Monthly Archives: May 2012

Facebook and General Motors Showing The Gamesmanship Usually Reserved For Playoff Season

Days before Facebook’s IPO, General Motors announced that they were pulling advertising from Facebook. If I didn’t know any better, I would think it was a matter of an established company attempting to stick it to the newest young Turk.  We may never know how much the pulling of around $40 million advertising dollars annually affected the IPO, but it certainly was bad buzz at the wrong time.  And, we certainly may never know what the real story was that led to GM’s pulling out of Facebook advertising. With AdAge reporting an action that may seem to counter GM’s position that Facebook ads were ineffective, and instead felt a little like the kid who wouldn’t play nice, so the other picked up all his toys and left.  Either way, the gamesmanship between Facebook and General Motors points to the fact that all is not what meets the eye when it comes to media and business.

The latest stems from the “understanding” that GM had asked for a larger ad unit – a page takeover that is  the norm on publisher sites, but not on Facebook – and upon being denied, GM decided to take their business away.  Facebook has been known to not really make it harder for advertisers to insert themselves in the platform, but to certainly not make it easy.  Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has made it clear since the beginning that he is more interested in providing a better user experience than a disruptive one that might bring more money. If the purported meeting did take place the way it has been written about – nobody from Facebook or GM will say anything on the record – it seems that GM might have gone in there to start a fight.

Much the same way that you have to decipher which politician is spewing BS or which athlete is just talking trash to spark his teammates or get under the skin of an opponent, the same has to be done here. I’ve represented a number of clients in trying to get more of presence on a publishers site within a media campaign and you know what you can push for and you know what you can’t.  Ultimately, it depends on how much the media is worth to you or your company.  If the media is really effective, you might push for more, but also realize that what you’ve got is solid as it is and anything else would be gravy.  If you have the enormous spending history that would allow you to push harder form something like GM supposedly did, then there’s no problem with that. I just don’t know that, in the case where the existing media is effective and you push for more but don’t get it, you would just drop out like GM did.  That’s why I think it was a mixture of both.

If this new spin is emanating from Facebook to soften the blow of the loss of such a large advertiser, it is deflecting from the point that the existing units and programs just may not have been effective for the advertiser.  It’s easy to understand why they would drop on account of the ROI not being strong enough.  We might never know if the ROI was strong and they were just doing a hard press to get that larger full-page breakthrough.

Regardless of whether Facebook is a publisher or a platform – or whether their offerings should be like anyone else’s – this is just one example of the new challenges that Facebook will see as they really start having to be one of the big boys.

If the ROI was strong and GM used the timing of the IPO to try to force Facebook’s hand, then there was a solid example of gamesmanship that Facebook seems to have lost – and will hopefully learn from.

Location Based Marketing To Wait In Line For

Too often, a campaign will be launched that seems to have just been executed in order to tick a “Location Based” event box.  In the case of a campaign from a few months ago in Brazil, they seem to have hit the nail on the head by offering a truly relatable experience for all who came across the campaign. The campaign was not even for a product – it was about awareness surrounding the need for organ donors because many just couldn’t wait long enough for their number to be called.

The event was sponsored by the hospital,  Santa Casa de Misericórdia de São Paulo, and executed by Y&R’s São Paulo office. The beauty of it was that it didn’t require someone to actually make the choice as to whether they wanted to participate or not.  Just by doing something in their normal lives, they were brought into the campaign.  In this case, it was the pulling of a number ticket for a deli counter line.

The numbers symbolized the number location in the line while waiting for an organ.  The biggest number on the ticket could have been somewhere around 27,951 – which would have caused concern if the lit number they were then serving was in the hundreds or less. After reading the copy that explains what the big number relates to and then provides the URL, it does tip-off the real number you are waiting to have called.

In the scheme of a day, it is a small blip out of the normal routine, but the simple and subtle message that intertwines a specific narrative into the mundane that makes the difference. Rather than getting people to step out of their norm and try something new, more opportunities should be ventured into where the location-based campaign really ties into what people went to the location for.

