Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Welcoming Our Corporate Overlords, Part 2

As if network television weren’t crappy enough already, someone at NBC has come up with this lame idea:
At a presentation on Wednesday afternoon, senior executives of NBC, part of the NBC Universal unit of General Electric, will describe how they are seeking to make advertisers into long-term partners rather than just sell them 30-second commercials.

One example is a new deal with the Liberty Mutual Group insurance company that is centered on a pair of two-hour TV movies to be broadcast under the banner of the company — “Liberty Mutual Presents,” for example.

The movie plots are intended to complement a campaign for Liberty Mutual that was introduced in 2006 by Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston, which carries the theme, “Responsibility. What’s your policy?” The scripts, which Liberty Mutual will help develop, will discuss subjects like taking responsibility for one’s actions and deciding how to do the right thing.

Oh great, just what I need: to take my moral cues from a freaking insurance company.

This all worked so well in the 1950s, didn’t it? I’m sure the fact that Phillip Morris sponsored I Love Lucy had nothing to do with the fact that Lucy, Ethel and Ricky smoked like chimneys on the program.

Let me be clear, as a “content creator” (i.e., a writer) I absolutely detest this idea. I find it abhorrent to allow anyone--government or corporation--to have control over the creative process. I know newspapers and magazines do it all the time with advertising inserts and “special sections,” and I don’t like that, either.

The Times article quotes Michael Pilot, president for sales and marketing at NBC Universal:

advertisers “are not asking us to be programmers,” Mr. Pilot said, but rather “they want to be more connected to the programming; they want a seat at the table.”

Excuse me, I thought programming was a network's job, and who said advertisers should be involved in programming anyway? Who said that’s in the best interest of TV viewers? They're hawking products at us, why should they have a seat at the table?

I’ve voiced my distaste for being marketed to several times. I realize that this dislike of advertising is why corporations are forced to get more creative with their sales pitch to begin with. But it’s getting downright predatory. It’s like there’s some phantom lurking in my home reaching out to sell me shit I don’t want at every turn. Ads on supermarket shopping baskets, in the movie theater, on television, in my mailbox, and now even snuck into the content of my entertainment. I’m sick of it

Here’s a novel idea to Liberty Mutual: how about making a better product? Yeah, I used to have your insurance and I cancelled it because your premiums got way too high and you didn’t offer the same bells and whistles that other insurance companies did. How about just providing a product people want, and trust the “free hand of the market” to do its job?

Anyway, the NBC/Liberty Mutual partnership will debut in September with “Kings,” which Liberty Mutual’s PR guy described as

a “fast-paced, contemporary drama, kind of like ‘The West Wing’ set in a kingdom,” and inspired by the biblical story of David.

Good luck with that.