Trying my level headed best not to come across as a jaded 80-year-old man with several pairs of rose coloured spectacles on, the world has changed a lot in the last decade or so. Technology has paved the way for new levels of efficiency, and new and creative attacks on age-old problems have meant that we can do things easier and better than ever before.
In the world of television commercials, this shift has meant the way things were handled a decade ago may seem a little old fashioned these days. But not necessarily in a bad way. It all depends on which side of the coin you find yourself on.
The role of the director
Whether then or now, the director’s job is one that has remained surprisingly steady. Once a script has been created, an advertising agency hires a film production firm to shoot the ad. The choice of director is still seen as the most important part in this equation, so choosing the right candidate is critical.
It’s a particularly competitive business, this directing, and over the last decade the talent pool has got deeper and deeper.
Back in the early 2000s, a common path for an up-and-coming director was to shoot a short film or a music video, and agencies would just flick the telly onto MTV and go shopping for new talent. With the onset of the internet, there is now not only a far greater number of wannabe directors jostling each other to get noticed, but also far more platforms that they are selling themselves on. This can make the job of hiring new directorial talent a messy one for the production company, but being spoilt for choice is hardly a drawback.
This also means that the classic “Prima Donna” style director is no longer the gratingly accepted norm. If a director is prone to hissy fits, the production company will just choose one of the wealth of up-and-coming directors, who won’t throw the toys out of the cot at the drop of a hat. “Life’s too short to work with ****holes”, is the catchcry.
The impact of viral content
The rise and rise of minimalist viral content has had a massive effect on the way television advertising is treated. While 10 years ago a lot of impetus was put on producing a professional, high quality piece of advertising, businesses are realising more and more that some 12 year old filming himself preening on his iPhone’s front-facing camera is getting more hits than their $500k Oscar worthy piece.
This means that the budgets are getting lower and lower, and production companies are needing to get more creative using less money in an effort to rise above the noise.
While the work can be less lucrative and more taxing, many in the industry see this shift as a positive, as the creativity required to be successful is far more important now than before. The smaller budgets are accompanied by a more lenient and indulgent attitude from the client, who entrusts the production company to come up with something mind-blowing and game changing, whatever that might entail.
Dollar dollar bills
The current transitional period is exemplified by the choice that many directors and production companies currently face. The choice between work that is boring and well paid, or exciting and on-the-house.
Those that are willing to have a punt at advertising that is a bit more viral than classic are usually the ones that aren’t offering a personal island in the Pacific in return. The clients that do offer the big dollars are often the more established organisations that prefer to go with the tried and tested.
While it may just be a sign of the competitive times, many directors, it seems, are happy to take the exciting work and deal with the compromised pay. At the very least, cutting your teeth with the fun stuff is a great way to get your foot in the door.
Where to from here?
While there is a severe lack of accurate crystal balling when it comes to commercial video production, when you see the trends of the last 10 years, you’d be comfortable putting a couple of bob on the continual lean towards viral style production. Budgets are going ever-lower, clients are happy to be ever-more creative, and there is an abundance of talent within the industry.
The one thing we can say for certain is that it’s an industry that won’t be dying any time soon.