broadcasting, content creating, remixing, television, viewing

No more than Skins deep: how a direct Remake misses the opportunities presented by a Remix

Zaac pointed me in the direction of the above this morning.  it's the trailer for MTV America's remake of the UK's beloved Skins.  as someone who watched and loved the show it makes for strange viewing.  on one hand the new cast and setting looks strikingly different.  but after a while the similarities between the above and the original UK version become not just clear but blindingly obvious.

the car going into the water.  the quick edit phone conversation.  taking to one's own genitals.  even the back garden (yard now) trampoline.  all conspire to indicate that this is a clean remake of the show.  something which, if true, presents not only a missed opportunity but a huge failing of producing.

a missed opportunity, in that the best adaptations of shows for US audiences haven't been remakes but remixes.  same show, different culture.  think about how The Office transferred from Slough to Scranton, or how the boys from Manchester evolved into a very different Queer as Folk Baltimore.  great remakes, or should I say remixes, protect and nurture the truth of a show whilst mixing in a new culture and society's perspectives and nuances.

Office_uk The_office_us from Slough to Scranton – same Office, very different culture

Queer_as_folk_UK Queer_as_folk_US from Manchester to Baltimore – same, err, well totally different actually…

that "the remix is the very nature of digital", is of course now so widely held to be true that it's almost too obvious to quote it.  but Gibson's elegant maxim is too often ignored.  by TV makers and brands alike.  just as in the case of TV shows that fail to capitalise on the opportunities that a remix affords, how many global ads do we see land on the screens of shores a far cry from their (often European or American) origins?  or worse, dubbed out of their native tongue, so that we are sold to by smiling fresh-faced lip-synced avatars…

the pressure to create ads that can be deployed across a multitude of regions leads to centrally developed, but often locally less-relevant communications.  distinctiveness in communications is key – it mitigates misattribution and builds brand cues that extend the return of a media investment out of the short term and into the longer term.  simply deploying a global property locally is no guarantee of success.

this presents a problem for TV producers and brands alike … a problem that, for the latter, will only be exacerbated by a shift away from broadcast interruption as the de-facto method for audience reach, towards a two-way content and community-led platform that seeks to engage an audience.

MTV's gamble with Skins – to create what looks like a remake rather than a genuine remix – should give pause for thought for marketers.  to what extent are we acting in a brand's best interests by picking up and redeploying content into a country – and culture – for which it wasn't designed?  how many opportunities are missed, and investment wasted, by failing to reflect the nuances of a culture with whom you seeking to engage?

advertising, blogging, broadcasting, co-creating, engaging, planning, remixing, social networking, user-generating

Thinking from a different place – the rewards of letting go: what happened when Vizeum debated who exactly is in control?

TFADP_II but what does it all mean?: Hook, Grant, Bailie, McClary and Corcoran with chair Chris Maples debating at Vizeum this evening

who's in control?  that was the theme of this evening's Thinking From A Different Place debate at Vizeum.  do brands make what customers want or do customers determine what brands make?  do creative agencies still control creation of the best ideas, or are the crowd now creating and aggregating the best content?

a panel, consisting of Vizeum's Matthew Hook, We Are Social's Robin Grant, Martin Bailie of Glue, Michael McClary from Microsoft and Andy Corcoran from MTV all awesomely debated a range of subjects from the decline of the newspaper industry to the impact of technology, taking in the future of media agencies and the nature of brands and advertising on the way.

it's easy to summarise such a debate by saying that its all getting more and more complicated and more and more difficult and we all need to move faster and faster and be better and better to stay ahead; but a few interesting comments steered the debate in a more illuminating direction.

Martin pointed out that we focus too much on the next big technology, or on the specifics of what people are doing with technology now, rather than focusing on two millennia of human psychology to point us in the right direction.  as he put it, if we "get the basics right you're 80% there" – produce interesting stuff that's based on a interesting point and view and land it in the laps of as many of the right people as possible.

the question of listening to customers was numerous times, in particular by McClary who observed that there's a "danger in highlighting [and responding to] only the loudest voices".  Hook agreed, observing that whilst you can engage 1,000s in a conversation, many brands are interested in talking to and influencing millions.  Corcoran reminded us of the Henry Ford quote that "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted they'd have asked for faster horses".

but it was the nature of control that caused the most interesting debate.  Grant: "historically brands were more in position of control"; Hook: "marketers desperately want control, they do everything they can to create predictability [of the result of their actions]"; Bailie: "it doesn't matter – no one controls brands; get rid of the idea of control"

for me its about maintaining a balancing act; about knowing when to keep and when to let go of control of what a brand does and how it does it.  would you ever let the crowd determine your core creative idea or brand positioning? …almost certainly not.  would you let them create content inspired by it? …yes.  should you let them make your products? …no.  should you le them choose the ingredients? …of course.

a point was made about the recent successes of Facebook and Twitter, with a question being raised about what business they're in.  they are – of course – in the business of aggregating audiences.  that's the media business.  the point of whether or not they can monetise that aside (big aside I recognise but run with it), part of their success is down to the fact that they capitalise on the fact that one of the best ways to grow an audience is to get your current audience to do it for you.

giving away control – of your product, or whatever is appropriate – is a particularly effective way of getting an audience to do just that.  give them ownership, give them reasons to talk about you brand, its point of view and its products and services.  but most of all give them a reason to come back, to stay part of the conversation with you.  because its those conversations that are the most valuable bit of media real estate of all.

creating, remixing

The ultimate video remix?: How Marco Brambilla is bringing civilisation to NYC’s Standard Hotel

a Relentless blog post pointed me in the direction of the above video installation by Marco Brambilla.  it's a video collage featuring 400 video sources molded together into one image which runs the length of the lift shaft of the Standard Hotel in New York.  1920 pixels across and 7500 pixels vertically track your ascent into heaven or descent into hell.  depending on your direction of travel.

it has to be a contender for the ultimate version of the remix.  William Gibson and Lawrence Lessig would be proud.  the efforts of four hundred who have gone before remoulded and melded together to form something new, elegant and utterly mesmerising.

this is the kind of thing that more comms briefs should be delivering; pieces of conceptual art produced for comms objectives that can then be explored online or amplified through broadcast.  starting, creatively, at the end point of the plan (ie the TV ad or the print execution) means you miss the opportunity to think about where those executions come from. rarely have I seen investment of time and effort in the creation of an original piece from which a variety of ad executions (in a variety of media) could then derive.  I hope and expect that to change.

in the meantime click HQ, full screen it, sit back and enjoy…