Would a TV show about advertising work in the UK? – published 2009

 In advertising

An interesting question!  London Calling was probably one of the first UK websites to break the story of the Australian TV series The Gruen Transfer back in July 2008.

This is a show “all about advertising”, and quoting from a recent story in Campaign below

The show is named after Victor Gruen, the shopping-mall pioneer. The Gruen Transfer refers to the split-second when, according to the programme-makers, “the mall’s intentionally confusing layout makes our eyes glaze and our jaws slacken … the moment when we forget what we came for and become impulse buyers”.

Its format is somewhere between Have I Got News For You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, albeit with TV commercials, rather than newspaper headlines or music, forming the basis of debate.

Accompanied each week by a team of semi-regular panellists, captains Russel Howcroft, the managing director of George PattersonY&R Melbourne, and Todd Sampson, the chief executive of Leo Burnett Sydney, shed light on the tricks of the advertising trade while discussing a mix of high-profile, contentious and catastrophic creative work.

The Campaign article asks if this type of show – which has been incredibly successful for the ABC (Australian equivalent of the BBC), and is now about to start a second series would work in the UK.

Luckily I was able to download and watch each episode of series 1, and I can’t wait for series 2.  The secret of its success I believe is that it takes an open view of advertising in the Australian market.  Russel Howcroft (George PattersonY&R) and Todd Sampson (Leo Burnett Sydney) actually take a day out of their week for each of the 10 weeks of the series to work on the show.  You can read more on the backround of these two in a piece on the Sydney Morning Herald website.

Apparently ABC’s commercial arm has sold a number of one-year options on the format across European countries, including the UK so we may see the show here sometime soon.

But who would be willing to be the team captains, and also which agencies would be willing to submit to “the pitch”  – a segment where 2 teams try to “sell the unsellable” each week.

Perhaps we saw a teaser of what a UK version may look like on a recent episode of the BBC Radio 4 show “the bottom line” where Sir Martin Sorrell shared his views on advertising, along with Richard Brown from Eurostar and Guy Laurence from Vodafone UK.  More is available on the bottom line website.

I think a UK version would work – and perhaps pre-production has already started – watch this space!  It would become a creative’s “must see TV”.

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London-based Practical Futurist and former IBM Global Managing Partner, Andrew is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption and emerging technologies. He is a multiple TEDx & International Keynote Speaker. Watch his speaking showreel here, enquire about availability & fees here or listen to his latest Podcast - "The Practical Futurist Podcast" on your favourite app.

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  • Mark Pack

    My sister, who lives in Australia, gave me the DVD of the series for Christmas, and it’s been great fun watching it.

    One of the reasons it works I think is not just that it’s very funny, but it’s also quite educational about the advertising industry, in a positive way.

    Often with a comedy show that looks at a profession, the profession comes out of it looking worse. I suspect that by not being the case for this show, it makes it much easier for them to get the high quality participants.

  • wamdue

    ive just watched ALOT of clips of The Gruen Transfer on YouTube, and im not sure a UK version would work, it might be good I just dont think it will find the audience.

    The Pitch is maybe the best part of the show, and how is a UK ad guy telling us how they sell bottled water be any different then the Aussie version? however that would not really be an issue if I had not watch the Aussie version.

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