Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pixar and collective creativity

"How Pixar fosters collective creativity" is a fantastically informative and inspiring article from the Harvard Business Review by Ed Catmull, co-founder and President of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.

I've read it a few times over the last week and for me it lifts the lid on Pixar's magical fusion of commerciality and creativity. It really calls out Pixar's championing of ideas, free thinking and most importantly, people, all within a highly structured and carefully considered framework.

It also highlights the importance of trust and letting go of what you think you know - something that's incredibly challenging in any marriage of creativity and commercial thinking.

A must read.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Branded fun and games on Twitter

Image via PSFK

I'm still at the stage where stumbling across a brand's involvement in Twitter piques my curiosity.

Agencies haven't yet been struck down by the Twitter version of an affliction that hit them not so long ago called 'the answer to everything is a Facebook application'.

Maybe it's not far off but I'm still really interested in how people are utilising it in campaigns and otherwise.

Currently the @Ispylevis initiative is surprising smooth urban-y types on Australian city streets with free pairs of Levis - they've using Twitter to both post winner pics and announce their geographical location in real time (a bit like a digital version of the Black Thunders only cooler).

Last week Adage reported on Twitter's role in launching Eminem's new album Relapse. The magazine observed (with just a hint of hyperbole) that since first releasing the new album artwork on Twitter in April, @eminem has generated some impressive results:

By using Twitter to dispense short, often disturbing thoughts and links to multimedia components revolving around a mental institution, they've helped make the album the most highly anticipated hip-hop release of the year -- and set it up for a sequel in the second half of 2009.

Then today I saw this via @PSFK, a puzzle style Twitter game to help launch Sony's new Terminator film. You can check our their article here, or get involved yourself by following @resistance2018.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Change is a process: innovation in the minds of networks and kids

Lately it seems we've become even more obsessed with predicting the death of everything

Two things I came across on Friday brought to mind Mark Twain's much remarked upon quote:

Reports of my death are an exaggeration

On Friday I read this piece in the NY Times giving a roundup of the major announcements at this year's US Network Upfronts. In particular, it reported Network plans to both create and expand on strategies to link advertisers more closely with content. 

One example was Turner Network's TVinContext:

Turner’s “TVinContext” initiative will look to place advertising content adjacent to relevant scenes. For example, a scene in the theatrical film Hitch in which actor Will Smith has an allergic reaction to something he ate would be followed immediately with a spot for the allergy medicine Zyrtec.

The fact that this (hardly new) strategy is being announced as the year's big innovation, gives you a sense of not just where Networks are at, but to a degree, clients and audiences as well. It's also interesting in that the 2008 Upfronts were dominated by discussions about branded content rather than contextual or integrated advertising.  

Does this mean we're sliding backwards? More like sideways.

A few minutes later, I was reminded of this illuminating video from Peter Hirschberg's TED Talk on the future of TV and the internet (via avc.com)

Taking in these two things in quick succession, simply reminded me the pace of change is uneven and unpredictable, and that change is a process rather than an event.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Great Adspace Pioneers post: 12 films utilising social media marketing

Over at Adspace Pioneers, Julian Cole has assembled a list of 12 films utilising social media in their marketing efforts.

A great resource and worth checking out.

It's time for networks to change their attitude towards brand entertainment

One of the frustrations of working in brand entertainment space is that TV network programmers remain unconvinced of brand funded television's merits. It's something we're constantly banging our heads against.

While prime time shows like Australian Idol and Australia's Next Top Model are network commissioned, they are at the very least part brand funded when you consider the role that sponsors, contra and licensing play in generating revenue and saving dollars on the bottom line.

As programming budgets shrink, and audiences fragment, we'll see an increasing move towards the part commissioned, part brand funded TV model which is a great thing for this market. (Nine's Homemade is a classic example of this, although the response from audiences suggests they're not finding it overly entertaining).

Currently, in the minds of network programmers, '100% brand funded television' still equates to a fundamental trade off between entertainment quality and advertiser needs. It means off-peak scheduling and free programming for a slot they'd rather not worry about.

They're inherently suspicious, their policies around brand entertainment tend to change fairly regularly, and despite the obvious benefits (delivering value to audiences and brands, higher yields, lower programming costs), there is, as someone said to me recently, "still a bit of a stink" around it.

The most frustrating thing is the artificial dichotomy between the potential entertainment value in a commissioned show, versus a brand funded show. Small screen history is littered with discarded network shows that failed to rate and cost big money.

Who says a brand funded show can't be entertaining? Or can't deliver a big audience?

There's no doubt that brand funded TV producers are partially to blame for the 'down and dirty' reputation. In the past this kind of programming has been characterised by lower production values, a plethora of logos, and a crappy offpeak timeslot.

This was because producers were forced to monetise poor timeslots by over capitalising on the number of brands involved. They were often bending over backwards to squeeze dollars from skeptical marketers, who then approached the content as they would an ad - more logos please!

This paradigm is now old and outdated.

The reality is that there are many more places for producers to distribute brand funded content - in a sense, the TV element is becoming a launch-pad or marketing tool for a bigger content play online.

In addition, marketers are a hell of a lot more sophisticated. They recognise the danger of compromising the entertainment integrity, and the audiences' interests. If brands are not providing value for an audience, they might as well spend their money on something else.

Overall, if the dynamics of brand funded TV are to change, network attitudes have to change.

Network support = bigger budgets = better production values = better timeslot = better marketing support = better value for brands = less brands required to fund the proposition.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

V Raw: embracing your inner casserole

In these early wintry months I've been dusting off my big pot and making some tasty soups and casseroles (try this lovely Italian vegetable soup with celeriac and borlotti beans).

Without a doubt, these hearty dishes always taste better the next day, when the flavours have had a chance to infuse.

I think a few more marketers need to embrace their inner casserole and give their campaigns a bit more time on the stove (see this previous post on taking the long view of brand entertainment).

So it's great to see Frucor and OMD have brought back the highly successful V Raw campaign.

The strength of this campaign was always its insight around young people and their lack of access to creative industry jobs - something that is even more pertinent in this climate.

Once again, V has teamed up with folks at places like Diesel and The Glue Society to offer internships to aspiring young creatives.

Start knocking at that door.