THE BLOG

16
Aug

Dare To Vacation

Summer is quickly coming to an end.  And with friends and colleagues chasing the coming eclipse we’re talking in the office about the importance of vacation, time away from solving complex problems, working toward new solutions, an ordinary day at work.

Vacations, while important, are fraught with anxiety. Often times, I think I can’t be away from projects, clients, and deadlines.  At the same time,  I crave retreat time and the unfolding of my thoughts, habits, and routines, I’m anxious at stepping away from my devices. And I’m not alone.

With Americans working more hours than any other industrialized nation, and with research making it clear that all of our overworking isn’t getting us ahead, it’s time to take a look at our work/life balance.

As we’ve explored before, creative brains lose focus when they don’t get enough sleep and can greatly benefit from disconnecting. But in an industry where there’s a seemingly never-ending line of projects to finish and deadlines to meet, sometimes, things fall a little off balance. A recent study found that 87% of knowledge workers admit to working more than a typical 40-hour workweek, and 23.4% put in more than 50 hours a week. And 71% of responders admitted that they were unhappy about putting in the extra time. The corporate, and even creative, work cultures have unwittingly created an environment that is literally wearing us down.

As one of the founders of a creative company, I see the importance of maintaining work/life balance not only for myself and my own well-being but for our teams and employees. If we’re not setting a good example at the top, it’s likely the rest of the team won’t feel they have the freedom to take care of themselves as well. With that in mind, we put together a list of ways that we maintain work/life balance for ourselves and encourage our employees to follow:

Put Health First
From mental health to physical ailments and even sick family members, when our well-being is on the line, we must take the time to take care of ourselves (or our loved ones). From exercising and eating right to taking a sick day when we need to, in order to bring balance back to our lives, we need to put our health — and that of our employees — first.

Encourage Passion Projects
We are firm believers that passion projects drive innovation, and encouraging those passion projects for ourselves and our team members allows us all some much needed creative freedom and the ability to take a sanctioned break from our day-to-day. The result, hopefully, is that we’ll all feel re-inspired and reinvigorated.

Respect Creative and Personal Refresh Time
Creative companies tend to lead the corporate pack when it comes to setting examples for prioritizing the importance of “free time.  Reclaiming weekends and evening hours makes for happier and more productive employees. It’s simple, and yet many companies still cling to the ethical virtues of round the clock availability.  Certainly, emergencies happen, snafus occur, but establishing and maintaining clear signs around peoples’ free time sends a clear message, we can’t lose sight of our or our team’s humanity.

Promote Vacation Time
Maybe we can’t all offer unlimited vacation time, and there’s some controversy on whether or not it actually discourages employees from taking time off, but we can make it clear that vacation time is meant to be taken. From working with employees who never seem to use their two weeks, to touting the benefits of travel directly and taking our own vacations, we need to ensure that taking time off is seen as a worthy path to nurturing the creative soul.

That’s just a small list of how we can begin to incorporate better work/life balance into our days. How do you or your company encourage better living through less?

 

photo courtesy of Leio McLaren/Unsplash

03
Aug

Your Need For Serious Fun Explained

The Oishii team just finished up an exciting week at Comic-Con! And while work brought us to San Diego for the usually artful cross-promotional programming, costuming and fantasy fetes, (Check out our latest promo done for TBS for Conan and his amazing full week of live #ConanCon) we like the play time too. Like most attendees, there’s more to Comic-Con than cosplay, interactive mise-en-scenes and celebrity hero panels.

Comic-Con is an adventure, it’s what can be called play with a purpose.

Wait, what? What is play with a purpose you may be asking yourself?

We adults, even creative professionals, have lost a strong sense of play in our lives.  According to David Whitebread at the University of Cambridge, the traits of playfulness, qualities of mischievousness or curiosity,  have played critical roles in human evolution.  Along with language, culture, and technology, says Whitebread, play has shaped and honed our problem-solving skills and thinking skills.  With every achievement, whether in philosophy, mathematics, art, engineering or economics, people toiled and may have had loads of fun too.

In our increasingly complicated world, with distractions everywhere, it’s not hard to see how we might need to tap into our the play in our evolutionary bones.

