Opinion: Eight New Year’s ‘evolutions’ for the format business

Siobhan Crawford

From unrecognised creativity to extortionate commissioning deals and execs unsuited to their roles, TBI’s resident format expert, Siobhan Crawford, digs into the some of the biggest industry pet peeves and what needs to change to remedy them.

It’s been a year, folks. We are rolling into a new one with expectations.

I was reading an article about New Year’s resolutions recently and something resonated with me: to call them resolutions is to say we ‘have’ to change and think negatively of our personal traits. But what if we called them ‘evolutions’ instead? To evolve is a process, to change over time without the imperative to flick a switch in January, to allow for changes necessary in our eco-system in order to flourish.

Can we set some evolutions personally where the effect can be felt by many? Our industry is grounded in our relationships, who we know and constantly developing our relations, so personal evolutions can impact us professionally.

I asked industry friends and clients about their pet peeves to find out what we need to change – so let’s see what they said:

People problems

  • Attitudes matter – “Snobbishness”, “arrogance”, “nepotism”. Yes, the UK, but also further afield. Houston, we have a problem and this really is the number one issue. “Why are streamers just hiring ex-commissioners?”, one said. “Why do commissioners sit on panels and act like they are so approachable?” asked another. “The acknowledgement of emails, even if a no, reply,” said a third. If people have taken the effort to reach out then acknowledge them, re-direct them, give them the focus they deserve, give a quick no, offer guidance, accept the connection and conversations on LinkedIn. Don’t limit yourself to your existing circle. This evolution will have the largest impact on so many of us.
  • Job titles – Recently, we have had companies giving people inflated titles to attract them and to fit in their overly large egos. The result is that we’re ending up with VPs who do not have the skills to negotiate contracts. Job titles that reflect a US system have no meaning in Europe. Power to the assistants and coordinators who Google Map for someone’s diary or rage at expenses, you are putting in the time.
  • Buyers briefs & development drop-outs – The amount of people who meet the buyers brief and yet are rejected could fill stadiums! So what is the problem here? “Buyers briefs need to improve,” one person, and the euphoria of a streamer development deal “that makes you work out every single detail… then when it’s ready, they are no long looking for that type” speaks to respect of creatives’ time. Do better.

Money problems

  • Awards – Entering and having to pay for three, four or five different awards and then the same brands winning even though it specifies that year of entry – and then that just means one of the local versions wins… come on. Be like The Wit and say ‘new means new’, otherwise are we really rewarding creativity?
  • Job adverts – So many people are searching, but this is an easy fix: “Advertise jobs with salaries, be honest and don’t try to hire people as cheaply as possible – pay what the job is worth!”. Touché.
  • Investing – Selling formats is not magic, there need to be tangible assets to warrant a format fee, so “write proper production bibles and pay for consultancy!” It seems simple and I know bibles are contentious as people put a c.£3k ($4k) cost on producing these documents, but if you want a successful brand then the better the bible, the better the life of the format.

Just BS

  • Content snobs – “Welcoming of ideas from wherever they come from.” One hell of an evolution is needed here. There should be no way you discount people – it links back to our first point. You can look at an idea and flag conflict or a quick no (which you reply promptly!), but only allowing prodcos from your country, or ex-colleagues – no. You are the problem.
  • Power negotiators – This is huge. To only be able to secure a commission if you agree to extortionate conditions X,Y and Z, which then leaves the format owner with no revenue from local commissions is outrageous. There has been a commercial grab in the past year that is intensifying and it is set to worsen. When someone says to you, “10% of something is better than nothing”, just walk away.

So let’s evolve, don’t work with dicks (or be one), treat content creators how you hope to be treated and power to the assistants. Evolve!

Siobhan Crawford is co-founder at Glow Media and has worked in the format business for almost two decades at firms including DRG, Zodiak, Banijay and Primitives

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