This week sees another highlight double bill. One brilliant, one could-do-better.
Timberland are doing a content project at the moment called #inmyelement, and the TV show premise is that they are taking four people and getting them to live each other's lives.
So far, so good as an engaging content premise. But then what appears to have happened is that some brand guardian has said: "But they all have to be the right sort of brand ambassadors for Timberland, so can we get four people who fit our very tight demographic brief?"
And this is where it all goes wrong. The point of swap formulas on television – from Wife Swap to Secret Millionaire - is that they work through dislocation, through potential and avoided conflict and culture clashes. (For a full list of the tropes on Wife Swap, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/WifeSwap )
But they are the tropes for a reason. They create conflict, and conflict keeps us watching.
I watched the trailer for #inmyelement and read about it on It’s Nice That…and it appears to be four near-identical hipsters with creative jobs, in four of the most cosmopolitan and international cities in Europe, trading places. Which to my mind in a world of content options…is not a series I want to watch. I would have liked to have seen the London-based writer engineer a more dramatic life swap moment with a fishmonger in Whitby than with a photographer in Barcelona.
When brands want to act as storytellers, it's not enough to hold up a mirror to the lives of their customers. If you want to create genuinely watchable content, you’ve got to take people, and your brand, out of their comfort zone.
Getting people out of their comfort zones is second nature for the betting world's infants terribles, Paddy Power. And here, with a stroke of content genius they've managed to drag Nigel Farage out of his Euro-bashing comfort zone and, in the greatest political swing of modern times, here he is extolling the virtues of Europe (and not just its golfers…). Ruddy marvellous.