 

But it’s not so simple; we can’t just frolic around the office, giggle our way through meetings.  Play’s got serious social and individual biases to overcome.  At the individual level, we adults don’t know how to integrate play into our identities, it wasn’t taught, encouraged beyond playgrounds. There are no “rules” for play on the road to adulthood.  In fact, the quintessential mark of adulthood means leaving behind childish qualities of excessive playfulness.  Play really drops out of our lives and thinking in our professional ventures. We adults measure must ourselves through the lenses of professional accomplishments and work.  Play becomes trivial and without purpose.  Play happens on the other side of our packed work schedules, beyond the world of responsibilities. As the work worshiping Victorians liked to say, we earn play through hard work. For us post-industrial workaholic types, play is for those seeking to relive their childhoods. It’s more suited for the whimsical minded millennial types at the Brooklyn adult preschool.

But the truth is, we’ve lost sight of play and its dynamics, its role in our survival.   We need to develop an integrated and practical sense of play; an altogether new way of thinking that allows us to problem-solve, innovate and dream up novel ideas and solutions. Play can help us tap into our best human selves.

Play keeps us curious and full of wonder.

In the mid twentieth century, influential pediatrician Benjamin Spock championed for the seriousness of kids’ play. Play for Spock gave kids confidence and skills to climb the ladder of intellectual development. Disguised as fun, kids learned key life lessons for their complicated adult lives.

With the help of recent research science, creativity studies and neuroscience, we’re beginning to quantify and understand the workings of the qualities of playfulness. It’s getting close to possible to see and measure the effects of playfulness in our brains.  According to a recent German study of 3000 subjects, researchers found that subjects who used the traits of playfulness showed higher levels of performance on a variety of tests than those with less playful traits.  Under the right conditions, a dose of play helped people solve complex problems, find compatible romantic partners and turn monotonous work tasks into interesting ones. While the study represents an emerging field of study, it nonetheless confirms what every fidgety, doodling day dreamer knows: play activates senses and piques awareness. Play is a tool for taking in and sorting information and it helps us process and churn through our brains and bodies. Play starts curiosity which can open up doorways for seeing and observing.  Our brains churn and process with play in altogether new ways. That’s play at its most practical and inspiring.

park-troopers-221402 (2)

 

This research confirms what many in business see as the foundations of innovation.  Companies and leaders are measured in part by ambition and hubris. How far an individual, teams and a company are willing to dream, aspire and stretch themselves.  Ambition requires among many traits the qualities playfulness, roguishness, whimsy and a can-do spirit.  And play is a good trait as any to give companies the push to innovate or even stop stagnating, gain some competitive space.  Take the Microsoft PC hardware business for example.  Microsoft has suffered many public failures against innovating behemoth Apple. And while Apple chased mobile products, Microsoft has been quietly letting loose armies of visionaries and design thinking types across its product lines.  Surely Microsoft won’t be ready to compete anytime soon, but their investment and fresh if not radical approach hint at what it’s capable of in the future.

The idea of playfulness works at a global level too. Aren’t the traits of play, inventiveness and creative thinking part of what the world most admires about America and American entrepreneurialism? Our “creative competitiveness” and ability to innovate across business, in media and entertainment, manufacturing and technology rest on this notion of dreamers restlessly chasing ideas, connecting and innovating and in the process solving the world’s ever increasing complex social and business problems.  When Elon Musk waxes poetic of his desire for commercial space travel to Mars, he’s tapping into his strong sense of play for his business but also for the rest of us, his decision to “change the rules of Space travel” is meant to pique our curiosity in our otherwise firmly earth bound lives.

Early in the twentieth-century Modern art provocateur Henri Matisse, said, “creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.”    Matisse was writing at a time when the modern art world, controlled by traditionalists, rejected his style and techniques as outlandish and a threat to accepted norms in realistic painting.  His hunches only reinforce what dynamics playing out in psychology, technology, and business every day. To harness playfulness is to open up the senses, get curious and follow hunches into the unknown.  Play shakes up our senses, prompts us to see and ask new questions. Play can reframe our perspectives.

So, go out, have some play, dress up and dream big at Comic-Con and beyond!

