Monthly Archives: March 2010
It doesn’t feel like I’ve been here in Austin for four days now and that I am writing about Day four already. You know how the saying goes, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself.
Well this morning, in true Brit style, we had rain today to accompany The Great British Breakfast at Paradise Cafe. Gutted I missed it because of the heavy traffic going Downtown, so ended up at Champions at The Marriott instead, which worked out well as I was heading to the MacGruber panel first thing.
Compared to other Universal releases MacGruber was made with a microbudget of $10m. It stars Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Will Forte, Seth Meyers, Powers Boothe and Kristin Wiig. The chemistry of the team was apparent especially of Forte, Taccone and Wiig. Here’s the cast recreating the surprised kitten viral video with director Jorma Taccone:
After catching up with some more friends in South Congress (SoCo as it is more commonly known), I headed back to the ACC once more for another panel on the parent/teen divide over social media.
One of the teens in the panel, said that it is important that parents know about their children having social media accounts. However, it transpired that most teens don’t tell their parents that they are on things like Facebook and MySpace. There were two parents in the panel. The less technical out of the two said that she wanted to learn more about social networking in order for her to guide her kids through them.
After this session, I met up with a few more WM delegates. We headed to Latitude, where a Q&A session with Motorhead’s Lemmy took place. He was interviewed by Johnny Doom from Kerrang.
Post Lemmy, we all went to dinner at Geisha and then went back to Latitude for Britbash. Tomorrow is going to be a more relaxed day now that panels are over and looking forward to a what was reported to be a ‘glorious day ahead’.
Friends, you can check out my SXSW photos on Facebook.
Brilliant start to the day thanks to UKTI, who gave the West Midlands delegates a chance to visit the Texan State Capitol. Learned a lot about Texas’ fight for independence, its forefathers and the inside workings of the Texan government.
After this, it was a stroll back to the Convention Centre to just catch up on some folk. Lunch was in order and went with a few WM friends at a beer garden and I had tacos. A post-lunch Key Note from Twitter CEO Evan Williams was in order, so headed to one of the Ballrooms to listen to him speak.
He talked about the interesting use of Twitter – e.g. after Chilean earthquake. Twitter was improving communication as people are able to get in touch with one another during disaster time. This, he said, was very gratifying for Twitter. He mentioned that they always held it important for Twitter to reach the ‘weaker signals’. SMS still important to them because it can reach people, especially those who are on the other side of the digital divide.
He said that getting a short message as long as a Tweet can be very important. So, they’re really working on making a difference in people’s lives.
Evans said that it “comes back to someone getting value out of Twitter, which can include those who don’t have an account and encounter a Tweet via public display or a link. It’s a two-way medium – can be as simple as a RT or a reply – doesn’t have to be a straight broadcast.
He added: “It’s about democraitisation of information that actually changes the world. And we haven’t really realised the full effects of that.”
The CEO said that they have a bit of dichotomy. The goal is not to maximise the things people want to follow. Twitter wants to help direct people’s attention that best interests them. It’s not about spending a long time on Twitter. They actually want to reduce that. Want to be a force for good.
Twitter’s big picture vision/ambition comes down to fostering information. Evan said that they want to give people control over what they want to pay attention to or help them find out what’s happening in the world and what they care about without costing them time or money and this ultimately as Evans puts it “powerful”.
He said that they only do and want to do win-win deals.
“Anyone having to lose out means it’s not sustainable and this is why there aren’t a lot of revenue streams put in place on Twitter at the moment,” he said.
It was good to hear Twitter’s principles: pay attention // make things happen // build trust
He ended with a couple of tips. Firstly, focus – he said it was “ok to do five things at the same time”, but really one still needs to start with one. And finally, think bigger, which is also one of Twitter’s core principles. That night, I met the Twitter bird.
From there, it was a mad dash to the next panel session, which was Packaging, Pitching and Presenting Your Digital Content (#packagepitchpresent on Twitter search).
