.

Good luck with that because they're going to need it.

Because if there is one hard lesson I learned, it's that marketing something is extremely different from making something marketable.

I've probably told this story before, but since it's germane to the topic at hand, and not tito, I'll rehash it for you.

Way back when the Earth was cooling, in an age known as the 1990s I was a bright eyed young university student and I heard that a new production company was looking for new people with comedy writing experience. I was new, I had comedy writing experience, so I answered the call, passed the "audition" where I had to show I could write sketches on the fly with whatever topic they gave me (My instant sketch was "Gang Violence Barbie.") and was hired as a staff writer for this new comedy pilot.

At the time Canada was getting tons of new channels, those channels had to produce a certain amount of Canadian made content, and the people running them usually didn't have a clue what they were doing. So the odds of getting at least the pilot on air as a special was pretty good.

There was about eight writers, all in our early 20s, about eight performers, and we started putting stuff together. Now I'm not saying that we were the reincarnation of Monty Python, but we were putting together a pretty good little diamond in the rough.

Then the producer brought in the marketing consultants.

Oy gevalt!

Almost overnight our diamond in the rough sketch comedy pilot was transmogrified into a completely incoherent sitcom about angels with some candid camera type gags tossed in.

How did that happen?

Well, Philadelphia Cream Cheese was having a very successful ad campaign featuring an angel extolling the virtues of their "heavenly" product, in fact, it's still running to this day, mocking me, like the smug bastard that it is...

But I digress...

The marketing consultants told our producer that mimicking that commercial in the form of a sitcom/candid camera rip-off hybrid was the magic bullet she was looking for to make the show a guaranteed hit. So she butchered rewrote all the sketches to fit this strange new mold, the backers who went in looking for SCTV found a dog's breakfast, so they pulled, the whole deal collapsed, and no one got paid except the marketing consultants.

To this day I will not eat Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Which isn't much of a stretch considering I never really liked it in the first place.

The problem with marketing is that it is their job to look at what's selling and to figure out how to use that information to sell whatever product they need to sell.

Making things like movies and TV shows requires a radically different skill set. It's supposed to be all about coming up with something new and novel that can excite both filmmakers and audiences. It doesn't always work out that way, but that's what it's supposed to be in a perfect world.

In a perfect world a filmmaker presents a project to the marketing people. The marketing people see what makes it exciting, and use that to sell it to a wider audience. That's a perfect world scenario. In the imperfect world we live in you often get marketing dictating the making of a movie or TV production. Gone is the sense of the new and the novel and the excitement it can bring, in its place is a search for the familiar and comfortable. Which either sucks the creative energy out of a project, or makes it a big steaming pile like it did to the TV pilot.

Let's hope someone at Momentum knows that.


  1. Dirty McDingus states:

    IF it be by hollyweird, it be screwed.

  2. I find it really hard to grasp this kind of thinking. The point of capitalism is to fill a need - to give people something they aren't getting somewhere else. Why can't the businesses of arts (TV, movies, etc) figure out that the answer is NOT to rip off something else, but to do something different? Stop trying to fill a need that some one else is already filling!