Monday, December 22, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
It's not just that I happen to be watching the show myself right now. Or even that I work in the industry.
It's just that what's unfolded has all the hallmarks of a great story.
Great stories change the landscape.
They create new ways of looking at the world. They spawn copycat followers. Give birth to new genres and hybrids. Invent different ways for us to watch and engage. And generate legions of hungry new fans intent on gobbling them up.
I think the Mad Men and Twitter story falls into this category (it also has exciting implications for the way brands can interact with their audiences through an entertainment vehicle).
David and Goliath style legal wrangles (AMC vs fans). Characters cut down in their prime (@PeggyOlson). The triumph of the 'little people' over the establishment (@Peggy_Olson).
There is a report you can download at We are Sterling Cooper which provides a fantastically detailed overview of the whole thing.
And look out for Ben Cooper's upcoming article in Inside Film.
Ben, any relation to the Cooper in Sterling?
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I thought it was high time I chimed in with my own.
I'm not against labels per say.
In the world of communications, labels can cut a useful swathe through language, improve group comprehension and contextualise human behaviour.
One label that has caught my eye recently is digital films.
At what point can we say something is a film versus an ad?
In simple terms, a brand funded film needs to have the entertainment and the audience as the primary concerns - ahead of the brand.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Rather than being due to an influx of visitors, it's because I’ve been watching with one eye on Twitter and the other on the remote.
Monday night I was just getting into Dexter (and discussing the merits of the opening credits with Stan, and series bingeing with Zac) when MadeinMelbourne started her inimitable Twitter ‘ticker’ commentary on ABC series The Howard Years.
After a fleeting moment of indecision, I stayed with Dexter, and continued checking on MadeinMelbourne’s suitably outraged observations. I felt genuinely connected to both series at the same time, but in very different ways.
Importantly, Twitter is also changing the way we physically consume entertainment, as my Monday night experience showed.
MTV recently took this a little further when they launched The Hills Back Channel, where fans can simultaneously watch the show and comment in realtime.
All this has got me thinking about the potential of the Twitter TV combo. About how it will help redefine the concept of the attention span.
From mass consumption to multiple consumption.
Monday, December 8, 2008
This was no loser generated content effort. Oh no.
Willie made an appearance too
p.s Thanks to Emma B for the great pics
Saturday, December 6, 2008
There is no right answer, but there are a few questions you can ask.
You might be chatting to young men with an interest in sport.
Now these guys are well used to a bunch of brands loudly waving and jumping around in their sport. And not always in the most subtle fashion. Logos on jerseys, giant signs, branded cars, halftime sponsored entertainment. This is all part of any sporting experience.
In the last year, they’ve probably watched Nutrigrain in Football Superstar, lapped up brand soaked films like Dark Knight and The Incredible Hulk, and bobbed around at the V Festival. Just for starters.
Some audiences are more amenable than others.
2. What kind of entertainment are you exploring?
Equally, the rules change depending on the game. The type of brand involvement audiences will embrace in reality based entertainment for example, differs from what they might accept in documentary style film making.
Think about the conventions of the genre. You don’t have to be wholly obedient but be aware of what’s gone before you and what people expect. Be aware of where brands can add value or credibility versus where they might be seen to be detrimental or intrusive.
3. What’s your entertainment challenge?
Are you in a low interest or highly cluttered category? Do you need to ‘borrow interest’ from another brand?
Have you lost relevance or credibility? What friends and associations might help your cause?
Can a friendly retail brand help extend your distribution footprint?
How can other brands help YOU solve your problem.
4. What’s your budget?
For brands with a small budget, inviting few friends along for the ride can help make that dollar go further. A social media campaign might also develop TV and event legs with some extra cash.
It’s important that you don’t spend all your funds on production and leave nothing for your campaign. Entertainment with no audience is really just content.
Sharing funds can help reduce the perceived risk associated with a discipline which still makes some marketing folks (and CEOs) nervous. And if it’s still new for you, it’s a good way to dip your toe in and experiment.
5. How will other brands help you involve the audience?
How can they stimulate conversation? Inject interest? Provide a reward? Help you to leverage their audience relationships?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Clients usually go 'aha' when they see this.
So I thought I'd share it.
