Admen Bugaboo, Soap Opera and New Merde (ia – ‘scuse my French)

Attention Time Travellers! Can you rewind back to just under 70 years ago..?

FffffTtttHhhh <<< (sounds like a rewind to me)

Happy times in the post-war American Dream… TV drama is invented by ad agencies to sell washing powder.

This is the birth of the Soap Opera.


Actually, I can’t be sure that the first US TV soap, “Faraway Hill” in 1946 was hatched from an ad agency. It’s fair odds that it was.

Going back further to 1930, the genre of Soap Operas did come from radio plays written and produced for sponsors to show their products on either side of. And it’s a fine tradition, there have been times when the lure of a never ending second act has really kept me out of trouble elsewhere in my life.

Bad people turning good, good people having bad affairs, life, death, cups of tea and something stronger – it’s the stuff of existence but the story stays the same – unlike real life.

What’s this got to do with Transmedia and Multiplatform?

I think we’re in a pickle right now with our new types of media and entertainment. A pickle involving ad agencies and storytelling – and it’s really bugging me!

My frustration is that over here in the UK, the responsibility for the day-to-day work of putting stories artfully onto new devices and platforms goes… not to storytellers, but to digital ad agencies. (These are very different entities.)

So, UK broadcasters (including public service) – are paying advertising agencies to tell their digital stories. Agency’s whose focus is obviously the bottom line – NOT the best story.


TV is the media I am most connected to in my current Storyworld and Transmedia work. And I LOVE TV drama. I Claudius and One Summer in the UK to Sopranos, the Wire, Breaking Bad and beyond from the US.

I think it’s fair to say that the golden age of TV drama was after the ad guys got out and the storytellers got in – from the 60’s onwards. (Correct me if I’m wrong…)

Currently I believe there is a huge disconnect between the way that media business is done and producing quality stories on new devices and platforms. There are many talented (storytelling) people out there swimming against the tide trying to develop new forms of storytelling that have REAL connections with the audience but because they are not part of an agency they get little chance of pulling down work from broadcasters.

Then there are agencies who get the jobs and I see an awful lot of under par work that is seemingly done for the money.


Why do UK broadcasters pay admen to do that work? It’s crazy, costly and against everything that good storytelling is all about IMHO.

The current broadcaster relationship with digital agencies puts TV production companies in a difficult position too. Costs, expectations and objectives are not comparable between agencies and prod co’s.

Our aim at Bellyfeel is to improve this loaded game. We want to improve the quality of digital and interactive storytelling across the board.

To make that happen we are inserting ourselves between these different and disparate parties. We  talk common sense and we protect the story. We aim for the best experience for the widest possible audience with the best potential ROI.

I’m not saying this is a thankless task but it’s not easy. It’s a slow process and nothing happens quickly. We’re not winning any popularity contests but we believe that this situation can be improved and without trying it won’t get any better.

Watch this space…


About the author

I run Bellyfeel which gives me the opportunity to develop innovations in media, education and entertainment, plus exploring the future of storytelling. More here...
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