 

 

photos courtesy of Oishii Creative, Tedd Kelly @unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30
Jun

What’s your Creative Manifesto?

 

Ah, the professional creative. Is there any other profession that’s as romanticized, misunderstood and yet, pursued and desired? The deadlines are short, the hours are long and the competition is fierce. But most of us wouldn’t change it for the world. There is, after all, a reason we’re so fascinated with creatives. We assume their minds are somehow quicker, more thoughtful and talented than most. But the truth is, it’s a job like any other.

And once you monetize creativity, the demand and expectation becomes higher. Something that once was done for the sake of job and artistic validation and reward now comes with a price tag and a set of deliverables. Instead of treating creativity as an art form, we begin treating it like a machine, expecting a certain and consistent output. But you can’t have a computer analyze your new logo and tell you it’s got to be 14% bigger and just a tad more cyan, and you can’t use an algorithm to build a new visual strategy. When that happens, it’s easy to lose sight of why you first got into this industry, whether you’re an individual, overseeing a team or running a company. Here are four tips to help you keep sight of why we love what we do.

Savor the Victories…But Grow Too
We’re incredibly proud of our creative work for clients such as NBCU, E! Sprout, Nickelodeon, FOX or NFL Network among others. And while some of us collectively groan at self promotion, there’s value in solid reflection on successful projects, especially if the work stretched teams limitations. It’s often painful to grow into the next stage of creative evolution. And one big lesson has to do with creativity and ourselves, we humans require lots of time, space to reflect on projects, the work and review our limitations. 

Remember, We’re Only Human
A machine can run on zero sleep, zero fuel and never needs to leave the office, but humans cannot. In order to stay creative, we need to step away. It may seem counterintuitive when you’re facing a big deadline, but if you need to spark an idea, stepping away might be the best solution.

Be Realistic
Yes, you have THE idea, the award-winning, ground-breaking, studio-launching idea that will change everything… except it would require three times the budget, twice the staff and at least an extra six months, when you’re already down to one. Don’t be discouraged. You still have a great idea, it just might not be the right idea for this project. Or, maybe it needs to face a few challenges to work. Challenges can turn into solutions and make you a stronger creative.

Stop Fearing Failure
When it’s your job to come up with original ideas on a regular basis, it’s easy to fear failure. After all, if you’re being paid to do what you love, it’s easy to slip into the mindset that we’re always just one project away from ruining it. Or, as artist and author Christoph Niemann addresses in his truly inspiring 99u talk, what if “I’m not good enough?” “I’m out of ideas” or “My work is irrelevant and soon I’ll be broke.” Spending time dwelling on the possibilities of failure isn’t going to get you anywhere. Spending time investing in your own creative growth will.

It may not be the stuff of Mad Men, but we are still lucky to be in this industry and to be creating. Ultimately, our clients believe in us enough that they hire us for an idea…Can a computer do that? Not yet anyway.

31
May

Don’t Be A Futurist Faker

Luigi Russolo, 1911, The Revolt (La rivolta), Gemeentemuseum Den Haag via Wikipedia

Luigi Russolo, 1911, The Revolt (La rivolta), Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (via Wikipedia)

When Kevin Roberts recently told Business Insider that gender equality was “over for him” and his advertising agencies, saying “(he)… rarely thinks about the problem,” many commentators howled at his indifference. While ad agency employment data shows women make up about 50% of the industry worker force, there’s rough parity within the ranks; 80% of men at big agencies hold leadership and creative director roles according to research from the 3% Conference.   

And if 2016 lawsuits filings are any measure of disparity, patterns of abuse seem to be running rampant in some of the world’s biggest agencies with allegations of racial and gender slurs and inappropriate sexual advances. To be fair, ad firms are but microcosms of society, reflecting larger structural patterns of gender discrimination. From technology to the sciences and across media and entertainment, companies are finally striving to do their best at managing the vestiges of gender discrimination, including promoting and keeping female executive talent.

So why would Mr. Roberts casually elude this reality and go on to describe women as temperamentally ill-suited for executive leadership positions? The answer doesn’t lie in whether or not sexual discrimination still goes on — it does — but in what this says about Mr. Roberts’ status in the media industry, which is even more troubling than his casual dismissal of social ills. As a “coach” to executive talent and expertise, a mentor such as Mr. Roberts should not believe these things. Or should he? Mr. Roberts, I argue, has fallen victim to futurist fakery. That’s right, fakery.

