Last night’s TVNZ new season launch was all kinds of awesome. It was an all-singing, Chris-Judd-dancing line up of big things to come, tidily wrapped up in a theme of magic. But despite an iMax-size projection of Dynamo ‘appearing’ in a puff of smoke to channel a special blend of Ali G and Virgil Tracy, it was less about the magic of illusion and all about the magic of collision. And here’s why I think that rocked.
New ideas aren’t made. They explode.
There’s plenty written about where good ideas come from (the video above from Stephen Johnson is one of my favourites). But if you boil down the theory, much of it talks about bashing things together and praying for magic. That’s exactly what last night was all about for me. It was a neat space, jam-packed with some of the country's best creators and top business people, all of them having a good time and shooting the shit. Mix the left-brains with the right-brains and open the bar: the energy that created was was incredible.
The question is: what happens next?
Isn’t it always the way? Conversations are had. Ideas are born. Fires are started and then the fine combination of dull hangover and daily life takes over until it all kind of withers away. We really can’t let that happen. ‘Branded content’ was buzzword du jour and no one has more potential to deliver it than New Zealand.
In the same way that Kiwi advertising punches well above its weight on a world stage, we should be aiming for global leadership in smart, funny, clever ‘commercial’ content. With the talent we have, the appetite for bravery and our innate ability to roll up sleeves and make stuff happen, we shouldn’t be buying ‘Got Talent’ from the States. They should be buying our genius formats from us.
Let’s stop Pollocking the Canvas
That’s an expression I learned last night as well. It’s a goody (the idea is that first paint splatter was high-art genius, thereafter it’s commercial dross). Is the same true of some of our content reinventions? The challenge is striking a balance between content and sales. Some do it well. Others trip over their logos. On the plus side, the commercial side of New Zealand’s Got Talent seems to work. We get it. Sure, it’s obvious, but everything fits within the spirit of the show. Season one of The Block was pretty commercial, but it worked. Season two went overboard. How many shots of a Kiwibank card does anyone need to see?
On a different tack, I’m a fan of Tech in a Sec and Mitre 10’s Easy As. It’s useful stuff made simple with a side of brand endorsement. But does anyone really believe that Glad Wrap is the secret to Better Living? We all understand ‘commercial reality’. But surely in New Zealand we have the brands, the people and the passion to let go of those over-laboured product-placements and packshots and acknowledge the smarts of everyday Kiwis ‘to get the idea’ and buy into the story with seamless integration of brand values and corporate messages—and one less coffee from Wild Bean Café.
The magic in our business isn’t business
And that’s the point. We know it’s he who pays the piper who pipes the tune. But it’s he who plays the pipe that gets the girl. People don't connect with ‘messages’. They connect with content. More specifically, people connect with people. So the question is: who’s brave enough to pay the piper, trust the creative community to do what they do and pray that the end result is magic?
All any of us need to do is bash two things together and hope for the best. Chances are we’ll fail more often than we succeed. That’s creativity. And there’s no sure thing in a magic show. But when it works, when it sparks, when you can’t define the thing that makes it good, but you know it’s something special, that’s when you’ve made some magic.
That’s what I reckon. What do you think?
- Michael Goldthorpe runs a strategic and creative agency called Hunch. They get excited about the potential of creatively branded content.