Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's New?

I am pleased to say that I had no idea that a new singing talent contest launched tonight on NBC. I just happened to hear an audio ad for it earlier this evening announcing the premiere of the network’s “new – and different! – …show.” That’s the way it was read. The announcer delivered the line so that you could actually hear the dashes separating – and emphasizing! – “different.”

I think it’s laughable that the ad agency that wrote that line didn’t realize that making a special effort to distinguish yourself from an alternative belies your sincerity about how different you actually are. In fairness, giving a certain description to your brand doesn’t actually mean the description is false, but pushing to be identified a certain way is a sure sign that you’re insecure about it, if not downright dishonest.

All they’ve done by writing that promo is call attention directly to the fact that everybody suspects this to be something of an unoriginal idea. And indeed it is unoriginal. Painfully unoriginal. Even putting aside American Idol, haven’t we seen enough television talent competitions yet? And more to the point, is the notion of originality even still present in the entertainment machine?

Something is seriously wrong when the people whose job it is to promote the same old trash aren’t even putting effort into distinguishing the brand they’re supposed to be marketing beyond simply saying “this has a different name – buy it!” I’m not sure whether this means that they’re aware of their own disingenuity and think of the audience as sufficiently easily manipulated that saying “it’s different” is enough to get them to tune in, or that they’re so committed to the modus operandi of putting new spins on horribly played out ideas that they don’t even recognize that there was ever an original way of creating content.

Depending on which it is, the breaking point needs to come either from consumers taking a broad look at their lack of original choices and ceasing to tune into the new version of the same crap, or from some portion of the entertainment industry having the gall to say, “Hey, we value our creativity, and we believe that if we take a chance on something genuinely good, rather than just established, the public will pay attention to it.” But if it comes of the latter, I worry about whether we would prove them right or wrong.

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