- Barret Garese
- Max Benator, C10, writer/director/producer – helps figure out content to go online
- Nathan Coyle, digital content practice / develop propositions and secure funding
- Keith Richman, Break Media
- George Ruiz, head of new media (represent a lot of people who are massively popular in the online world)
The first thing they talked about was what is the proper way of approaching a digital agent. Ruiz said usually by referral. He was introduced to internet sensation Felicia Day, however, there have been examples where he’s found the talent online himself. Note that he doesn’t accept unsolicited material.
In terms of who they work with Coyle said that the reality of this medium is truly the “wild, wild west”. It really varies case by case. He worked with platforms like Hulu most of the time and other times he works with an advertiser. He has mentioned this new web series he’s working on – Private – here he worked with Johnson and Johnson.
He mentioned having guidelines – questions asked – to determine whether something will work online:
- Tell me why this wouldn’t work on TV? If there is no answer, then it’s not a good idea. There has to be a good answer about user engagement and a reason why it can’t be achieved on TV.
- How could the idea work and benefit the advertiser.
Benator made a point that you can hit a broad audience online just as much as TV and propositions don’t need to have an overthought web content.
They tackled the current state of digital business in the US. Benator said that there are a few big studios that want to figure out how to get the money to make it work through their digital arms and to be brand friendly. The state is about creating own content as an individual and growing that name and moving to the larger circles and this because there isn’t money in online at the moment.
Ruiz added that if one a first time creator, then it will be “tough” because the established brands will do well. He said that the hardest working producers are going to do well too like Felicia Day and Alex Albright. This is because they’re talking everyday to fans and bloggers and spreading the word. It’s the two-way connectiveness that gets them the attention.
Really enjoyed that and thanks to NATPE for organising the event. Another session they put together was Multiplatform Storytelling with Heroes creator Tim Kring (search #multiplatformstorytelling for conversations).
He started off by showing a clip from the 1950s featuring Prof Marsahll McLuhan. He talked about further audience engagement, which was quite avante gard at the time.
The general message was gone are the days of just pushing content to your audience. Audience participation = higher engagement.
Tim showed a video of the 360 elements of Heroes. He spoke about the notion of “transmedia”, which essentially is about sweating / exploiting the assets and making content available from one platform to another.
He said that the Heroes new media budget comes from NBC. Heroes going multiplatform shows a desire from a big corporation to push new media that met with a TV show that suited their aims, so it created a fantastic collaboration between the show and NBC.
The growth of the $4m per episode show’s multiplatform elements made content important to marketing. But Kring highlighted that you must have a creative force driving this.
He said: “People have to start getting out of the mindset of this one way street of pushing content to people. The audience wants to participiate and connect to a show and want to feel they have some influence and some participation. Participation is a must now for building fandom.”
After a brief chat with him, we may be working together on something when he visits the UK this year, so watch this space.
A margarita or two with some friends at the Radisson started the evening well. I unfortunately had to leave early to get to the world premiere of MacGruber (based on a Saturday Night Live character). Good thing I did leave when I did, because the queue was huge. We all got in 2 hours later and was glad to have got in the packed 1200-seater Paramount cinema. The main cast members were there including Val Kilmer and Ryan Philippe. It had such a great atmosphere thanks to the fans, which made the viewing experience quite memorable. Lots of clapping and laughter, which was a good end to the evening.
I end this post with the movie trailer.
Mad Men is one of my favourite TV dramas of all time and it is interesting to find out that its characters are ‘Tweeting’… speakers Helen Klein Ross and Michael Bissell aka @BettyDraper and @Roger_Stirling stepped out of the Twitterverse to talk about “transforming traditional advertising communication into entertainment” that results to real time conversations integral to building brand share.
Ross said that entetrainment is in the surface of the brand and so it is important to encourage a “participatory entertainment environment” in a service of a brand. She went on to say that the brand used to tell stories that ended when the commercial was over, but now the new advertising is the invitation to participate (e.g. Mad Men Yourself, done by Deep Focus, which is simply about advertars advertising the Mad Men brand).
Something like Made Men Yourself inspires consumers to extend the brand. They use the advertars on their Twitter or Facebook accounts, which their friends and their friends’ friends can see.