I do not know how they leveraged the video capture beyond the case study video shown above.  When going to the hospital’s site, there’s really not anything I can find and I do not know if there were any commercial video segments placed in media. Whatever it was, there is a strong lesson about how to best intertwine a message into the audience’s real world experiences. It’s so much harder to get someone to change their every day to wait in line for an experience – and this one came up with the great solution of bringing the experience to the line.

Building The Right Environment To Insure Against Catastrophy

In the days of decreased budgets and decreased staffing, a company’s environment is more important than ever. You can easily see the difference in morale between a company that profers the mantra of “Just be happy you have a job,” and one that really embraces teamwork, sharing and reasonable perks for all employees. Many of the tech companies have been called into question for things as simple as ping-pong tables as they question productivity while the sport is being played, but many are missing the bigger picture. From a bottom line perspective, the environment that has been created where there is support and true teamwork enables those companies to have a built-in emergency system should something go horribly wrong. Those who are managing with the feeling that as long as they can hit their numbers with a skeleton crew should be crossing their fingers and/or praying that a major catastrophy never rears its ugly head. For those companies with the right environment will find success where companies without the enviroment will break – almost like an insurance policy against catastrophy.

Courtesy of BVHE

I had seen the value added material piece, “Studio Stories: The Movie Vanishes” for Toy Story 2 that recounted how they almost lost the entire movie when someone enterred the command “RM*” on the linux servers while making the film. But it didn’t really tell the whole story…

I did find the whole story in a piece posted on The Next Web blog. The article delved deeper into the entire experience and the later need to actually delete a bunch of material on purpose to start over. Much of it was garnered through the deeper interview with Oren Jacob, the former CTO for Pixar. Though the details of their server issues surrounding the development of the film and the subsequent rebuilding of most of the film in only nine months were interesting, what was really monumental was the discovery of the environment that enabled them to pull off a ridiculous amount of work under huge amounts of stress successfully.

The interview details how there was no witch hunt or pointing fingers as they tried to find a solution to a complex issue. They were all about solving problems. And, once they solved the initial problem – they didn’t relax – but stayed on it to ensure that it was right. That deep coverage of the minutiae allowed them to curb further damaging issues after that. The experience they had – involving more than just the IS team working day and night to fix the many files – probably set them up so that they could start almost from scratch in redoing the film when the first cut wasn’t working out like they had hoped.

The article holds Pixar up as “a crucible of commitment to quality,” but it really is about their legacy as a company that is all about the best product while taking care of their people. Many companies say they are commited to quality – but only to a certain time and cost consideration. It is the ones who build infrastructure and an atmosphere that truly elevates the commitment to quality that not only keeps above water, but excels.

These days, young engineers who are willing to code for two weeks straight are sort of a dime a dozen. It is almost like the 21st century version of the young traders you can see depicted in the Ben Affleck film, THE BOILER ROOM. But even the most dedicated can burn out if they are not taken care of. The fact that there was such a system of support for employees by staff and other employees seemingly helped to not only get the project done on a killer schedule, but to do so without major burnout and jeopardy placed on other projects.

None of this is to say that the Pixar team didn’t have their moments of extreme hardship or issues arise, but there’s something to be said for a sense of team and coming together for a common good. Too many companies reduce resources and expect the team to deliver the same output, or more. At some point, that proverbial rubber band holding everything together is bound to break. Doesn’t it make sense to look at some amenities as insurance expenses for the future if they can help in building teamwork and sense of family so that disasters of any kind can be mitigated?

Take the time to figure out your team insurance policy to enable you to deal with catastrophe before a figurative RM* kills what your company has built.

Two Films Fighting It Out In Theaters and OOH. Winner Is?

The battle lines were set for two films opening tomorrow (May 18th) for quite a while – and we’re not even talking about the box office take. Presenting some of the most impressive out of home (OOH) creative we’ve seen in a long time, Paramount and Universal have certainly had some fun with the outdoor creative for THE DICTATOR and BATTLESHIP respectively. Imagine if there were no trailers or TV spots available for films and all they had was OOH creative.  How would they convey the story and what type of impact would they have on sales. If there were a way to deduce who will win the box office race based on OOH alone, this would be a compelling fight.

