Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What if brand entertainment took over?

As I was walking to work this morning, I had a thought.

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.

A love story that's not about chocolate

Check out Loveatfirstsite, a Lacta chocolate online entertainment effort from the Ogilvy Worldwide team in Athens.

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

The year sponsorship dollars migrated to the virtual world

Sport and music. These passions help define us, connect us with likeminded folks, enable self expression and generally make us happy. They also happen to be squillion dollar industries that attract major sponsorship dollars from brands around the globe.

With the launch of Football Superstars and Music Mogul, 2008 just might go down as the year traditional sponsorship dollars began migrating from the real world to the virtual world.

Football Superstars is a massively multiplayer online game, where fans can emulate the on and off-pitch lives of footballers they've long envied. Alongside thousands of fellow players, they can train, create their own side... maybe even work their way to the top of the ladder and indulge in the hedonistic lifestyle enjoyed by their offline heroes (WAGs, virtual scandals etc etc). Its currently recruiting enthusiasts at a rate of 3-4,000 a day.

Sponsors who've signed up so far include Puma and more recently Reebok. While Puma's brand integration sounds very Second Life, Reebok will bridge the virtual-real world divide with its ambassador program; a search for real world amateur players who will compete for sponsorship.

Last week, Music Mogul announced its arrival. A team of video game and music industry heavyweights are behind this online virtual music world gearing up for its first preview this week. Set in a virtual LA, Music Mogul will provide music wannabes with an industry backed Idol style competition. Described as 'a virtual world with real world benefits', users will also be able to share performance videos, attend virtual album releases, undertake missions to earn real world rewards, and well, live life like a rockstar. No brand partners have yet been announced.

Unlike worlds like Second Life and Habbo Hotel, Football Superstars and Music Mogul are built around existing offline passions and as such, have ready made, highly involved tribes prepared to spend time and money on their hobby.

Sports and music fans are willing participants in both the community and commercial aspects of their passion. And they will no doubt be attracted to the idea of converting their real world aspiration into a virtual reality. It's this connection to aspiration that has long fuelled the sponsorship strategies of brands from Coca-Cola to Adidas.

The challenges for brands partnering with virtual worlds are not unlike those they face in the world we know. Creating a global platform while building local programs, enhancing the consumer experience, broader business integration, and delivering the right return on investment.

Still, it will be interesting to see which ones get it right.

p.s I visited Music Mogul last week and it was nothing more than a holding page, but there was no tool allowing me to sign up. Opportunity lost. Poor first experience. I emailed them and was told "Thankyou for your interest. The site will formally launch on Nov 24 and you can register then". Yeah but...oh don't worry about it. I'm betting the experience will improve.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Too many entertainment choices: and not just for audiences

This is a list of just some of the entertainment vehicles brands now have at their disposal.

Some list hey?

You can see why marketers might be overwhelmed.

Here's a list of all the things you need to think about when sifting through the opportunities

OK so it's a tad more complicated, but people tend to skip this bit.

Start here and you're on your way.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Postsecret and my first i-pod

Starting a blog is a little bit like the first time you get hold of an i-pod. 

You find yourself spending hours downloading all your CDs, and scouring the web for old faves. Then there's the joy of new discoveries. And remixes. At parties, you're the one leading the music charge and the i-pod war. 

In quieter times, you retreat for many hours beneath a set of little white headphones (much to the chagrin of some).

The best bit is when you dust off an old favourite and rekindle the flame...that tune you'd forgotten you even had. The one that reminds you of...oh..never mind.

That happened to me in a blogging sense today when I dug out my old and almost forgotten friend, Postsecret

If you don't know it, get acquainted. I also recommend the books by Frank Warren.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Planning your brand entertainment experiment

Over the last week I've been checking in on the Corolla Ninja Kittens post on Campaign Brief. It's the comments that got my attention with no less than 94 opinions shared - it's essentially a tirade of negative sentiment punctuated by some congratulatory chatter and inside info on a creative honcho's penchant for dwarfs and strange animals. Tough audience.

Expect more of the same from this audience because traditional marketers are becoming more willing to experiment with brand entertainment. They're sticking their heads above the trenches.

This is in part driven by digital media taking some of the guesswork and much of the expense out of this kind of experiment. What's more, digital transparency means even the crudest measurement efforts can generate useful learnings. And quickly.