As a society, we’ve become too enthralled with idea leaders. We’re drawn to the men and women who write, blog, teach and educate — crossing the TED stages and traveling the lecture circuits — about the importance of Big Ideas. I’m not suggesting fakers are everywhere. Many of these futuristic insighters bring plenty of real-world context and knowledge to our industry. What I am saying is that while we’ve become accustomed to these educated, talented, and creative men and women to raise our awareness, we’ve let in a few fakers along the way. It’s hard not to.

We’re much better informed and well rounded when talented people step out of their labs, classrooms and offices to share with all of us. But we shouldn’t be idea-complacent or even idea trend-driven. While ancient philosophy has taught us to be respectful of thinkers, we should also use our own powers of reason when it comes to idea hucksters. Ideas for the sake of ideas; concepts without connections to everyday and real problems in search of solutions is simply posturing. And that is what Mr. Roberts seems to be doing. He’s bought into his own ideology, projecting that he’s successful in no small part because he “knows” trends and can connect data and information; therefore, he’s putting himself in a position to constantly seek a connection, no matter how far fetched.

To give some historical context, I use the term “futurist” as it comes to us from the anti-traditionalist art movement in Italy and the Soviet Union in the early 20th century. Futurism was committed to rejecting all established art techniques and styles that depicted the “dynamism” of technology, industrialism and automation. Futurism wanted only art that put people in the experience of machinery, the then-future of economic and cultural progress. Because futurism was so thoroughly unforgiving of tradition and history, as a movement it had little depth beyond a love of industrial machinery. What it did have was an unyielding commitment to projecting the idea of progress — a future people see only in art. And as a result, by the 1930s, it had devolved into propaganda art for totalitarian regimes.  

Unfortunately, Mr. Roberts is the sort of “thought” leader who has adopted the futurist role model for audiences and, in so doing, wiped away any concern for the real, the here and now. What concerns futurists are ideas, trends, disruptions and data points pointing to something… and if they’re not able to back up that something with context or evidence, well, there lies the fakery. But I don’t believe that it’s intentional deception on his part. Mr. Roberts, and many like him, believe they can’t delve into the real-world issues of today as, in their minds, they’ve already crossed over to the other side into tomorrow. Our devotion to the prophecies of industry futurists sets us all up for failure as it’s an unrealistic expectation that thought leaders can consistently think beyond what everyone else can even imagine.

Truth is, we’ve grown a bit complacent and perpetuated these sorts of idea leaders and their sometimes misguided or downright ridiculous projections that have no recognizable bearing on our industry. I admit, I’ve been known to pore over “white papers” and beg favors for tickets to hear giants in science and technology speak on the state of blah, blah, blah. I follow every MIT scientist interested in neuroscience and technology. I’ve got a PhD in political science, but I’m obsessed with the behavioral science of decision-making as I am design thinking applied to… anything.  So I’m not pointing fingers. I’m saying let’s not delude ourselves. Using Freud’s observation that humans are extraordinarily good at deceiving ourselves, especially when chasing their own ideas, leaders like Mr. Roberts seem all too silly. Let’s not be fakers.

18
May

Break Your Creative Bubble

 

 

 

zachary-nelson-192289 (1)Oishii’s Kate Canada Obregon was recently asked to talk about diversity for The Drum News. As you might expect from Oishii, she challenged peers to break creative conceptual bubbles, the safe zones for creating content for audiences. Audiences are tired of safe and simple recycled creative. Whether a creative advertising campaign or brand visual refresh, audiences want new ways of seeing their world.  Telling good stories means stepping into the many shades, values and geographies and telling our collective history. We’re not talking art or design that speaks from on high, tucked away in a museum. A successful promo can act as a window into the ways we are  bound together under a community, country, politics and culture while giving an unexpected burst of inspiration. Audiences will continue to ignore commercial creative work unless it can satisfy. inspire and sustain.  Here’s to crafting the art between story and design, telling poignant and diverse stories for us all.

