It’s The Script, Stupid

Given that HBO walked away with 25 Primetime Emmy Awards, the most of any network for the eighth year in a row, last night, it might be a good time to pause and ask, “Why is HBO so damn good at what they do?”
Vanity Fair spoke to Michael Lombardo, president, HBO programming, to find out what’s in HBO’s secret sauce.

“We start with an unmitigated respect for writers and the written word. You can talk to any film or television writer and hear their experiences both in the big screen and smaller screen universe, and they’ll give repeated examples where they feel like their voice got muzzled, muffled, muddled by input, rather than supported. What we’re looking for is writers who have a distinctive voice, a unique perspective, a strong story-telling sense, to let them do their best work.” That sounds simple, but film and television development is a notoriously tricky task, especially when it entails exhorting those same distinct voices to achieve their best. “Our approach with the writers [and directors and producers] we do business with, is to understand from them what they’re trying to do with their show and keep them on course, and to challenge them when we think they’re getting off course from where they want to be with the show. We’re not a place that develops by consensus or by committee… That’s why we don’t ‘focus group’ our shows. That’s just not the business we’re in…. We’re not looking to be shows that get the biggest number of eyeballs in the world, we’re not selling ad space.”

I can’t help but wonder how much better advertising could be if we consistently brought HBO’s respect for writers–and the work writers do telling brand’s stories–to the fore.
[via Ed Cotton]



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.