Friday, September 24, 2010

Skidoo, Credits? Not So Fast!

Peggy Olson on Mad Men has been pissed because she didn't receive credit for her work on an award-winning Glo-Coat commercial. 

Who can blame her?  Commercials have never included on-air credits for the myriad folks involved in their creation, so awards are really the only way for anyone to receive recognition. Compare commercials to their long-form cousins in moving images -- TV and movies --  whose end credits have always allowed interested viewers to know every single person involved in their production, from the actors and directors down to the lowly gofers and shoe-shiners.

Well in Peggy's time, at least. Nowadays, while a few folks still stay to the bitter end in movie theaters, try viewing the end credits to any movie or show episode on broadcast TV or basic cable (except thankfully on Turner Movie Classics). They're squeezed onto the left side of the screen, squished onto the bottom, and/or fly by so fast that even Howard Stephen Berg probably can't capture more than a word or two.

Of course, networks do this so that viewers have less time to change the channel, keeping them engaged in the current parlance. End credits, it seems, can bore viewers even more than the similarly attention-afflicted commercials -- whose agencies have spent the last few years teaming up with broadcasters on all sorts of creative approaches to keep folks tuned in, such as shorter pods, in-show tie-ins and the like,.

Mad Men is a virtual creative lab in this area. AMC, for instance, runs historical factoids about the show's sponsors before and after their spots. And some Mad Men advertisers have now begun naval-gazing. They've become ad-industry obsessed, incorporating the process (albeit fictional) of creating ad campaigns into the commercials themselves.  

The creative agencies obviously relish the spotlight Mad Men has thrown onto their profession (although they seem reluctant to move the depiction of the ad creation process into the 21st Century). So here's a modest proposal: toot your own horn with credits! 

No, not end credits on the end of a 15-second spot (imagine how fast they'd need to fly by!). Rather, an idea borrowed from MTV, which some 20 years ago took another short-form TV medium, the music video, and slapped director credits onto them.

Wouldn't it be cool to see who directed the current Claymation commercial while it airs instead of via YouTube, where you'll find out it's Rich Webber.  Perhaps he and others could become  ad industry equivalents of Spike Jonze and other music video directors, who by the time they directed their first features were already familiar names to MTV watchers.

And while we're at it, let's give some on-air recognition to Y&R Chicago!  Yes, Don Draper was jealous of Y&R's spacious New York offices earlier this season, but, really (fictionally?), that was 45 years ago. Maybe viewers would get a kick out of seeing that while Sterling Cooper has vanished from the ad game, several of its rivals that Mad Men sometimes mentions are still alive and breathing...and dressed in modern clothes, not as if they're about to attend a John Lindsay fund-raiser.

Unfortunately, for someone in Peggy's position, recognition and credit will always be dependent on the awards process -- and thus with whomever at the agency handles the nomination process. I'd suggest bonding with that person over coffee and a sandwich at Chock Full o' Nuts or the Automat. Or, if credit is so important, moving over to the TV business. In fact, thanks to my presence in 2010, I have evidence that Peggy will soon do exactly that. Her IMDB credits prove it!

Skidoo, Credits? Not So Fast!
Written, produced and directed by Les Luchter