Ross said pariticpation is the new metric and that convegence of entertainment and technology gives everybody a chance to participate. Hence, it is important that creative works have a creative technologist – and this is how it should be. Creatives need to think multiplatform today.
So, what kind of results is Mad Men Yourself getting? Well…
- 1m unique visits
- 600,000 avatars created
- 3.3m tuned in season premiere of the actual show
These figures go to show that brand fiction is a new way of advertising.
Another form of brand fiction is Mad Men on Twitter. The TV characters began leading parallel lives in the Twitterverse, giving the audience a new way to connect with the show.
The audience accept the fact that it’s 1963… Ross and Bissell said that it’s interesting to see how characters answer the story. They deal in real time with questions about real time.
Mad Men on Twitter builds engagement. There’s a whole new way of engaging audiences between episodes and between seasons as well as keeping up excitement betweeen episodes and seasons.
Going online via Twitter means they are also attrating new audience among potential fans around the world.
They did say that it is important that they remained rigourously consistent with the characters.
And what about “deeper audience interaction”? Ross said: “We began to create opportunities for deeper audience interaction – instead of Tweeting back to fans – we actually invited them to party – to a virtual tea party (Tea at The Drapers). They’ve also invited others to become part of the fictional universe – like the fictional Carla. Since AMC hasn’t really got full control of this, Ross and Bissell are very much open to getting everyone involved. They are enabling the audience to create stories of their own. Therefore, there is the added dimension to the universe of fan-invented characters ( for example, Perfectsec, @FrankAdman and Bud Melman). Extending it beyond the life of the show = deepr audience engagement.
“We went on to play with the time-space continuum – Tweeting from 1960s to 2010 and invited to live tweet the Clios. Matt Weiner was being given an honorary Clio and some Mad Men characters were Tweeting, in character of course. It was a fun convergence of time,” said Ross.
This led to a “Tweaser”, which was timed for the Season 3 premiere, shown an hour before S3 came on.
Ross and Bissell talked about Mad Worlds Collides. The story is all about Mad Men on Twitter. They prepared the venue, set the stage, promoted the event with Tweets and blog posts, and even ‘sold’ tickets on Eventbrite. Bissell added that peole were just willing to sign up for this and it meant that they are able to track data – they were able to collect names and e-mails of ardent fans, which therefore are good for metrics. This ultimately shows that information can be gathered via brand fiction. Both speakers said that they ensured the event endured beyond the fleeting life of search.twitter.com. They are now more alert to data collection, so they collect hash tags so they can go back and look at the conversations.
The payoff according to them is deepening audeince engagement in the show. It means that they build a new audience base, which in effect leads to goodwill for the brand. The level of deep engagement keeps the show alive between episodes and provides deeper profiles. Mad Men on Twitter was the first fan-based campaign recognised for branding power.
Ross said “just think if Nescafe spots ran today… it would be called branded entertainment these days – it was just called a good commercial then…” And yes, these days Anthony Head’s Nescafe adverts could be working in conjunction with foursquare, match.com, Facebook, Twitter and craiglist. For those of you who don’t know the adverts, here’s a taster:
They tackled the rules of brand fiction:
1 Content is king – success depnds on the quality of the creative
Appoint a dedicacted brand fiction manager
Design a brand fiction canon – highliy detailed account of characters, settings, vernacular rising from central story – most of the stuff in the canon will never see the light of day but still need to have that.
2 Maintain contuinity across the platforms – it’s not an alternative universe – it’s a story told in many different places, but its the same story.
3 Be authentic – content must embody brand values, e.g. Old Spice whistle ringtone – when going cross platform, think about consistency.
4 Be relavant and know your brand fans.
5 Share – respond, retweet, relationship – remember participation is the new metric
6 Don’t trust a bot to do the job of a human, because you can’t automate good content and wit.
7 Dont dilute your brand – if you want to do some cross-promotion, make sure you integrate other brands carefully
8 Campaign assessment of the Scheherezarade factor.
Monitoring = metrics // engagement // redirecting/harnessing // tracking // archiving
9 Don’t underestimate time/effort necessary for success. Digital media is actually quite labour intensive,
10 Have fun.
They left with some words of wisdom: brand fiction has to be part of the overall campaign… it has to be part of the strategy. Also, remember that the issue is about convincing the entertainment brands / making the client understand that something “beautiful” is being created.
