I admit it, I’m a fan of Hung, HBO’s new kinda-dark snarky comedy that airs on Sunday nights. And I would like to thank HBO’s writers and directors for creating the quintessentially perfect verbal set up with their lines and pauses from last night’s episode. It was the mot juste equivalent to a volleyball set and spike combination. Made all of us watching laugh, too, so it was a good scene, albeit somewhat Rocky Horror-esque.
The premise of Hung is that Ray Drecker, a high school history teacher/basketball coach, is hung like a horse and is making money to rebuild his home by getting pimped out as a straight male escort through the efforts of an ex-lover. Ray is talking to his pimp in the scene, and she is presenting him with a business plan which happens to include a budget for interactive.
Ray, reading the list, says, “What’s this? $1,000 for a web site; $1,500 for a viral marketing campaign… that’s crazy!”
At which point, out from my mouth flew the words, “You can’t get anything interactive for that little money anymore.” We laughed, but it made me think… I need to make a request.
Please help the interactive industry, HBO writers
By using those prices in the episode of Hung you are unfortunately reinforcing an out of date set of expectations which seems to be quite common, that interactive projects are by their very nature, cheap.
Back in the day (circa 1995), everyone spoke about the web as being incredibly cheap as a medium. And in many ways, it still is… when you’re talking about the functionality of the web back then. A web site was nothing more than text and images in a painfully constructed table format. It didn’t change. It didn’t move. It didn’t connect.
Welcome to Web 2.0. Things change. Sites are database driven and dynamically updated. A successful web site nowadays does more than just communicate static information, it creates an environment where the user can interact with the web site create or add to the content, thus enriching the experience and making the web site ‘sticky’, or a place where people spend a lot of time.
OK, bad word choice when using Hung as the frame
So maybe ‘sticky’ isn’t exactly conjuring the same picture given that we’re talking about a modern gigolo business. But still, HBO writers, please do us all the favor of updating your budget numbers because now you’ve effectively sold in the idea that even a “small” web site can afford to put a viral marketing campaign into place for as little as $1,500. Add another zero, or two if you want a really effective global viral marketing campaign, and you’ll be closer to the truth.
Because the truth of it is, as with anything… you get what you pay for. And there are no small web sites, only small budgets. Meaning that potential clients will always complain that their web sites are small, and therefore deserve a hefty discount because the effort involved is minor. And it’s not. It never is. What’s really small isn’t their expectations, its their budgets.
Correct the problem please, HBO
So please, HBO. Maybe some time in season 2, revisit that concept of the budgets. Have the mousy pimp lady complain bitterly about how she underestimated the price of *good* interactive services, and throw in some realistic numbers. $25K – $150K would be more reasonable for the development of either a web site or a viral marketing campaign. Especially since your subject matter is selling adult entertainment services. If there’s any cash cow ever to be found on the internet it’s adult services. So where there’s a realistic expectation of regular income, the interactive companies are not going to be providing discounts AT ALL. In fact, they jack up (ahem) the prices because of the social taboos and hazy legal risks.
And besides… Ray Drecker is going about this all wrong. Take a page out of Season 1 from Heroes. Ray can make a crapload more money by investing all of his time and energy into running an adult website based around himself. If he’s truly hung like Boogie Nights hung, then he doesn’t need to whore himself out. He can pick up cute women he likes from the bars, or even hire professionals from the adult industry scene, and tape sessions of himself in sexual situations with them. Those can be consolidated and offered on a subscription adult web site. He just needs to protect his day job through some clever device, like always wearing a mask or a hood, etc. Do some solo scenes and that opens the door to both sides of the adult services audience.
Oh well. They never think these things through beforehand, do they? I guess that’s why we like watching these shows, like Hung and Weeds. The train wreck is already in progress and we just get to go along for the ride.