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January 1, 2000

A few months ago, Current TV, a hip cable network featuring user-generated content and ads, held a contest to create a spot for the new Nissan Cube. The winner’s spot would see airtime and a cash prize. So a director friend and I were talking, and we thought, let’s do it. We’d maybe get a spot on the air, a :60 car commercial at that, recoup some costs, enter awards shows, yada yada. As my wife pointed out, it’s not an idea that’s engineered to make money, especially in the here and now. As usual, she’s right. A commercial is less attractive to employers in this new digital mediascape.

Here’s what I posit: Okay, we’ve tried putting brands out there via Facebook, Twitter, etc. for the past year or two. It hasn’t caused a major spike in consumer spending; it’s not a booming business idea unless Facebookers and Twitterers do it on their own – good old word-of-mouth, just faster. Which isn’t to say don’t utilize these platforms, just don’t bet that doing it is what will make a company super profitable. So let’s calm down about repackaging the same old branding for a fresh delivery system, that is, unless someone calls me as a result of this multi-platform column and makes an offer I can’t refuse. I’d say that the new thinking, the new standard, dictates we come up with something that’s a product or service or widget or whatever -- that sells. Whether it sells to a company or client for them to market or if it’s something you put on the market yourself.

So that I’m not simply preaching without practice, I’m happy to report that I’ve cashed in most of my savings and have hired a software company to develop an iPhone/iPod Touch app. It started with a good idea, and barring any unexpected barriers to entry, should hit the market in less than a month. But of course, I could be wrong. My app could tank or the App Store could go downhill. And then my Nissan commercial—or maybe even this gimmicky column—will turn out to be an Idea That Makes Money. Stay tuned.

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After roughly 15 years in advertising -- at places such as TBWA Chiat/Day, Leo Burnett, Euro RSCG, and JWT -- Britt Benston now works independently for a few fantastic clients. He has also come up with and designed iScreenwriter, a highly functional mobile screenwriting application available at Apple's App Store early this fall.

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