Second day here in Austin was a bit more relaxed. As a few fantastic panel sessions were going on at the same time, I was not able to go to ER 2.0, but thanks to Jason Hall (@jasonhall), his notes are really helpful though. They give a good insight into what had been discussed.
I did go to Conversation with Michelle Gondry. It was a packed crossover event but manged to get a good seat. Artist, musician and director Gondry also brought his film “A Thorn in the Heart” to SXSW.
Today was also Tuttle Comes to Texas. Becky and I worked with Twinings to get a selection of British teas over here. Will write about that separately, but very thankful to Twinings for providing the lovely teas.
I then went to the Radisson where Inside the Workings of FunnyOrDie.com took place. Just as a side, as I walked along Congress’ fairly busy street, it was so nice to feel the warmth of the Austin sun and today has just been a glorious day weather-wise.
Anyway, to track the conversation during the FunnyOrDie talk, search for #insidefunnyordie on Twitter. The speakers were Dick Glover – CEO FunnyOrDie – his background is traditional media, mainly ESPN and Andrew Steele – Chief Creative Officer FunnyOrDie– his background is more around the comedy world / television world. I was a bit starstruck because Steele was a head writer for Saturday Night Live, a show that I really like.
Going online is a huge step for them, but proved to be successful. FunnyOrDie has 1.4m Twitter followers. Their videos are riddled with celebs and get millions of views, so now they’ve conquered online and TV, they think that the next natural thing for them is FunnyOrDie making films.
Steele said that they have three strands on FOD – celeb videos, topical videos and just generally funny videos. He said that there is obviously a natural crossover between those three.
They said that the strategy is to get people i.e. celebrities behind the ‘cause’. At this point it was becoming apparent that access is key to the success of FOD. However, although they have all these very high profile people getting involved, big bucks aren’t normally involved. They said that they’re very comfortable workiing with small budgets and the driving force for FOD is creativity.
After that, a bit of chill out time was in order and had iced tea. Went to the SXSW Web Awards Pre-Party. It was at the Hilton, which was nice. Didn’t stay for the main event, but congrats are in order for Channel 4 for their 1066 and Smokescreen victories. Here is a photo of the trophy.
We headed to the beautiful Driskill Hotel. Had breakfast there this morning (French Toast with strawberries and maple syrup) and went for a couple of margaritas before trekking it to the Alamo Draftsman to watch a midnight film Higanjima. It’s a lovely place – very retro and got very amused by the rather kitsch movie trailers and Japanese clips. Here’s a photo from a Japanese clip that they showed.
Tomorrow is going to be an early start – so better sign off now.
Slight regret that I didn’t head to SXSW on Thursday. It meant that I was too jetlagged to find the energy to keep awake for the premiere of Kick Ass starring Nicholas Cage and Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse last night the Paramount. However, having a good night’s sleep (and a fabulous dinner at Moonshine) meant that I had more energy to endure my first day here at SXSW 2010.
So, with the traditional IHOP breakfast, I went to my first panel session called The Powershift: Who Stands Between Creator and Audience. The panel members are below. To find some of the conversations that went on Twitter use #thepowershift.
- Liesl Copland, William Morris Endeavor’s Global Finance & Distribution Group
- Malik Ducard, Paramount
- Tom Quinn, Magnolia Pictures
- Chris Hyams, B-Side Entertainment
- Matt MacNaughton, Musician-Friendly Culture Jam
Although it was focusing mainly on the theatrical side of things, I was interested in the concept of this session because I can see that there has been an apparent “shift” in broadcasting power. When I say broadcasting, I don’t just mean television broadcast, but media as a whole. Basically, it’s not just about the big boys maintaining a strong hold in broadcasting, but the so called little ones are able to broadcast themselves thanks to digital and social media.
The overall message was that the power shift is not completed. It’s still in transition.
