How to treat a treatment

I’ve been in advertising long enough to remember the days when treatments didn’t really exist.

You wrote ads, sent them to directors, had chats with the ones who said they were interested and chose the one you liked best.

There was no further stage where you then expected the possible choices to send you several pages of ‘reference’, along with a long, detailed explanation of how they intended to shoot your little effort in the same way Godard shot À Bout De Souffle.

But then someone, somewhere had the bright idea of giving that little extra and, as we’ve seen so many times in the recent past of the industry, when you give and inch, a yard is taken: do an ad in three days instead of a week and the client will then ask for the work in two days, then one; offer to cut your mark up ‘just this once’ and you’ll find yourself cutting it twice, then again and again until it becomes the norm and you are asked to cut it again; say fucking ‘ideation’ in a meeting and it’s a short slope to ‘brand synergy’ and ‘online conversations’.

When the person who came up with the idea of treatments did so he or she opened the doors to a right old Pandora’s Box. Of course, now every attempt to get a script includes a treatment, sometimes on really nice paper; sometimes on video. And often they’re not written by the actual directors (who may not list ‘writing about anamorphic lenses for the right to shoot a Persil ad’ in the things they learned at directing school), so you’re not getting a real indication of their exact thoughts anyway.

I’m all for going the extra distance to convince someone you’re the right person for a job, but that’s clearly not what treatments have become.

Do you enjoy them or believe them to be yet another pointless addition to the 21st Century?