So what’s the difference between Al Gore and any other ANA presenter? Al Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize yesterday. Other than that, he did the usual: he used his 30 minute presentation to trump up his brand, in this case Current TV, the cable channel he helped found. Gore gave an overview of the channel, which runs series of short, often viewer-submitted documentaries. There was no Nobel or Global Warming talk. The most interesting part of Gore’s presentation was the reel of the viewer-created commercials the channel runs for its advertisers. I’ve posted three of the ads he showcased after the jump. Ad agencies should be scared.
He was about 10 minutes late, but when he did arrive Al Gore walked in to a prolonged standing ovation. Then he launched into the sales pitch. Gore positions Current not just as a progressive way to reach young, web-savvy viewers, but as a service to democracy: “Thomas Paine came from England as a penniless immigrant, but he developed a gift for the written word. One of the things he wrote was called Common Sense, and it spread like wild fire, because the ideas rose in the society according to the perceived merit of those ideas,” Gore said. But, he continued, that all crashed to a halt in 1962 with the rise of television. “For the first time in history television delivered more information about more people about public affairs than the printed word….but the din of conversation stops.” Gore then cited that now Americans watch 4.5 hours a day, families don’t talk during dinner because they’re watching the tube. Ok, we all feel guilty now. Our founding fathers would totally be disappointed in us.
But wait! It’s ok to watch the Nobel Peace Prize-winner’s channel, because it lets an an inspired citizen can have his thoughts heard by submitting his or her own video, just like Thomas Paine. Videos rise to the top, through what Gore calls “socially filtering them with ‘web two point zero.’” (It’s voted on by users of the Current.tv website, or selected by Current’s editors),
I actually like this model a lot, though I think it’s would probably work better as an On Demand channel. Starcom MediaVest Americas CEO Laura Desmond, whose opinion is more important than mine because her company buys ads for giants like Kraft and Masterfoods (and who happened to be sitting in front of me during the presentation) liked what she saw too. “I think they are showing some early signs of good success,” Desmond said. “Clearly their business model is to do it differently, and they’re showing some concrete activations with the user-generated commercials and the ad content and their building momentum.” But will it ever be more than a niche play? “It’s unclear. That’s the holy grail that everyone in the television business is trying to figure out, how do you a one-to-one relationship.”
The most interesting part of the talk was watching the reel of user-created ads. They look very, very good. Creative agencies should be freaked out. And aside from the cost of ad time, advertisers pay nothing for them (Current gives the producer of each ad selected to air on television $1000). Again, it has the same problem that I talked about in the Facebook post -- when you rely on users, it’s a total crapshoot. But check these out:
UPDATE: Current.tv seems to be having site issues. I'll have these reposted as soon as they get those worked out.