Filmland vs Adland – Some common ground

John Slattery Mad Men

I used to make TV shows. ‘Factual TV’ they call it. Occasionally I got to work on some feature films. That was fun. It required a lot of patience but the larger the screen the more satisfying I found it. I never made any IMAX films. That would have been fun. Now that I work in digital media production for an ad agency I’m in a pretty good spot to point out some similarities between the film/TV industry and the ad/digital space. Here are some:

Universal insight

Both filmmakers and advertisers are on the hunt for the universal insight. An idea that connects with an audience. There is no point in making a film if no one gets it. Likewise for ads, websites, mobile apps. Films and ads can have big budgets and feature Hollywood stars but if they don’t resonate with an audience they flop.


The director behind a film is pretty much doing what a creative director does at an agency – flounce and flourish. I jest. They drive the creative vision and require a significant team in the shadows to pull it off. Both Filmland and Adland consist of considerable teams that need to seamlessly work together to come up with an idea, plan an execution and deliver.

The three Project Triangle constraints

Both films and ads need to be on time, on budget and at a high quality. The Project Triangle is balanced by a Producer or Project Manager who works tirelessly behind the scenes. Everyone wants to deliver award-winning work but there are also tremendous pressures to deliver to deadlines and, of course, bring it in on budget.

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