As we move into an era of experimentation, we can look forward to a few Eureka moments and plenty of false prophets. And no doubt we'll be hearing about it on Campaign Brief.

So here's a few questions to ask yourself when doing your laboratory testing. I'm not sure if this will help you avoid an industry caning but it might improve the results of your experiment.

1. Understand your audience' entertainment needs
It's not enough to produce something entertaining and spruik it in places where they spend time. Think about your audience' needs and behaviours around entertainment. How do these play out in the context of different channels?
2. Know your place
Identify a clear role for the brand in the entertainment, and the place for entertainment in your communications. If you don't have a reason to be there, audiences won't have a reason to stick around.

3. Define your entertainment challenge
We talk about this one a lot. Entertainment can do and be lots of things. What's the central problem your entertainment strategy is going to help you address?

4. Build your strategy
Apply the same rigour here as you would to your communications strategy. What's the solution to your entertainment challenge? What contact points should you be exploring? How might the brand behave in these environments? What kind of social object are you creating? How will you engage the audience? As curators, consumers, creators and conversationalists?

5. Pick your partners
What creative partners will help you realise your ambition? Do you need help to create an idea from scratch? Or the right producer to turn your idea into a viable entertainment concept? Think about specialist skills you require. A television comedy series is a long way from a narrative driven game.

6. Don't build it if they're not going to come
The content cesspool means there's no room for a 'build it and they will come' mentality. What does your distribution matrix look like? What distribution partners do you need? How does your commercial model stack up? How might other brand partners help you deliver against your entertainment challenge, offset financial risk or help extend your distribution?

7. For good measure
How will you know if you're successful? This should clearly link back to your original challenge and strategy. Do you need to undertake an assessment 'pre, during and post'? What tracking tools might be required?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Honey, the infomercial is the oldest trick in the book

If you were wondering what became of home shopping posterchild Honeyshed, check out this post from Greg Verdino - it's a nice little survey of the site's potted history and new ambitions.

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

Brand entertainment on the rise

Is it just me or...

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

Tooheys and its six beers of separation

Check out the hyper produced super slick website for Tooheys Extra Dry's new 6 Beers of Separation campaign. Nice hey.

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
Nice fit with the brand
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

Product Placement 101: make it believable

Interesting piece from Madison & Vine on Coke, Mercedes and a new film called Slumdog Millionaire. It seems the squalid shantytowns of Mumbai did not add up to an ideal backdrop for either brand.

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.

There you have it: product displacement.

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.

It has to be believable.

One of the most enduring entertainment marriages is that of 007 and his faithful Aston Martin. The car has featured in no less than five Bond films, including the just released Quantum of Solace.

Interestingly, Jam has taken a look at the buzz generated by brands who've spent 50 million pounds getting Daniel Craig to call on that phone while driving that car and sipping on that drink. On the surface, it appears that at least one brand - Ford - is generating considerable talkability. But scratch below, and the plot thickens. Amongst both die-hards and mainstream audiences, the tone of conversation around Ford's involvement is overwhelmingly negative.

Having Bond speeding away in a Ford is akin to him sleeping with a cardigan clad house frau.

People just don't buy it.

Update: There's a series of opinion pieces on product placement in this month's Marketing Magazine. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sarah Palin, comedy and election 2.0

It's the race that stopped the nation and I'm not talking about the Melbourne Cup.

There's been lots of insightful discussion about Election 2.0, and for me it's been interesting to see that it's tickled America's funnybone. Not only have Americans re-engaged with the politics, they've been laughing all the way to the polling booth.

Tina Fey's uncanny Sarah Palin impersonation has sent Saturday Night Live ratings soaring, Paris gave us a giggle with her views on 'fo po' and late night politically comedic shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart have had a field day.

As plenty of commentators have pointed out, there is no shortage of material. But I also wonder if it's symptomatic of America's gloomy mood? After all, history has shown that in difficult times, people turn toward entertainment to 'forget their troubles and get happy'.

Have performers hit comedy gold or does it signal something more?

Either way, for Sarah Palin, sketch show parodies and prank phone calls have created a pseudo entertainment campaign. The defining kind, but the wrong kind.

Update: The laughs continue with Palin's aides revealing she thought Africa was a country