Sketch comedy will change advertising in Russia. Thanks to Comedy Club and Russia's new sketch comedy movement, we can finally expect to see something worthwhile during our commercial breaks.
Up until about a year ago, the only thing featured on Russian television was Putin, the same caravan of shiny Russian pop idols or one of twelve police dramas. "Comedy," such as it was, featured stuffy old grey suits reading from a page of ironic observations, or guys dressing up like old women. There has always been a marked lack of sketch comedy programming like SCTV or Saturday Night Live, which is amazing given that KVN, Russia's amateur sketch comedy competition franchise, has been successfully broadcasting since the early 1960's.
Borne of KVN alumni and other local comedic talents, Comedy Club is Russia's first widely popular sketch comedy program. Having launched only within the last year or two, the program abandons Russia's traditional bland satire style for a more Westernized sketch format.
And it's caught on big. The Comedy Club guys are in hot demand, to anything from touring festivals to seasonal private events. Trying to hire Comedy Club in this city has become pretty damn expensive, which has created a buzz in the local television community. Competitive channels are already casting for alternative Comedy Club style troupes, and scriptwriters are being asked to submit their best sketch comedy ideas for the upcoming season. Sketch comedy is the rage.
What makes a successful and memorable television ad? Despite a client's insistence that it's a longer pack shot, what makes for a memorable spot is the viewer's impression after the 30 seconds of advertising glory have passed. Some have argued that the most memorable spots leave no memory of the product that they're advertising, but that's absolute rubbish. I, for one, remember the good ones.
Good television spots have either successfully reflected modern day pop culture, or just as often they've helped to shape it. Bud's famous "whazaaap!", Burger King's "Where's the Beef?" or Ochakovo's post-crisis "komu seichas legko" became instant catchphrases the moment they hit the airwaves. One of the problems with good creatives in Russia is the absence of this aesthetic in the popular media stream. All this is going to change.
Next year, once the multitude of analog Comedy Clubs and Saturday Night Lives hit Russia's mainstream audience, agencies will be falling all over themselves offering storyboards with a snappy storyline. Not only will this creative start making its way to a PowerPoint presentation near you, but true consumer demand will mean that this approach will be produced, broadcast and consumed.
For years marginalized agency creative-types have complained that this market isn't yet ready for really good television spots. Most of this blame has been pointed at un-innovative marketing managers who seemingly kill good work in favor of more prevalent branding. Well, this has been part of the problem. Most good creatives are discarded after focus groups simply don't understand what's being presented to them. However, now that the Russian public will be mass-fed sketch comedy, I think that the times they are truly a changin'.