FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

Mark Burnett is kind of like that blind ferryman on the River Styx, ferrying the vestiges of television advertising and product placement across the river of death to their fated time in the afterlife. Stupid analogy, I know.

Charon

But I can’t help but think that all of Burnett’s highly successful TV machinations and “breakthrough” programs are like the death throes of a once-powerful mythological hero. And if Greek tragedy is to teach us anything, it’s that heroes go down. They go down hard. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

So here he is, Charon himself. According to Ad Age, Burnett’s latest salvo into “breakthrough programming” is something called Gold Rush, a piece of reality television that is, basically, a giant commercial that surrounds itself with more commercials for the commercials imbedded in other commercials.

Say what, honky?

More than $2 million in gold was recently hidden across the country, and to track down the treasure, viewers will be asked to spot clues on AOL.com and in CBS programming — as well as in actual commercials airing on the Eye network. CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler gave advertisers the opportunity to embed clues in their ads this week during the network’s upfront presentation.

What is going on in TV land? Why is being “TiVo-proof” translated into obnoxiousness? What happened during the upfronts? Did a bunch of TV execs wake up with a severed horse head in their beds?

18_n_news_goldrush_l

Please, for the sake of everything that’s good in advertising, show me a study that shows people are watching more commercials. Please, someone, convince me that any empowered consumer – the one that is so damn disdainful of marketing ploys and cheap ratings whorefests — is going to participate in this type of marketing. This isn’t “jumping the shark.” This is jumping the entire freakin’ fish world.

So is it any wonder that there’s a column on ClickZ called “TV Spots Are Dead,” which is addressed to ad execs, postulating that they “must stop producing TV spots, plain and simple.

You must stop producing TV spots and start creating multiplatform video commercials, for lack of a better term. Now, more than ever, you must ask yourself: why is the viewer going to watch this? You’re not blasting a message to a captive audience anymore; you’re serving an empowered consumer. They will ignore your ad if you don’t provide some relevant value.

You must stop Mark Burnett, too. Stop him now.

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