When the John Lewis Christmas ad finally arrives (along with mince pies, the Oxford Street lights, panto season and ‘I’m a Celebrity’) it heralds the official arrival of the Christmas season. And we somehow find time in our busy lives to discuss whether or not Elton was on a par with the man on the moon, or fell short behind the snowman.
In the spirit of its arrival, I wanted to take a look at this year’s bounty of adverts to review some of the attempts at taking the Christmas advertising crown. I can’t help thinking that this year’s offerings have been slightly underwhelming.
“It’s a little bit funny”
The aforementioned Elton-through-the-ages commercial is incredibly charming and impressively well imagined. Once again, John Lewis has made a valiant attempt to retain the company’s star billing at the top of the tree.
It was about time John Lewis threw a curveball and despite the absence of a solid Christmas theme and one of their recognizable remastering of old classics that will inevitably weave its way into the charts, they have hit the spot with this one. As well as conveniently providing Sir Elton with a timely promotion before his biopic hits the cinemas next year. Although, I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t John Lewis who sold his mum that piano.
Equally effective, it must be said, is the clever cross-referencing in the Waitrose advert which sees the parents of an exasperated teenage girl fast forward ‘Elton John Lewis’ so that they can eat some panettone.
“You get what you give”
I can’t not mention the adorable Sainsbury’s ad. I’m sure there will have been some eye-rolling going on amongst Sainsbury’s execs when John Lewis and Waitrose unveiled their joint pre-Christmas ad which featured an unfortunately similar school play set up. In my opinion, Sainsbury’s went cuter, funnier and more charming than the Bohemian Rhapsody iteration. That ‘plug’ just tops it!
The Christmas Fool
Among the festive joy there’s also been the inevitable Christmas turkeys, and unfortunately the Argos ‘Little Fool’ advert finds itself as the least redeeming in my eyes. The idea is original but it’s a rookie error to make your Christmas mascot so annoying.
Of course there is a plethora of other entries in this year’s Christmas advert chart and many raise a smile or a tear. But do we actually remember the brand? What about the one with Holly Willoughby? Or Santas on motorbikes? None seem to have established their brand quite so brilliantly as John Lewis who year on year are met with the most anticipation. Has there ever been a more impressive advertising accomplishment than becoming synonymous with the very season of goodwill itself?
By Holly Miller, Account Executive, Franklin Rae
This month, former Televisual editor turned freelance journalist, Tim Dams talks to us about the impact of FAANG on the TV industry and why everyone is obsessed with this season’s smash hit BBC drama Bodyguard.
What are you writing about at the moment?
The FAANGs. As a journalist, it seems you can’t avoid writing about them at the moment, as the disruption they’ve unleashed on the TV and film market is so profound. They’ve brought greater opportunity for lots of indies, particularly drama producers. But they’ve sparked a crisis of confidence at British terrestrial broadcasters and US cable channels, who are the still the main clients of most indies. The drift away by viewers from linear schedules is, if anything, under-reported, particularly among younger audiences.
What are the headlines that everyone’s talking about?
In terms of programmes, it’s Bodyguard, which has put a bit of spring back in the step of the BBC. More generally, many of the headlines are now about how companies are partnering up to compete with the US tech giants. That could be European broadcasters partnering to co-fund programmes, or British broadcasters working together on their own joint-streaming service. ‘Partnership’ is the buzz word of 2018.
What is your biggest frustration as a journalist?
Transcribing interviews. In this era of Amazon Alexa and voice-activated tech, I still can’t believe I’m having to do this. I wish there was a reliable piece of tech that could covert audio to print yet. It would save me hours each week.
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
Like everyone, Bodyguard. I’ve yet to see the last episode though, so am desperately trying to avoid any reference to it in the media. I’ve just started Money Heist (La Casa de Papel) on Netflix – I’m a bit late to this Spanish hit, but it looks good so far. I recently interviewed director Michael Waldman about his upcoming documentary Inside the Foreign Office for BBC2 and that’s definitely one to look out for.