 

24
Mar

Office Matters: Why Your Work Space Makes You A Better Creative

Anyone who’s come to our office knows we value the power and functionality of a well-crafted creative space. From the constant flood of natural light to Ish’s art collection to the eclectic array of found furniture from around the world, we’ve tried to make a space that’s both stimulating yet comfortable and cozy. Renowned London designer  Reno Macri knows all too well the science, art and productivity aspects of building the right office for creative teams, and we’re thrilled he’s shared with us some of his latest insights on why office environment can make us better, flexible and creative thinkers.

 

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There are many reasons why the design of an office is important, ranging from making a positive impression on clients, to ensuring each of your staff members have sufficient space, to more general office branding strategies. However, one of the most important reasons is the influence design can have on employee behaviour.

Indeed, workplace surroundings can impact upon staff members’ productivity, communication, customer service, etiquette and even their attendance. In this blog post, we look at how ideas surrounding design and office space planning can positively change the behaviour of your employees.

 

  1. FlexibilityMany businesses make the mistake of opting for either open plan or closed-space offices, depending on how important collaboration and privacy are. Yet, in reality, one of the best ways to improve employee behaviour is to provide an element of choice, because employees’ needs may change over the course of a working day.

    Collaboration is important, which is why open plan offices have emerged as the dominant design. Yet,research from Steelcasefound that the 11 percent of employees with the best access to workplace privacy were the most satisfied with their surroundings. The solution, therefore, is to provide workers with a design that offers them both.

    2. Branding

    In addition to pure office space planning, the branding of a workplace can influence employee behaviour. Through intelligent use of company logos, slogans, buzzwords and colour schemes, employees can be continuously reminded of who they represent and what their mission is.

    “Employee behaviour and health are influenced by company culture as well as space design,” says Cyril Parsons, managing director of Office Principles. Through office branding, a business can communicate culture clearly.

    3. Biophilic Design

    Finally, in recent times, studies have shown the importance of including natural elements, such as sunlight and plants, into office design. In fact, the Human Spaces Global Report highlights the fact that office workers with access to natural light and greenery have a 13 percent higher level of well-being.

    Multiple studies have shown a correlation between well-being and productivity, while Human Spaces found that biophilic design also enhances creativity and reduces absenteeism.

 

tim-gouw-60216

Reno is a founder and director of a leading exhibition and event company Enigma Visual Solutions, specialising in retail designs, interiors, graphic productions, signage systems, office branding, event branding, exhibition stands design and much more. He specialises in experiential marketing and event productions. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on twitter.

 

08
Mar

Diversity and the Creative Bubble

Oishii’s Kate Canada Obregon was recently asked to talk about diversity for The Drum News. As you might expect from Oishii, she challenged peers to break creative conceptual bubbles, the safe zones for creating content for audiences. That’s because Diversity demands rich and textured storytelling. Diversity is an ever-expanding story, our collective bundles of history bound together under a geography, country, government and values. Like many stories, diversity contains unexpected twists, turns and has multiple voices. By its very definition diversity, of races, class, religions, genders, experiences don’t simplify neatly into self-satisfying fairy tales.  Diversity is a big story, told in bold compelling ways.  Americans increasingly look to advertising, media and television with a critical eye when it comes to depictions of us and our lives.   No matter how creatively we wrap old stories, audiences want what’s real, varied and different.  Here’s to telling better stories.

09
Feb

As Technology Evolves, Humans Still Want A Good Story.

Recently, our Co-Founder and CCO Ish Obregon shared his thoughts on the state of our industry for POST Magazine’s January print issue. Read on as Ish explains why he thinks our industry is being “compressed”, even as it grows, and how we can best wield technology’s power. 

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If I can describe the state of our industry in one word, it would be compression. The high-end quality VFX once reserved primarily for feature films and TV shows is now a mainstay in other sectors, such as commercials and on-air promos. Financially, it’s become cheaper, faster and easier to create a blockbuster-level VFX for smaller projects.

