m21 Scriptwriting Meeting - 17th October 2008

Concept / Aim

  • A humorous TV sitcom about the advertising industry that satirizes the current sustainability discourse
  • It will also inform its audience and bring new topics into focus, in a non-didactic way
  • It would push the boundaries of TV humour
  • It would also challenge the perceived purpose and boundaries of design as we know it.

Working title (should be something long):

e.g. Designing design to sustain a greener society, Nature, world peace, happiness, shareholder values, fair profit for all, and technological control over our Future
(a level playing field for sustainable business = sustainable consumption)


  • Primary Audience - anyone interested in Green issues - aspiring professionals
  • Workers from creative industries
  • Politicians / civil servants
  • Design community and creatives in all sectors
  • Secondary audience – anyone interested in sustainability

Production Format

  • A 'DESIGNING-DESIGN' advertising agency based in London.
  • 30-minute episodes with 2 main formats, run back to back
    • 1) Studio scenes with actors (the creatives and executives plus clients - politicians + business people + celebs)
    • 2) Pre-recorded products purporting to be advertising material - many formats (virtual/real animation/puppets/out-takes)
  • The ad products are sought first (for their humorous/kitsch quality). The scripts are then written to show the build-up to the viewing-room and the showing of the (awaited) product.
  • Each episode features a day of work, starting with chats over a cup of tea.
  • De-briefing starts in presentation/viewing theatre and may move to the pub/club.
  • In each episode the (metadesign?) team is given a brief by a client.
  • Each brief features a facet of utopia.
  • The team's creative journey entails struggles with sustainability terminology, myths, resistance from finance etc.)
  • End of the working day culminates in a pitch to client.
  • The pitch takes the form of a futuristic scenario.


  • The core team at the agency consists of four distinctly different characters (perhaps a dramatisation of our four action styles).
  • The facets of these characters represent a range of extremes of difference - tall, short, ugly, beautiful, cultivated, uncouth, etc.
  • However, within a given character, these facets may not exactly square with one another. (e.g. sweet temperament, ugly environmental sensibilities)
  • Real-time technical effects (extreme voice treatments) are used to make each character highly artificial.
  • One character (the literary lady) has a digital voice, as used in lifts, and on the underground, to announce train delays, etc.
  • They are visited by a client – guest.

In each episode the team also gets advice from a ‘celebrity’ sustainability expert, such as Ezio Manzini, Bill Dunster, Al Gore…

The cast also comprises those invisible inhabitants of the buildings – rodents/rats. These function as the Greek chorus, as observants commenting on the events. This might take place after the credits, as an ‘extra’ feature.


  • Each episode focuses on one (unrealistically eventful) day. The space is similarly contained. The main narrative unfolds in the studio of the (metadesign) team.

There is also a roof garden, which is used to showcase and discuss green developments and trends, and a pub where the team retires after work, to debrief and listen to some bad but poignant music. Finally, the presentations of the pitches constitute fantastic extraordinary spaces.


  • an advertising agency that specialises in 'green washing' products and services

- If you want your product to appear more green you can do X, Y and Z.
- the viewing public may become aware of how green something might be by the process of greening an absolutely un-green product. Especially through the use of visual messages.
- discussions about ethics and about not thinking about the ethics running high on the agenda.
There would be more than one character - but certainly the boss - who would be 'in it for the money' and the
others who are trying to really make a difference but using stealth within the institution. We could think about how we get things done day to day
not exactly openly and make these things part of the scenario. We could use English cultural barriers too so as to identify them to the viewing public.

Why an advertising agency?

jonny's two penneth JB

I don't know much (hang on, scratch that - at all) about writing anything other anything than computer code, but i thought The First Rule of writing was: "write about what you know!"

The time i spent working for Saatchi's can be measured in hours, although i did spend most of the early 90's working indirectly for agency clients, so i do feel i have a little familiarity with the breed, but not enough to really get inside their skin. Maybe others have more..?

But, i would say that we all do know about a situation that is ripe for satire, and most of the team has extensive knowledge, familiarity and a fund of anecdotes far greater than mine - so why not set this as a small, start-up design agency based in the chaotic environment of a college "enterprise initiative".

The finances alone should make most weep with laughter! smile

I would site (sight?) A Very Peculiar Practice as an exemplar; a BBC sitcom from the 80's about a medical practice on a college campus, which was a great favourite of mine. See this BBC cult page (external link) for more. (wow - the theme tune sends shivers up my spine!)

Other than that, i think all the ideas above are great - characters, special guests, "green-washing", ice-cream and all - and i look forward to trying to get it commissioned!

P.S. There's nothing new under the sun (external link) (this clip is pre-broadband, bless the Beeb for keeping it on anyway!)

Han's twenty pence worth HJ

  • That is a great idea Jonny, what could be funnier than academics trying to take on the commercial world! Interdisciplinary design groups could also be topical, funny... I would like to see a sketch about the importance of 'change'... massive change, changing the change, world changing...
  • Andy Goldsworthy eco-art (external link)

Here's a silly hacked together video based on Han's idea: RiversAndRoads - private page due to copyright issues