The layers in the circle represent the different ways that audiences can engage with content and entertainment (in the broadest sense). The closer your brand is to the centre of the circle, the smaller the distance between you and your audience.
Broadcast entertainment consumed in a passive way. Stuff people watch or 'eat up' (e.g traditional TV).
This denotes a level of interaction. Audiences can play with the entertainment (e.g music festival, mobile game)
The audience can influence the content (e.g ARG, user generated content)
People are enabled to share the content with others (e.g video sharing sites like Youtube)
Eat. Play. Shape. Share.
It's a handy matrix when exploring ways that audiences can engage with entertainment.
Use it wisely.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
What if every single brand in Australia that currently talks (or even shouts) at its audience with television advertising, turned to entertainment and conversation instead.
Does anyone know just how many advertisers that would be?
We'd be swamped with witty brand repartee and genuine responses to our gripes. We'd have games coming out of our ears and reality TV burning holes in our eyes. User generated content would be waking us up in the morning, and provenance documentaries would be sending us to sleep at night.
As brand entertainment further encroaches on marketing, ideas like Spreadable Media (thanks Faris) and the Natural Selection of Interesting (thanks Laith) will become increasingly important.
Ensuring you're delivering against a consumer need will be just as paramount.
And enabling your audience as curators, consumers, creators and conversationalists should be a no brainer.
The thing I like about it is there is a clearly defined role for the brand aka "Lov it, Lacta". It's not a love story about chocolate. Or about people who love chocolate. Or who are stuffing their face with chocolate while pursuing love.
It's a genuinely entertaining love story and Lacta is the architect, the entertainer, the enabler - the brand is ultimately what allows you to progress the narrative (unique codes on pack can help you unravel the trickier bits).
It feels like they've missed a trick with their Facebook effort. They could have really engaged people in the telling of serendipitous tales of love and "whatever happened to that guy I met on..." kinda stories.
Still. I like it. What about you?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
This is a list of just some of the entertainment vehicles brands now have at their disposal.
Some list hey?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
6. Don't build it if they're not going to come
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Honeyshed has relaunched, and while it might be NEW and IMPROVED I'm not sure it comes with a MONEYBACK GUARANTEE.
Sorry. I can't help but use bad home shopping analogies.
Honeyshed is billed as 'home shopping' for a new generation, but you know, a steak knife is still a steak knife. And while infomercials have sold plenty of those over the years, the question is whether it's relevant to the 'digital generation'.
While the jury's still out, I'm looking forward to ordering my Alexander McQueen gut buster.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Last week, creative outfit Three Drunk Monkeys emerged as the brains behind 30 seconds. Carat has just poached Tim Flattery (ex Mitchells, Becker) for its branded content post. Tooheys is launching a reality TV show with Radical Media. TCO is flying (as always) with a Sam Smith announcement. And Samedi is teasing us with a few videos uploads on said youtube channel (more on that later).
Is brand entertainment in Australia about to grow up? I think yes.
Anyone know of any other exciting new announcements which support my humble theory?
Sunday, November 9, 2008
It borrows from the six degrees idea. Essentially they're looking for four new reality TV guinea pigs. To enter, you nominate your hero, and the five people that will get you there 'within six degrees'. If you win, you go off travelling about the place, meeting each of your chosen ones (over a beer of course). They'll send a crew with you and hey presto...there's your TV show.
Feels kinda loose. To take a leaf out of Clay Shirky's blog, maybe that's a good thing
It's a topical play on a social convention
Six degrees is a social media marketer's wet dream (whooh Tooheys)
Content is in the hands of consumers (go Tooheys)
Hey they're doing something in brand entertainment. That's a tick.
They've been doing a bit of forum spamming (oh no Tooheys)
Entirely talent dependent. Could go either way. But I kinda like that.
When asking people to really get involved, it helps to demonstrate what you're asking them to do
Where's the social media bit? (oh woe Tooheys)
Tell me there's a social media bit.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
In this instance, the filmmaker utilised the brands in shot and then 'allegedly' asked permission from their owners. Permission was refused, so he dropped the Merc from the slum scenes and removed the Coke label from the bottle.
M&V also commented on the challenges of product placement in blockbuster films:
Slumdog presents an entertainment marketing conundrum: Only a handful of companies have the global presence to benefit from the worldwide exposure that a motion picture generates.
