Inside The Beltway: Is the fine line between advertising, marketing and entertainment to be erased once again?

It begins to look as though advertising and entertainment - Madison Avenue and Hollywood - are embarking on a new adventure, not Back to the Future, but ’forward to the past.’

It begins to look as though advertising and entertainment - Madison Avenue and Hollywood - are embarking on a new adventure, not Back to the Future, but ’forward to the past.’

It begins to look as though advertising and entertainment - Madison

Avenue and Hollywood - are embarking on a new adventure, not Back to the

Future, but ’forward to the past.’



During an era now referred to as the ’Golden Age’ of television, TV

programs were each sponsored by only one company and went by titles such

as The Camel Caravan, Westinghouse’s Studio One and Ford Theater.



But this led to charges of interference by ad agencies with the creative

process and dire predictions that something called ’ratings’ would

govern which programs made it to the air and which stayed on - and, that

television would soon be selling ideas the way it sold soap. Sound

familiar?



In fact, a bestselling novel of the period gave us the word

’huckster’and brought a lot of ad-biz phrases into popular currency.



’Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes,’ and ’Put it out on the

back porch and see if the cat laps it up,’ come to mind. The phrases

engendered contempt among intellectuals for advertising and public

relations that lingers still.



Now, we learn from The New York Times that ad giant J. Walter Thompson

and Hollywood production and talent ’powerhouse’ Basic Entertainment

have formed an alliance to help advertisers get into the business of

creating and marketing entertainment rather than booking commercials on

programs other people produce.



Basic Entertainment is home to stars like Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler and

Nicolas Cage, as well as shows such as The Sopranos, and Politically

Incorrect.



Ad agency JWT handles Ford, Kellogg and Pepsi, and candor compels me to

say JWT is a Hill & Knowlton sister agency under parent WPP.



The major transformation of the media scene, of which the recent

mega-merger between AOL and Time Warner is the biggest example, is

clearly in the direction of a blurring - if not erasing - of the lines

between advertising and entertainment.



In fact, a JWT exec told the Times the agencies will be playing a far

bigger role in the ’content’ of entertainment programming than merely

providing the 30-second spots.



The amount of creative talent will be more than doubled, for some of the

best acting and scripting today is in the commercials.



And, we might well see a return to the high standards of yesteryear,

when ’hucksters’ had their hands on the creative tillers instead of

accepting a situation in which producers hope top marketers will see

something attractive in their product.



It is commercial TV after all. Run it up the flagpole; see if you can

get a digital salute



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