It’s no doubt ABC has found a winning formula with the Gruen Transfer. The show, about the advertising industry, is the highest-rating ABC entertainment program to launch since 1991. Having been an avid follower of its past four seasons as well as last year’s Gruen Nation, I (like many in our industry) couldn’t wait for the spin-off, Gruen Planet. Teasers gave the impression Planet would delve ‘into the dark arts…looking at spin, branding, and image control’.
Wednesday night’s launch episode definitely felt familiar. Wil Anderson is as witty as ever, and it’s always interesting watching the strange chemistry between Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft, who are both such experienced professionals in their field but stand on two ends of the spectrum in terms of personality.
It was what you’d expect from Gruen, but by the end of the 35 minutes, I failed to see the show and its guests shed any light on the complicated process behind public relations or other communication strategies, rather dismissing much of it as ‘spin’. According to Anderson, the show “wasn’t going to be full of advertising people”, but going from the first episode I didn’t see any other form of communications specialists. The first episode was a minor Botox injection to the Gruen Transfer, rather than a facelift for a new show.
While I understand the medium of advertising makes for great visuals, wouldn’t it be great if Gruen ran one of their segments such as The Pitch, but with marketing and PR agencies. Take Anderson’s question “imagine the PM is your client, what is the first thing you’d do?” and turn it into a chance for marketing and PR agencies to show off their ideas! It’s a perfect opportunity for people under the great umbrella of the industry to be in the spotlight for once and not just seen as an after thought to the advertising industry.
As the ABC states, this really is an opportunity to look at these other ‘brand extension’ forms which are “the levers pulled behind most news stories, the silent partners in public debates…they form the nervous system of 21st century life.”