I think the real quandry is that unless product placement is contextually relevant (or culturally resonant), it struggles to do anything much. Particularly for brands like Coke and Mercedes. Especially in a mass platform like a global film release. Certainly not as a standalone piece of communication.
Update: There's a series of opinion pieces on product placement in this month's Marketing Magazine. Check it out.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Update: The laughs continue with Palin's aides revealing she thought Africa was a country
Friday, October 31, 2008
This isn't an exhaustive list so feel free to add your own No. 6.
If I were Jane McGonigal, I would also talk about the way that brands can engineer happiness by creating an alternate branded reality that's better than our unbranded reality. But I'll leave that to the brilliant lady herself.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"The internet is fast becoming a cesspool where false information thrives....brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool."
With 12 hours of video being uploaded to Youtube every minute (the equivalent of 250 always on channels with no repeats) you can see why it's on the man's mind.
It's also been on mine - it's going to be interesting to observe the evolving role of brands in creating and curating entertainment that resonates with audiences (if you missed Jane McGonigal's fantastic presentation on 'The Rise of the Happiness Brands' you can view it here).
Within our own networks, people we perceive to possess real social capital directly influence the entertainment we consume. I trust my friend Sonya's advice on anything fashion-ish and the cARTel's* advice when it comes to art gallery stuff.
But brands can help too - particularly online. If I know a brand suggests something edgy (American Apparel) or just plain interesting (HBO); if it represents credibility within a certain subject (like Johnsons does in baby) then that trusted signal can steer me through the cesspool and straight to the good stuff. And, it helps me build my social network capital.
I reckon it's a win win. What do you reckon?
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I was scratching around for examples of episodic short format content when I came across Nescafe's Love over Gold campaign from the 80s.
I have to say it's really good. This tension-filled love story between a foxy fellow (so English) and his classy looking neighbour had me hooked.
Sometimes my job is really fun.
Update: You know I just had an idea thanks to Faris' comment. Tourism Australia are spending $40M on their advertising campaign right? We're not talking spare change here people. And we know distance is a significant barrier to people travelling to Australia...
What if they cut their budget in half and gave away $20M worth of flights? Think of the word of mouth, free PR, the stories, the feel good factor! It would be huge! And they'd still get thousands of visitors spending their hard earned currency on our shores.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Towards the end of Friday, I began to get a bit twitchy. I started tapping my foot at the roundtables and fidgeting in the plenarys. Because if there was one thing that was notably absent from discussions it was....audiences. That's right, the very people we were ultimately gathered together to serve and who are in effect, the executives with real power in the entertainment business.
Thankfully, the awesome Gary Hayes turned up bright and early on Saturday morning and gave an enthralling talk on social media entertainment and the rise of virtual worlds. You can see his presentation here.
The other surprising thing was even after admitting my branded intentions, no one hunted me down in the bathroom and held me hostage under the hair dryer. In fact it prompted some unexpected conversations including one with Mike Cowap from Screen Australia on his organisation's view of funding models which incorporate brand involvement.
Well done to the SPAA folks for a really stimulating couple of days.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I'm also reading a great book at the moment by intellectual gymnast, acidic commentator and writer David Mamet. Bambi vs Godzilla is a series of tell-all-tales on the nature of Hollywood. His blatant disregard for the titans of the movie business makes for some sharp and funny writing. In addition, Mamet provides some fascinating insights into the art of the screenplay - below are the questions he believes every scene in your film must answer:
1. Who wants what from whom
2. What happens if they don't get it
3. Why now
The simplicity of a great story.
This little film inspired the book's title. A classic animation from 1969.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Firstly because it's designed for global interaction appearing in 10 different languages. Secondly, because they've introduced it with a TVC rather than using digital media to enable discovery and pull us into the story. Thirdly, because they're using a mix of digital and more traditional media like outdoor and radio. And last, because I'm looking forward to observing how they utilise social media (so far I've just checked out Jade Yu's facebook page).
The drama unfolds over six weeks after which time "the characters' stories will confront crucial decisions that will affect their future."
I've had an initial look at the website but it's hard to get a picture of the interconnected lives of the characters and who they are. Maybe this is just the beginning.
Here's the ad.
Let me know what you think.