Change. To make something different. We’re told that people don’t like change, can’t handle change, and there’s even a whole industry dedicated to ‘change management’. Yet, change is the thing that keeps us all moving forward and makes life interesting.
We’ve had some internal change here recently as we welcomed The Media Foundry into the Franklin Rae family. It’s been fantastic to work with our new colleagues, share practices, and learn from one another. As a result we’ll all see the benefits, different perspectives and fancy new coffee machine that change can bring. Both teams work together across the content and creative industries, as the lines blur between producers, agencies and brands, and we’re excited to grow our offering and continue the evolution of Franklin Rae.
In the TV industry we are also hearing a lot about change at the moment. The need for it, the evidence of progress, the lack of it and so on. We were up at Edinburgh TV Festival last month and it was one of the hottest topics. Michaela Coel made an impact with her MacTaggart lecture, sharing her own experience of being a young woman in the industry, fighting for her place and learning that being included isn’t as straightforward as it should be.
“I’m going to try to be my best; to be transparent; and to play whatever part I can, to help fix this house. What part will you play?” – Michaela Coel
Equally, conversation swirled around the Channel 4 move and the impact it will have on local producers. Most were keen to cheer it on as a definite opportunity for producers outside of London to have direct access to commissioners and in turn have commissioners who were locals – know the local industry and who the key players are. This optimism was tempered with a belief that these offices would need to have autonomy, decision making power and budgets, but in general the nations and regions are welcoming the change.
The content sector has been changing rapidly over the last few years with new players entering the arena. This has led to viewers being treated to some of the best television in years. It feels as though there have been a handful of ‘golden ages’ of television in recent times, but we are being treated to a 24 carat one at the moment. As a lover of great television, long may it continue.
By Leigh Turnbull, Managing Director, Franklin Rae
This month, we speak to one of the top freelance media and tech journalists, Juliana Koranteng, editor-in-chief of MediaTainment Finance and TechMutiny, and one of the main feature writers for Reed MIDEM’s MIPCOM and MIPTV magazines. From digital content for kids to Apple’s US$1 trillion valuation, we hear what’s making headlines ahead of market.
What are you writing about at the moment?
I’ve just completed a series of features for MIPCOM’s flagship Preview magazine on investments in TV productions, diversity and inclusion, and digital content for kids. Now, I’ve embarked on a report for creative-industries tech journal TechMutiny, which analyses the pitfalls that ambitious tech start-ups could face if they want to list on the stock exchange – as Spotify is learning.
What are the headlines that everyone’s talking about at the moment?
In the media-and-entertainment sectors that I specialise in:
- iPhone maker Apple has become the US’ first publicly traded company to reach a US$1 trillion valuation;
- Although a universal problem, it is inside the media and entertainment workplaces that some of the worst cases of the harassment and bullying highlighted by the #MeToo movement have been exposed;
- Ireland’s team of amateurs reaching the finals of the Women’s Hockey World Cup
What is your biggest frustration as a journalist?
People’s universal trust in professional journalism, for communicating and examining all types of issues as fairly as possible, is being severely undermined by the rise and rise of fake news on the Internet.
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
I’m a sucker for high-end US legal and crime dramas: the Law & Order and NCIS franchises; fantasy thrillers like Wynonna Earp and Supernatural also work for me; and, to raise my spirits, I can’t think of anything better than repeats of comedy classics Frasier, Cheers and Only Fools and Horses.
When I was invited to contribute to the newsletter, I was concerned that my current ‘keepmeawakeatnight’ stream of consciousness was probably not something I should share (or anyone would want to read) so I turned to a spot of research on food and feeding. Absolutely my favourite subject. Wikipedia lists around 100 old and new food programmes with the oldest listed broadcast in 1993.
