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Creative Opinion: Jani Guest on the steady decline of TV advertising

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Jani Guest is not only the co-founder and managing director of Independent Films in London (having previously worked for Propaganda and Satellite Films), but is also the co-executive producer of the online channel for children, Kidspiration.tv. She has also worked, during her vast and eclectic career, with some of the world’s biggest commercial directors and even respected motion picture directors such as Alejandro González Iñárritu and Cary Joji Fukunaga. I was lucky enough to grab some of Jani's time last week and ask her a few questions regarding her thoughts on the decline in quality and consistency affecting TV advertising as it struggles to find a place in a world where digital is lapping the competition.

Why do you personally feel that the quality of TV advertising has declined (by and large) in the last few years? Is it due to the rise in digital advertising? Or simply complacency on the parts of many brands and agencies?

As with anything, I believe that the shifts we are all experiencing are not a result of one particular event, but rather a congruence of multiple factors. As a production company and therefore a content supplier to agencies and brands, we initially saw the decline during the last recession and since then have largely experienced a gradual lessening with TV campaigns both in terms of quality of ideas as well as budget spend. The explosion of digital advertising did create an increase in the needs of many brands and agencies to produce content but with far reduced budgets and often with equally ambitious creative ideas. Indy8, our content division, was our response to the birth of digital advertising. But across both TV and digital advertising, the challenges remain the same. The quality of the creative work has fallen and I suspect that is in large part due to the decrease in budgets and challenges for many brands to gain ground within their individual sectors in a market that is frankly flooded. I don’t believe any of this is a result of complacency but more the result of agencies and brands alike trying to navigate these quickly shifting sands. I have yet to meet anyone that has all the answers; but I do believe that we are all conscious that the landscape has dramatically changed and we are now in the eye of the storm, waiting to see what it evolves into. These situations can be seen as negatives or positives. And I choose the latter - this time could offer all of us great opportunity to break through obstacles and continue to create and produce work that has cut through for viewers.

As the head of a production company yourself, you are surely well places to answer this question, but what do you think production companies can do to help advertisers and brands negotiate this fresh terrain?

As I mentioned above, Indy8 was our response to the increase in digital advertising. We believed that it was possible to produce beautiful content and still work within the parameters of challenged budgets; but this calls for flexibility and an understanding of a far leaner production approach. We rely on agencies and their clients to be cognisant of this more disciplined approach to production; but what I am proud of is that the directorial talent that we represent and our production teams continue to work and deliver within the challenges that they continuously face. Open communication between both agencies and production and the desire to work as one team helps facilitate a seamless process and a better outcome.

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Do you feel that the way our children absorb advertising content is indicative or where we’re all heading? And do you think there is anything children can teach us on that matter?

In 2016, we launched Kidspiration.tv, an online channel that inspires kids to engage in conversation and exchange ideas about the world around them. It features bright young kids interviewing world-famous experts, pioneers, and entrepreneurs, as well as people who have interesting and fascinating jobs. Our strategy with this platform is to work with brands who understand that ‘selling to children’ (and their parents) isn’t always effective. Children are just as cognisant of being sold to as adults. We believe that that there are more effective ways for brands to integrate their messaging into intelligent and entertaining content for kids as a ways of reaching them.

Finally, do you feel that there’s still room for conventional TV advertising to evolve and grow? Or is it waiting to be put out of its misery?

I think there is a general resistance and frustration growing amongst the general public over the continual onslaught of messaging that is being thrown at them. And I do include myself as a member of the general public and am speaking from personal experience. TV advertising remains a consistently measured way for brands to communicate their messaging and maximise their presence. It is possible that there is a potential for a shift in the balance and that brands will begin to equalise their spend across both areas.

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK who would like to thank Jani for her time and her insight.

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