Update: I wanted to like this. I really did. But I've given it a crack and it's like reading through a random bunch of text messages from people you don't know and aren't necessarily that interested in. I think the important thing in narrative driven games is to enable both shallow and deep participation, but I can't find the right entry point for me in this one.
One of the simple (and often overlooked) virtues of brand entertainment is its ability to influence category growth. Brand entertainment can be very effective in stimulating consumer demand and giving the category a leg up.
A good example of this is The Block, 'the original' Aussie renovation show. Crass and gratuitous product placement eventually sent its ratings into freefall (who could forget the chocolate cameos) but at its peak The Block was delivering 3million + viewers.
The program tapped into our burgeoning obsession with home renovation and spawned a bunch of copycat formats. It picked us up off the couch and sent us rushing off to purchase matching tablewares. It inspired bathroom makeovers and kitchen refreshers. Not to mention our greedy appetite for home lifestyle magazines.
Similarly, UK hardware retailer B&Q invested a million pounds several years back in a DIY show for ITV. Due to the UK's hefty restrictions on in-program advertising, its association was limited to run of the mill sponsorship benefits. However B&Q's primary purpose was to drive growth in a flat category. The company knew they would directly benefit from the flow on effect in sales.
The deteriorating economic situation means some categories are already under pressure. This is the ideal time for brands to explore entertainment opportunities which might give their category that much needed shot in the arm.
Friday, October 17, 2008
This may be still too nebulous. It's hard to capture the meaning without being too broad or too narrow.
p.s take a look at Natalie Wood playing Gypsy Rose Lee, the original mistress of burlesque and a lady born to entertain
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The article notes that for the 18-49 demographic, Heroes and The Office are delivering between 42% and 48% of their audience numbers respectively, via delayed viewing. For 90210 this figure is more like 53%.
That's means around HALF the audiences for these shows are recording their favourite programs, watching them later, and more than likely skipping through the ads.
We might be watching more TV but our viewing behaviour has changed dramatically. We're no longer willing to forgive the interruption of advertising when tools like PVRs mean we don't have to.
Brands need to work harder to understand the entertainment needs of their audiences. We live in an entertainment culture, and if audiences are the new entertainment executives, brands are queuing up to audition.
"Empowerment" is an oft quoted, and rarely substantiated characteristic of Western aid programs. But in this instance, thanks to the right support (and the amazing Rosanna Barbero), the women themselves made this a reality. Previously isolated and stigmatised, they began to join forces in a grassroots movement to agitate for social change, dignity, rights and a life free from discrimination and harassment.
My researched centred around the sex worker program - Women's Network for Unity. At the end of my time there, a splintered, geographically isolated group of women had morphed into a social collective numbering more than 5,000. Through this grassroots network, they provided each other with emotional support, education and assistance. They came together for collective decisionmaking, lobbied government, campaigned loudly on World AIDS Day and celebrated with each other on International Womens Day.
All this against a backdrop of poverty and adversity. And all without the tools of social media that have become so central to the modern day notion of a collective. It was one of the most inspiring times of my life.
Monday, October 13, 2008
David Dale's piece on network copy-catting highlights an opportunity for brands and TV programmers to work together. Sounds crazy but it's true.
Brands spend millions of dollars a year in understanding what consumers want, need or at least might think they need (Proctor & Gamble alone spends $200m annually). A lot of time is spent exploring how these insights intersect with wider trends in culture, changing social norms, the socio-economic landscape and category developments. Launching a product because you can is not reason enough. Just ask Google. Its 'always start with the user' mantra as been a formula for success.
This approach contrasts markedly with the way networks launch new programs. As David Dale points out:
Television programming has always gone in waves - a station notices that another station has a hit, assumes that represents a trend in public taste, and copies what it imagines to be the most appealing details.
Network product launches revolve around the latest trends at sales conferences, what's working for their competitors and largely superficial observations on why a format has sparked interest from audiences. I'm not suggesting we research the bejesus out of everything. We all know that's a recipe for the death of original ideas. Only that more often than not, networks are second guessing the needs of their viewers.
TV programmers are extremely skeptical about what role brands have to play in developing television entertainment (other than they're paying for it). Yet it occurs to me that brands (and their agencies) have oodles of expertise in understanding consumer behaviour. This is the ammunition they have to blast us with new products and ideas.