Paramount  effectively began a campaign that was tied more to the essence of the film than the actual marketing of the film.  There were numerous very large depictions of Sacha Baron Cohen as the Dictator as if he was actually the Dictator of Los Angeles.  Whether it was the depiction of him winning sports awards in a place that is usually reserved for Kobe Bryant or another professional athlete on the side of the Figueroa Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles:

Or, the portrait of him holding the bird of prey in a placement on La Brea in central Los Angeles, Paramount (with considerable input from Cohen and his team) they were able to make a strong presence work without even including the film’s title in a readable form.

They then went on to start putting up some great OOH creative that included the title, but it was easily 6-8 weeks after launching the campaign that they made that jump. It might not be until people actually see the film that they understand the brilliance of the campaign in the way it ties into the narrative of the film. I’m sure it was not a simple approval process to get very long lead in prominent spaces with no mention what it was actually about.  Props to them for taking the risk and pulling that off.

On the Universal side for BATTLESHIP, they went big as well.  Their challenge was in the conveyance of how a board game logically makes a movie.  I don’t believe that their OOH solves the challenge.  They do convey that it is an alien encounter movie with awesome forms of destruction, but until the end, that was about it. They did have a huge placement near Hollywood and Highland that seems to convey the scale of a Summer blockbuster:

But the execution that really excites me is the dimensional billboard that is placed as if in a standoff with the DICTATOR portrait on La Brea.  They actually face each other.  The details are really cool:

What is most interesting is that it seems like the studio’s marketers did a late push to bring some character development into the OOH with a bunch of character pieces coming in late in the campaign.

All in, I don’t know if this will draw many more viewers because they came late in the game and we still don’t know much about the characters.  I wish that they had even listed their names to generate some kind of interest.

For BATTLESHIP, I was just mostly impressed with the dimensional billboard because it was so eye-grabbing.  I think there may be some answers about how the film is tied closely to the game once people see the film, but the big question is whether people will actually go see it.

Its a much larger discussion and deeper bit of knowledge required to establish whether people would see a big action film because it is there.  It’s the same when trying to judge whether people will do the same for a comedy. In both cases, there have been many more misses than hits and it definitely depends on many factors.  But all things being equal – same release date and equally solid OOH creative – which one does a better job of drawing audiences.  Perhaps we will be able to connect the dots after we see opening weekend box office, but I would put my money on THE DICTATOR.  In this face off, who do you think will win the fight?

Can Unilever and NBCU Deliver the Best Integrated Campaign Ever?

Unilever and NBC Universal timed their announcement of what may turn out to be the biggest integrated marketing program we’ve seen tied to television to launch Unilever’s new hair-care product, Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy.  Unilever has hit some transmedia home runs before as seen with their Dove “campaign for Real Beauty” and this partnership with NBCUniversal’s Integrated Media and Creative Partnerships and Innovation (CP&I) Groups could be the one that set’s a new standard.  The program began yesterday with the airing of a teaser for a series of videos that start on-air and then continue online – where users get to influence the story. In theory, everything is lining up to showcase what a media company with many outlets can do when partnered with a huge company like Unilever. While the campaign revolves around the Best Night Ever, over the next few weeks, we’ll see if they were able to deliver on the promises of one of the Best Campaigns Ever.

There is so much going for this campaign – the involvement of NBCU’s talent across their multiple networks, the fun interactive ability to control the characters’ experiences beyond the velvet rope and a launch coinciding with television’s May Sweeps – it is surprising that there seems to already be some quirky issues arising.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not being a hater and wanting to point out issues because I want this to fail. I actually want this to succeed because I know how hard it is to pull off and it could point to even bigger opportunities for the future.