Recent college grads and others who didn’t have access to the latest technology before are now able to command top VFX jobs, while clients are demanding high-end creators to work at a lower-end pay scale. Everything is increasingly being compressed into this middle ground; however, I see this as a positive. There’s a push for innovation that goes above and beyond the standardization of what was once considered leading edge technology. It forces our industry to develop more practical creative processes, tools and systems, and embrace promising new means of content and platforms, such as VR, AI and data mining for design, and propel the evolution of creative culture.

Promax_Conf_Final PROMAX LOGOS _6_09_16.00_01_40_05.Still007One major area of growth is our deeper understanding of human behaviors, regardless of what technology we use. It’s important for companies to understand the viewer, user or participant’s POV and their psyche, because it all comes back to how you tell the story. You can create a beautiful sci-fi film using the best tools available, but when you combine these visuals with a well-told story, it becomes a much deeper experience that far surpasses the luster and gloss of new technology and VFX. Audiences want to be swept away not only visually, but emotionally. Now, we’re masters of those techniques, but the question is, what are we going to do with them?

I think most companies do a good job of keeping up with technology. However, in order to best wield its power, we must remember that technology can never replace our story — and that tools and tricks should never be our crutch. Only after you’ve established a strong foundation that distinguishes who you are and what you stand for, will technology enhance the narrative journey you create for others. True innovation happens when the forces of culture, creativity and consumerism collide. We’re still telling the same stories we always have, but we’re just using new tools to tell them in a different way.

26
Jan

Mary Tyler Moore and Broad Girls: Why Culture Needs Funny, Strong Women

Broad City

We were saddened to hear of the recent death of Mary Tyler Moore. The following is a previously posted article.

 

This week saw the season finale of two different series about women whose story arcs have been surprising, fresh and appealing, not because they’re shocking in their bad behavior, but in how realistic it is, especially to a Millennial audience that desperately craves authenticity. HBO’s Girls and Comedy Central’s Broad City may not be on-air ratings smashes, but you can be sure that their target audience is binging — perhaps on their laptops or with their parent’s HBO Go passwords; most likely with a second screen in hand, but they are tuning in for the kind of authentic, experience-driven content that marketers should take note of.

Even as ad sales models are shifting in our ever-changing industry, audiences will always be drawn to television, so long as the content feels culturally relevant and speaks directly to them.


Forty years ago, America’s Sweetheart on the small screen was Mary Tyler Moore, a traditionally beautiful good girl, who’d risen to fame playing the eternally patient wife to Dick Van Dyke on his title show, before being granted her own namesake series, which lasted seven seasons and won, at the time, a record-breaking 29 Emmys. From 1970 to 1977,
The Mary Tyler Moore Show appealed to a wide audience of women, especially those who were young and working full-time, because it was one of the first shows to portray an independent, childless working woman who, on top of everything, was succeeding. Mary was smart, driven, hard-working, kind and gorgeous. She had the career, a love life on her terms and strong female friendships, to boot. Mary had it all.

But where Mary succeeded — in both her fictional life and the very real network ratings — by being aspirational, creating something today that appeals to this generation of young working women must be approached differently. Instead of searching for role models, today’s Millennials want authentic and complicated, experience-driven characters.

Which is why the girls of Broad City and the broads of Girls are so appealing to this generation.

They defy inherited expectations about career, clothes and relationships. Which isn’t to say  Abbi and Ilana are dismissive of looking good and having glossy ideal lives, they certainly want careers and love. In their sketch comedy humour is used to hilariously pick apart these expectations.

Unlike Mary, none of them are in truly successful careers, relationships or even necessarily well-dressed. On Broad City, Abbi, the straight-laced of the two, is desperately trying to work her way up at a SoulCycle stand-in that doesn’t fully embrace her, while Ilana, her sexually fluid, polyamorous best friend drifts from job to job as she’s asked to leave each of them. They drink, they get high, and they navigate dating in the era of Tinder and “Hookup Culture” in a way that all feels fresh, and, most importantly, real.

It’s no coincidencegirls that both series were developed by their stars, who took their real-life experiences to parlay them into fictional versions of themselves. In Girls, show creator and star Lena Dunham’s main character, Hannah’s, friendships are as dramatic, if not more than her romantic relationships, something Dunham has said was important to portray in contrast to shows like Sex in the City, which had previously set the standard for portrayals of female friendships among young working women.