Surely there's an opportunity for brands to work with networks to better understand their audiences and support the development of ideas that break the mould or even just entertain us. At the very least, it might give us a break from the CSI franchise.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
It's a series of ads posted on Youtube. About which I'm not allowed to comment as the 'add comments' function has been disabled. If you don't want people playing with your idea, don't take on social media.
The brand makes a feeble attempt to recruit me in its efforts to 'take a stand against bland'; a movement which is basically meaningless and culturally irrelevant. Its ultimate failure is the refusal to let me get involved. What kind of cause is this? Blandaid ignores the concept of community inherent in a channel like Youtube. It breaks with the conversational nature of social media, effectively hijacking it with a one way message. I know this post is harsh but in the words of J'aime "no offence but it's true". And I for one, am taking a stand.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Subliminal advertising? Have we returned to the era of The Hidden Persuaders? Network Ten has had an official rap over the knuckles from the ACMA for their use of 'subliminal advertising' in last year's ARIAs broadcast.
I find Network Ten's role in this B-list scandal to be bizarre. First, because this kind of simplistic trickery is hugely devaluing for brands in an era of transparency. And second, because it's a technique that came under fire decades ago and has never really been proven effective. Hopefully, in 2008 Ten will find more interesting ways to add value to sponsors of the ARIAs.
With an election campaign of movie length proportions, an entertainment driven tactic to engage voters feels appropriate. Yes. Let's make voting fun!
The more I think about it, the more I like it. It really plays with some of the conventions of a traditionally "serious" category.
Obama clearly wins the prize for his social media nouse. Let's see how Paris and her quest for "fake" campaign unfolds. And whether they've thought beyond a couple of spoof videos, into how it might really permeate culture and increase voter turnout.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
O Estado De S. Paulo , a major Sao Paulo daily asked readers what news and pictures they'd like to see gracing the front page of their Sunday paper. Sunday subscribers received a blank front page one week with a kind of "fill in the boxes" challenge which readers could complete online. The following Sunday, those that submitted their own front pages were sent personalised editions of the paper (around 1,000 people). It was sponsored by Nissan as part of its 'escape the pattern' campaign. Interesting media tactic, but at what cost to the masthead?
In recent years, there's been a trend for publications to invite readers to take
on editorial roles (Girlfriend's reader produced issue being a notable example).
Only this isn't about entertainment consumption, it's about news. Who would
you trust to bring you the most relevant news of the day? A credible (?) daily
newspaper or you at your most imaginative from a week prior? Has anyone
seen a good example of where an initiative like this has added real value for
both a publication and its readers?
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Last night I saw the gentle, wild and kind of eccentric ingenue Goldfrapp at the Sydney Opera House. It was pretty sublime. I actually resorted to doing a little mobile filming which a) I never do and b) looked pretty crappy from all the way up in the nosebleed section. The point is, I wanted some way of reliving the experience. I came out of the concert and was greeted by a dull dull dull range of merchandise at the desk. The very same stuff that's been selling at gigs for decades. I realised merch-makers still have their heads in vinyl.
What I wanted was a personalised souvenir from the experience. Poster schmoster and I can download the album on i-tunes. Why not text me a link to download a clip from the night? Enable over the top hyperbolic gushing with other fans. Or give me a little post concert grab that really captured the moment for the band - they were clearly overwhelmed by the crowd's reaction. This idea of helping us relive the experience is something not just the music industry but brands could really learn from. The experience doesn't have to stop there. Help me keep it going.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
For any ladies already burdened by the weight of the man drought, Taken Out would have been a frightening experience. Some of the blokes on trial made Willie Mason look like Alain de Botton and while it sounds as though the folks at Fremantle struggled with the casting, I’m still pondering why anyone ever thought this show would be a success.
It doesn’t have any roots in contemporary culture or draw on any really juicy truths. At best it borrows from the superficial art of selection that characterises online dating. But c'mon... romance…it’s seriously rich territory.
There is a huge public appetite for this kind of fodder. We’ve got more than a million singles on RSVP, a million more unmarried adults now than a decade ago (just ask Bernard), and a heap of yummy mummys and dapper daddies on the hunt for a shiny new partner.
I’d like to see RSVP make the first move and put a dating show at the heart of their marketing strategy. Imagine how much they know about the modern day mating game. And what it could do for their brand.