Utilizing NBCU talent, including Jane Krakowski, Andy Cohen, Giuliana Rancic, and Tim Meadows, the narrative will focus on how healthy hair is essential to having a great night out. The interesting thing is that it seems the 15 second teaser for the campaign is all that will actually run during the Sweeps period. We’ll see how they use the talent to drive the narrative – it’s not clear whether they’ll be actively part of it or just presenters.  It seems like we will be following one girl and one guy through their “night out” experiences.  All of the pieces will run across NBC, Style, Oxygen, E!, Bravo, NBC.com, MyStyle.com, Oxygen.com, Eonline.com, Bravotv.com, and DailyCandy.  The acquisition of these properties were made with this type of cross-platform promotion in mind. How smooth and integrated the program and its narrative are across all of those teams will be the test.  It will be interesting to see whether they go safe with simple executions or really rev it up with bespoke “accents” depending on the platform or publisher.

Their choice for the campaign to be themed Best Night Ever is a tricky one.  It makes sense for the narrative of their clips, but there’s a LOT of established content out there with that moniker.  Doing a quick search, I found a lot of stuff about the television show, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. And, unless they are looking for people to share their own Best Night Ever, the use of that hash-tag on Twitter might lead in completely different directions.  Speaking of Twitter, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Twitter account disclaimer that stated the management of a brand-specific account is being done by the outside agency – in this case, Webber Shandwick.

NBCU and Unilever are using a technology from Interlude to enable users to interact and determine how the action should branch in order to make it the best night ever.  This could be in the form of choosing which character to follow, which music to listen to, and other choices that will supposedly affect the content of subsequent on-air and online videos. I would love to know how many people actually interact with the story, its characters and more. The learnings alone from such an integrated program could be huge.  What relative percentage converted from on-air to online? How deep into the experience did people interact?  How many times did they come back? Though I doubt we’ll see those hard numbers, they would be fascinating.

One concern that I have is that the 15 second teaser cannot be seen online on youtube.com, and you need to Like the Clear Hair Facebook page to see what’s there. I can understand wanting people to like you in order to get free samples, but putting a gate up there before people can find out more doesn’t make sense.  Additionally, none of the sites that will be hosting parts of the program have anything about this on their home pages.  Again, I can understand that it’s still early.  This could just be an example of how tough it is to launch a campaign like this. They probably would have been well served to even have just a minimal mention of the program on their sites. And, I would have definitely posted the video on YouTube. As for Facebook, I get wanting to be able to have your videos go out to the world in many people’s timelines, but how many people will allow that just to sample your new product.  If it was an established brand, I can see more people wanting to share the joy.  I’m worried that the gate is too high for people to find out more about the product on Facebook.

Ultimately, This type of campaign is what we used to dream of when I was at ABC.com. There were too many obstacles that have since been removed, but it is still incredibly complex. While we may never see the stats, we’ll get a good sense of whether it was a success if we see more of these types of integrated programs in the future. For the benefit of all the media we do, fingers are crossed that it is a resounding one and leads to many more opportunities in the future. Hopefully, the Best Night Ever will lead to the opportunities for even more Best Integrated Campaigns Ever…

The Brouhaha about #WinFromWithin – History or Silliness In The Making?

There’s something about athletes having a great game when they’ve got he flu.  Just last week, I was talking to a friend and we were both saying that we’ve played better when we were sick and had to play – and we’re not athletes by any stretch of the imagination. That’s why there’s an interesting argument about a commercial that is effectively passed off as a documentary about one of the greatest showcases of the theory that one plays better when they are sick. Taken directly from an article in Broadcast & Cable, the following captures the complaint –  In a letter to the FTC commissioners dated Tuesday (May 8), the Yale U Rudd Center, Center for Science in Public Interest and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law (together, the Public Health Advocacy Institute) asked the FTC to investigate PepsiCo’s ad , which features a stomach flu-stricken Michael Jordan apparently getting some help from a cup of Gatorade in his effort to play through the illness and help his team secure a win in game five (the “Flu” game) of the 1997 NBA finals (the Bulls won in six).

First of all, that was an amazing feat by an individual – one that people still refer to when citing the belief that somehow, you can have amazing games when you’re sick. Second, if you watch the commercial, they do insinuate that drinking Gatorade helped, but Phil Jackson’s VO is all about the drive from within. There’s nothing said that the Gatorade helped him through it. Additionally, it’s not like the team didn’t drink Gatorade through all their other games and only did so when Michael Jordan was sick.