Food and London are two things I love. But who will live in the City 10 years from now and more vitally who will work in the City? Will millennials need the drug that is London like I did? Will they seek out every last funky restaurant and every groovy bar – nightly? Is there a reasonable future based around living, working and growing your own outside of a city, or even in a different country, and commuting in once or twice a week for meetings and feedings. And what does this mean for the TV industry, especially my bread and butter food programmes?
The role of the TV Chef
Looking back at some of my favourite shows, I remember Fanny Cradock broadcasting in the 1970s. On reading her bio it is apparent her culinary knowledge was very limited but her penchant for the ludicrous was so entertaining – good telly. I remember Keith Floyd, the fabulously talented and usually slightly tipsy TV chef, mesmerising his audience with not only his passion for wine but also with his phenomenal skill in the kitchen. He really springboarded the world of TV chefs I think and changed the development of food content for TV. Food content post Floyd is far more sedate – indeed Wikipedia lists most food programmes as educational rather than entertainment.
I worry everything in the food genre has become too safe, too polished. We need new voices; shows that are exciting, entertaining and original. With more and more millennials falling out of love with London due to prohibitive costs, too much noise and horrible commutes, the nations and regions debate has never been more relevant. Programmes should be made by people from and in all parts of the country. They’ll bring a diversity of voices to the screen that should really invigorate the quality of content. We’ll hear from more than middle class men telling working class people they need to eat fresh rather than junk food.
There was a fantastic article by the Guardian’s food critic Grace Dent arguing that “perhaps because healthy-food campaigners always sound so posh, any debate can only ever descend into a bunfight over privilege.“ It’s a valid point. Is a working class person from Liverpool likely to take advice from someone of such a fundamentally different world like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall?
Food shows have the power to do more than just entertain, they can help improve the health of the nation. But it won’t work if the shows don’t appeal to different people, especially those most affected by poor diet – that’s why we need more tasty content rather than the same stuff served up in different packaging every day.
By Tessa Laws, CEO, Franklin Rae
So You Think You’re Funny?
It’s not a question for you, but the title of the prestigious annual stand-up comedy competition for new acts. I’m a big fan of stand-up and had the pleasure of some great contestants taking part in the competition last week at the Bethnal Green Backyard Comedy Club.
The big break
Speaking to a couple of the competitors it was striking by how easy it was to get started in comedy. But, as easy as it is to start, making a big break is notoriously difficult. One of the biggest challenges is getting noticed and building any sort of fan base.
An under-served genre
To me, stand-up is a massively underserved area in the TV industry. Broadcasters and SVoD channels could be doing so much more to help nurture the next generation of comedic talent.
The likes of Russell Howard’s Good News should be applauded for giving a platform to upcoming comedians – it was through his show that I discovered the brilliant John Robbins, and subsequently my now favourite podcast – the Ellis James and John Robbins Show on Radio X.
More needs to be done
It shouldn’t be a case of established comedians helping out their mates though. Broadcasters need to be doing more.
Netflix’s stand-up comedy is heavily skewed by big names, generally from America. It is also very difficult to separate the good from the bad. There doesn’t seem to be any editorial curation of the content. All of this combined makes discovering anything new and exciting, tedious and difficult.
The BBC has its Live At the Apollo series, which it uses to introduce audiences to new performers. It has a couple of other shows and also uses Radio 4 in particular to help with testing out new comics.
Issues with representation
But how representative of the world is the slate of comics the likes of the BBC uses? Its policy of ensuring the likes of Have I got News For You aren’t all male panels should say enough. There are plenty of brilliant female performers, but they don’t have the profile to get on the major shows. Same story for those of different classes, sexuality, politics and ethnicity.
It was heartening to hear of the recent launch of Next Up, a SVoD platform dedicated to providing a huge range of never before seen stand-up content from gigging comedians. It is a great new revenue stream for the performers, gives them the chance to start building and connecting with fans, and with this a reputation which makes people want to see them live.
Ideas like this are bringing the genre into the modern era. The major channels can do more, but it is exciting to see other players getting involved and helping to make people laugh.
By Xander Ross, Junior Account Manager at Franklin Rae