The past decade has been revolutionary in the world of video production. Thanks to companies like RED, Sony, and Canon, cinema cameras are becoming more accessible, as are improvements in lighting and drone technology. More affordable and higher quality equipment, as well as DIY informational resources online, allow video professionals like us to create cinema-quality videos at a price that would have been unimaginable in previous decades.
So why then, are local businesses still airing pieces that look like they were shot on a Motorola Razr?
I think this question has both a very practical answer, and an abstract answer. The practical path is that local businesses don’t always work with marketing or ad firms like us before they pursue a TV ad. Often, they go straight to the network affiliate, whose only real means of cutting a profit is to make something QUICK and DIRTY. They dust off their old gear and run the same formula they’ve done a thousand times for a consistently small fee. This lack of quality, care and imagination is a defining characteristics of stereotypical “local TV”.
On the other hand I also think there’s something deeper at work that keeps the low-res, low-fi and public-access aesthetics alive today, and that is of course NOSTALGIA. We’ve become so used to the idea of laughably poor quality in local broadcasts, that we have developed an affection for it. As someone who strives to make high quality work, it’s hard for me to admit, but I have to. I love a good, terrible ad, and I’m not alone.
It’s even become common to see big-budget productions imitate and parody the shabby aesthetic. That’s because every generation of outdated media tech was once a direct influence on those who have grown to be content creators and consumers. Super 8, VHS, Public Access: they all have defining aesthetic characteristics and flaws. They make up a universal language of A/V nostalgia for us, and even though they now often result in laughably bad material, we keep revisiting them, because they scratch some sentimental itch.
And while we may chuckle condescendingly and ask ourselves, “Wow, who thought that was a good idea?”, at our cores I think we are just a little bit thankful that they did.
Here’s a playlist with some of the all-time best of the worst:
*This blog is not an endorsement for making bad ads.