The complaint lodged with the FTC speaks to the concern that the commercial will drive teenagers to engage in “Dangerous Behavior” by continuing to play when they are ill and believe that Gatorade will help them through it.

I guess they have a point if they feel that consumers will only watch the visuals and believe that they will “be like Mike” if they drink it.  My problem is that this one commercial is really no different that every single other commercial PepsiCo has run for the product – drink this and you will perform better. Many would argue that drinking Gatorade (or any of its competitors) will absolutely help athletes compete better than if they drank water or nothing at all.

It then all comes down to branding and history. Gatorade has always enjoyed the fact that they were the first out of the gates with drink products for athletes.  As such, they had a corner on the market and were at seemingly every event – including the NBA finals in 1997. As such, was the commercial not really just a historical documentation?

Whether it really helped Michael Jordan to not only play, but have an amazing game, we’ll never know one way or the other.  What we do know is that many people drink Gatorade when they are sick.  They don’t have to be athletes to recognize how it helps alleviate dehydration. In fact, our family always bottles of Gatorade in storage in case we’re not feeling well.  Was it prescribed by our doctors? No.  Did any advertising say it would help us when we’re sick? I don’t believe so. But, we still use it for those needs because it has worked for us in the past.

It is hard to understand why there would be so much excitement on the part of the public health activists in this case. I do believe that teens need to be educated on how hard they can push themselves, and there needs to be support around them.  But to take it out on a television ad seems a little self-serving. Maybe they wanted to take advantage of the large platform of the NBA Playoffs (the commercial has been running since February – way before the Playoffs) to make their point. Maybe this documentary deserves to be used as the lightning rod for a discussion. Or perhaps the complainants are still bitter about their Jazz’ loss to the Bulls.

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame that the organizers are being silly and just complaining about the spot rather than bringing forward a program to help educate the young people they’re supposedly trying to help. After all, it is history that athletes and spectators are constantly looking to find deeper meaning in. Take the opportunity to allow history to prove your point…

Don’t Fall Into The One Size Fits All Strategy Trap

At the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles last week, Lionsgate’s CEO, Jon Feltheimer responded to a question with the statement that studios will likely be spending less on television ads and more on digital promotion in the future. Whether that full shift takes place in a few years or a decade, I don’t know.  But the shift has certainly begun to happen – even if it is just on an extremely small-scale. The reference Feltheimer made stemmed from his conversation about the marketing for THE HUNGER GAMES – where they spent a modest $45 Million and focused heavily on social media due to its core audience. The Chicago Tribune article covering the conference conversation leaves readers with a general feeling that the shift from TV to social has begun and is universal. Unfortunately, that ideology will lead marketers into a trap as the run to one way strategy of doing things doesn’t really make sense.

The Regal Cinemas is seen during the opening night of “The Hunger Games” in Los Angeles (JONATHAN ALCORN, REUTERS / May 4, 2012) Courtesy Chicago Tribune

Focusing on Lionsgate’s research that found that 55% of the moviegoers got “the majority of the information about their movie” online and Feltheimer’s deeming, “That made me think that the paradigm is changing even faster than we thought,” misses some of the point.

If the film did not do so well, I am sure that percentage would have been actually higher.  As the core audience is a huge digital native group, I am sure most of them got their information online or on mobile. But, movies don’t become as huge a success as THE HUNGER GAMES on that young demo alone.  They had to draw huge numbers from people outside of that group in order to generate the huge receipts.  That larger group of people actually brought the average of digital information majority gatherers down.

Taking that into account, the same marketing mix would absolutely not work across all titles as a general rule of thumb. We need to be wary of jumping into that one size fits all mentality because it could become a devastating financial loss. There is absolute opportunity for studios to refine and optimize their spends AND reach with the right bit of strategy prior to planning.

So, will social – or just digital in general – overtake spending on TV by studios?  Maybe, but probably not for quite a while. If you see a horde of people moving in that direction, make sure it still fits with your smart strategy.