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June 30, 2008

Google Taps Family Guy Creator McFarlane for Content, Ads

Is there any serious doubt that the Internet is commercial in the sense that just about everything service or site seems to be a vehicle for ads?  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  Why, even these words are brought to you by the good graces (and cash, let's not forget what's going on here) of the fine folks whose ads appear to the right of the screen.

Now comes word that Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy and American Dad, has inked a deal with Google to produce a series of video clips that will be distributed to web sites like ads, and, of course, containing ads.  Why wait for someone to go to a video distribution site that's ad supported when the same ad network (Adsense, here) that pushes the ad can push the content as well.  Google is not exactly experimenting with some one-hit wonder, either.  Family Guy was canceled in 2002 only to re-appear after Fox figured out that the DVDs were selling by the truckload. 

McFarlane is quoted as saying he looks forward to the new deal as he gets to create mass-view material that can be edgier than Family Guy and American Dad.  Moreover, he gets to make a ton more money while doing it.  Both shows have run up against self-censorship issues because of the FCC's crackdown on certain types of content.  Both shows have also received a ton of criticism from decency in the media advocacy groups as well.  This new deal is not likely to sit well with them if it means "worse" in an easily accessible but unregulated medium.

It's not as if ads and unique content or presenters are new.  Back in the day, Jack Benny and Ernie Kovacs used to push cigarettes and cigars as a part of the show script.  Stan Freberg was another personality who combined the concept of entertainment with advertising.  Now, at least on radio, Chickenman's very own Dick Orkin carries on in that style.

McFarlane is definitely a coup for Google.  Microsoft, probably wishing that it were all things Google, will likely try and lock up the Simpsons for a similar deal.  But an ad is an ad is an ad, no matter how entertaining.  The best way of describing what this leads to comes from an episode of Futurama, where the character Fry is shocked to discover that in the 31st Century, ads are placed in people's dreams.

Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 20th century?

Fry: Well, sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio. And in magazines and movies and at ball games and on buses and milk cartons and T-shirts and written in the sky. But not in dreams. No, sir-ee!

Bender: Quit squawking, flesh wad. Nobody's forcing you to buy anything.

Amy: Yeah. I mean we all have commercials in our dreams but you don't see us running off to buy brand-name merchandise at low, low prices.

[After a long silence they get up and run out.]

It's funny now, and it will be still funny is a thousand years.  The joke will be covered by about a million ads by then.

June 30, 2008 | Permalink

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