Monday, December 22, 2008

Next year: it's gonna be big

It's going to be a big year for brand entertainment in 2009, so I'm taking some time off to finish my new Christmas album and indulge in some festivities.

See you in the new year. Bright and early.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mad Men and Twitter: it's a great story

I just can't get enough of the conversation around Mad Men and Twitter.

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

Since when did ads become 'digital films'?

There's been lots of interesting rants and observations recently about the misuse and appropriation of labels like viral and social media.

I thought it was high time I chimed in with my own.

I'm not against labels per say. 

They can be oppressive, and inherently construct a definition of 'the other' through exclusion. They can be used by the dominant culture to maim minorities.

But they can also engender a sense of pride and belonging, and help us 'identify' with ourselves or others.

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.

Since when did ads become digital films? 

Since TVCs found their way online, online production budgets opened up and content became 'cool'.

I don't want to be a hand wringing pedant but an ad is an ad is an ad.

At what point can we say something is a film versus an ad?

Film is an artform. If you believe Wikipedia, it's also a 'cultural artefact' that reflects and affects the world around us.

I like my filmic friend Jaydub's thoughts on this subject:

A film tells a narrative to entertain, explore the human condition or make commentary. That's not to say an ad can't tell a narrative or any of the above, but if the biggest point of an ad is to sell a product, calling it a film is fanciful self promotion and an insult to the institution of scriptwriters, directors and film industry professionals.

The democratisation of production and distribution means that the art of film making is no longer just the domain of industry.

It means brands have a role to play too.

But that doesn't change the basic nature of what connects a film to its audience. 

In simple terms, a brand funded film needs to have the entertainment and the audience as the primary concerns - ahead of the brand. 

Otherwise, it's really just an ad.

So agencies, choose carefully and claim with pride. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Twitter, TV and social consumption

Over the last few weeks, my television viewing has become much more social.

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.

 Twitter is influencing the way we involve ourselves in entertainment. For recent discussions on this, check out Ben's conversion to Mad Men and  Fallon's work with the Sci Fi Channel and Eureka.

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

Don't they know it's entertainment

When we talk about user generated content or consumer created entertainment, we're generally referring to the digital species.

Saturday's Do they know it's not Band Aid Christmas Spectacular not only raised more than $2,000 for Icee, but reminded me of the joys to be found in content creation of the old fashioned kind.

This was no loser generated content effort. Oh no.

With a little help from their friends, Emma and Sonya put on a spectacular night of 80s tunes, and not just from the DJ booth (thanks to Chris aka one half of the Pedestrian boys).

Hosted by the charming, disarming and generally hilarious Kate Smith, talented friends performed numbers by artists who were part of the original Band Aid - Bob Dylan, Bowie and The Bangles.

Of course, we all knew where the night was heading. We were hurtling happily towards a We are the World group sing-along with Bob, Bono and the rest.

Willie made an appearance too

It did get me thinking about what can enable this sort of entertainment - the kind that is enjoyed by a few friends, in a little gallery in Darlinghurst, for a good cause.

And even though there's something nice about the homespun variety, the world of digital means that if we really wanted to, we could turn our little concert into something much bigger.

Hey, who knows, next Christmas there could be groups of people all over swilling cheap wine and singing red faced as they clutch their Stevie Wonder cut out and sway in unison.

p.s Thanks to Emma B for the great pics

Saturday, December 6, 2008

One brand or many? That is the question

The question that many clients are asking themselves at the moment is ‘should I go brand entertainment alone or partner with others?’

There is no right answer, but there are a few questions you can ask.
1. Who are you talking to? 
What do you know about their attitudes towards entertainment; their needs and behaviours?

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
Ask yourself things like….

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?

Or quite simply, ask yourself how can they make your brand more entertaining?

Monday, December 1, 2008

An audience led model for entertainment

This is one of my favourite Stickywood tools. It's ridiculously simple and really useful.

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.