Says Dunham, “I kind of also felt like it was aspirational about friendship… for me, that kind of friendship is elusive. I feel like a lot of the female relationships I see on TV or in movies are in some way free of the kind of jealousy and anxiety and posturing that has been such a huge part of my female friendships, which I hope lessens a little bit with age.”

Millennials defy our expectation. Their lives are complicated, messy, exciting and unique. They don’t want to be spoken down to, they don’t even want our encouragement; they want to see themselves, or at least recognizable version of themselves, in their entertainment and even marketing. And as the business of television and how we reach our audiences continues to change, now, more than ever, content of any type has to be more than just marketable and engaging. It has to be real.

26
Jan

Mary Tyler Moore And Broad Girls: Why Culture Always Needs Funny, Strong Women

 

 

Broad City

This week saw the season finale of two different series about women whose story arcs have been surprising, fresh and appealing, not because they’re shocking in their bad behavior, but in how realistic it is, especially to a Millennial audience that desperately craves authenticity. HBO’s Girls and Comedy Central’s Broad City may not be on-air ratings smashes, but you can be sure that their target audience is binging — perhaps on their laptops or with their parent’s HBO Go passwords; most likely with a second screen in hand, but they are tuning in for the kind of authentic, experience-driven content that marketers should take note of.

Even as ad sales models are shifting in our ever-changing industry, audiences will always be drawn to television, so long as the content feels culturally relevant and speaks directly to them.


Forty years ago, America’s Sweetheart on the small screen was Mary Tyler Moore, a traditionally beautiful good girl, who’d risen to fame playing the eternally patient wife to Dick Van Dyke on his title show, before being granted her own namesake series, which lasted seven seasons and won, at the time, a record-breaking 29 Emmys. From 1970 to 1977,
The Mary Tyler Moore Show appealed to a wide audience of women, especially those who were young and working full-time, because it was one of the first shows to portray an independent, childless working woman who, on top of everything, was succeeding. Mary was smart, driven, hard-working, kind and gorgeous. She had the career, a love life on her terms and strong female friendships, to boot. Mary had it all.

But where Mary succeeded — in both her fictional life and the very real network ratings — by being aspirational, creating something today that appeals to this generation of young working women must be approached differently. Instead of searching for role models, today’s Millennials want authentic and complicated, experience-driven characters.

Which is why the girls of Broad City and the broads of Girls are so appealing to this generation.

They defy inherited expectations about career, clothes and relationships. Which isn’t to say  Abbi and Ilana are dismissive of looking good and having glossy ideal lives, they certainly want careers and love. In their sketch comedy humour is used to hilariously pick apart these expectations.

Unlike Mary, none of them are in truly successful careers, relationships or even necessarily well-dressed. On Broad City, Abbi, the straight-laced of the two, is desperately trying to work her way up at a SoulCycle stand-in that doesn’t fully embrace her, while Ilana, her sexually fluid, polyamorous best friend drifts from job to job as she’s asked to leave each of them. They drink, they get high, and they navigate dating in the era of Tinder and “Hookup Culture” in a way that all feels fresh, and, most importantly, real.

It’s no coincidencegirls that both series were developed by their stars, who took their real-life experiences to parlay them into fictional versions of themselves. In Girls, show creator and star Lena Dunham’s main character, Hannah’s, friendships are as dramatic, if not more than her romantic relationships, something Dunham has said was important to portray in contrast to shows like Sex in the City, which had previously set the standard for portrayals of female friendships among young working women.

Says Dunham, “I kind of also felt like it was aspirational about friendship… for me, that kind of friendship is elusive. I feel like a lot of the female relationships I see on TV or in movies are in some way free of the kind of jealousy and anxiety and posturing that has been such a huge part of my female friendships, which I hope lessens a little bit with age.”

Millennials defy our expectation. Their lives are complicated, messy, exciting and unique. They don’t want to be spoken down to, they don’t even want our encouragement; they want to see themselves, or at least recognizable version of themselves, in their entertainment and even marketing. And as the business of television and how we reach our audiences continues to change, now, more than ever, content of any type has to be more than just marketable and engaging. It has to be real.