Quinn, who is with Magnolia Pictures, stated that the theatrical industry is using more old world marketing, but there have been a lot of innovation with digital marketing. So, he said that he found that they worked with local cable providers and doing promos available via VOD menus that contain extra material and incentivising audience.
Quinn’s company gets support from bloggers and according to him bloggers are the fastest growing audience in the specialised work. He said marketing is peer to peer and this is powerful, which is why blogger support is great. But he added that content is glue to this.
Paramount’s Malik Ducard has the League of Extraordinary Dancers under his belt. He added the fact that innovation is a big contributor to this and Magnolia is doing it well. He said “it’s an industry to break out of standard model which works for a big portion of the content that goes out. It’s our job to press the boundaries of what’s been done and create new approaches that’s outside of the model.” He said that they are workng on creating content that is straight for and produced for digital.
Ducard said that innovation, experimentation and risk taking are the steps to find the right path to go beyond the boundaries.
MacNaughton said it is important to know how to monetise from different models. There is a need to create properties that plug into audiences and use digital and social media. He asked the questions what are the formats that will be of value to adudiences? and what new formats are going to reach audiences?
Hyams then added that there is no magic formula to all these. The key is make sure that there’s a transactional platform that is tied in to the new media stuff. He said that word of mouth is the cheapest and most effective way of marketing and social media effectively allows people / companies to just that.
The best example of power shift they gave was Felicia Day. She produced a series about gamers on YouTube and then cut a deal with Microsoft for exclusive release on the Xbox platform. She was smart to do this because she got a cut in a very generous share. Day has 1.3m Twitter followers, which apparently is more than the New York Times readership. So, she is a content creator who has hold of her audience and the deal she’s cut with MS enabled her to control all IP. But he doesn’t think this is going to be the norm, but still shows the powershift. It’s people who understand social media currency that do quite well.
Ducard added that digital should be interactive and engaging e.g. give audiences a season pass, access to something, which gives them the element of exclusitivity.
After quite a good panel session, I went to the Kick Ass Film Panel. Speakers were:
- John Romita Jr
- Mark Millar
- Aaron Johnson
- Matthew Vaughn
- Chloe Moretz
- Christopher Mitz-Plasse
This was a good session and made me proud as didn’t realise that the write and director are both British – Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn. Had a quick chat with Mark at the end of the session and he was really nice. I suppose my highlight was seeing Chris, who played McLovin in Superbad.
I’ve got a few vids on this, so will be posting those up.
After that, I went around the Trade Show, which was quite nice. Lots of stickers and my personal favourite Mimobot was there. They have released a line of Hello Kitty USB sticks, so I will be purchasing one. Went to visit the Heart of England and Digital Mission stands before embarking on a double chilli dog and rootbeer at Champions opposite the Convention Centre.
Then I ventured to the Hilton where Brand Fiction took place. A very inspiring session and so will be writing about this separately. After this amazing talk, I headed to the Radisson with Ruth (@ruthward) and Sarah (@SarahScreenWM) for a few bevvies before going to Dorkbot. Some really cool stuff at Dorkbot. Here’s a photo I took:
Everyone was famished at the end of Dorkbot, so we all headed to Fogo de Chao for some Brazilian noms. Oh. My. Goodness. It was brilliant. Possibly not ideal for vegetarians (like Becky – @beckycad), but the selection of meat they had in there was fantastic. That with margaritas on the rocks ended the evening perfectly. Oh and here’s a video to cheer you up – it’s a giant hamster we saw by the Convention Centre:
My very first trip to Texas was quite overwhelming and SXSW Film and Interactive has been such a great experience and this is why I am going again. I’m flying from London rather than Birmingham this time around and do watch this space for my 2010 SXSW experiences.
I’m most looking forward to seeing the Midlands crew rocking Austin and meeting up with the rest of the British contingency from London and Bristol over there. Of course, I’m also excited about meeting some very interesting people from around the world, since it feels like almost every country is represented at the festival.
This time, I’m staying longer to get a feel of SXSW Music, so expect margaritas and steak stories from time to time.