Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Hollywoodisation Of Advertising

Hollywood now generally makes either big-budget spectaculars, or much cheaper indie fare, with very little in the middle.

And I reckon advertising is going the same way.

The business model of Hollywood was transformed by the introduction of the first 'blockbusters' in the late 1970s - Jaws and Star Wars.

The strategy - a response to increasing competition from home entertainment (first cable, then VHS, then DVD, then gaming) - is now to create 'event' movies that people feel they have to see at the cinema.

These event movies, such as Iron Man, Superman, and Batman, cost about $100 million to make, and the successful ones make good money. 

At the other end of the scale there are indie or arthouse movies, such as Lost In Translation, Little Miss Sunshine, and Moonrise Kingdom. These generally cost under $10 million to make, and the successful ones in this category make good money too.

But in the middle - the $10 million to $100 million bracket - there is almost nothing.

This hasn't happened because film-makers no longer want to make medium-sized films, such as Serpico, The Thing, or Dead Ringers, but because the economics of the industry have changed, due to the advent of competition.

And I believe that we are seeing a similar pattern emerge in advertising, as a consequence of the competition that TV now faces from online.

In short, it still makes sense to make a big-budget TV ad for a car, a beer, or a telco. And it increasingly makes sense to produce inexpensive video content for the web. But the space in the middle - the medium-sized TV commercial - is getting squeezed out.

Chats I have with directors nowadays return constantly to the same theme - that budgets (except for the 'blockbuster ads') have collapsed. And production companies that specialise in 'content' - i.e. less expensive video - are popping up all over the place, both in the production company field, and also within agencies.

It's a slightly painful transition for some, and the economics and process for 'content' are something that we're all still figuring out, but like it or not, the change is here.

As creatives, we should embrace it. Because the 'Hollywoodisation' of advertising, while a big change in economics, doesn't necessarily impede creativity. Look at it this way: Hollywood produces some moronic and derivative blockbusters for sure, but also some fantastic ones, while the arthouse world is equally capable of spawning both genius and drivel. In the same way, we get some fantastic big-budget TV ads and some dumb ones; some highly innovative and creative content pieces, and some cheaply-produced shit.

It feels very different making a big TV ad than it does making a content piece. But the opportunity to do something good is there with either, since just as with movies, the quality of an ad is something independent of its budget. It always has been.

P.S. I saw Gravity the other day, and I can't understand why everyone's raving about it. It's basically a $100 million special effects extravaganza with a somewhat cheesy storyline - essentially a similar product to Avatar or Battleship - isn't it?


Ben said...

Gravity posts! high Five!

Tom said...

Stoned in 3D IMAX... that's how you have to see Gravity Mr Veksner. Then you'll understand what all the raving is about. (But essentially you're right: it's a CGI event pic.)

Anonymous said...

Agree. Though some of the greatest work ever made, at least my favs in both film & ads, have been in that middle ground.

Spoiler alert.

Watched Gravity last night, at the risk of ruining it for everyone (a risk I can take on the internet, as appose to say, the office) I was exhausted by her achievements by the time the film hit the sand. Still, Gravity 2: Lost in The Jungle, looks promising.

Anonymous said...

Spot on.

Unknown said...

Nice article once again.
As for Gravity, this was a film that had no need to be made.

Anonymous said...

We can indeed make great ads for differing budgets but it's the expectations that need adjusting.

Trying to create big-budget ads on content budget's is what everyone is moaning about & struggling with.

Scamp said...

Totally agree. Expectations have to be adjusted. By all concerned.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, most films have no need to be made.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree with this article and with the statement that 10-100 million films are almost nonexistent. Hollywood is returning to making more films at this price range than they have in many years. While tentpole blockbusters are alive and well, more 10-100 million are being made than ever and its affecting the less of the smaller indie films, horror films aside.

Also in the commercial space, at least in the US, we are seeing the biggest budget TV ads decreasing while content pieces increasing in budget and scope.

A look at an abbreviated list from this year alone of hollywood feature budgets shows a tremendous amount of films falling in the 10-100 million range.

Sandra Bullock's The Heat - 43 Million
We're The Millers - 37 Million
The Conjuring - 20 Million
Identity Thief - 35 Million
Grown Ups 2 - 80 Million
Despicable Me 2 - 76 Million
Now You See Me - 75 Million
Lee Daniels' The Butler - 30 Million
This Is The End - 30 Million
Olympus Has Fallen - 70 Million
42 - 40 Million
Planes - 50 Million
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 - 78 Million
2 Guns - 61 Million
Mama - 15 Million
Safe Haven - 28 Million

This list goes on and on.

I'm hopeful and encouraged by work that has come across our desks as of late. More focus on funding integrated projects properly and more realistic/healthy live action budgets in general. There are brands still looking for no money freebies and I'm seeing more prod co's than ever turn that work down, and rightfully so. No one should work for free or lose money to produce a project for another corporation.

Advertising is a business. Its not a charity. Just because its a creative industry doesn't mean it should be free. Its not art. Its advertising.

john p. woods said...