Tag Archives: Billboard

HBO Presents Their Own Smart Freemium Model

In the past, HBO was able to drive subscriptions for their services based on the fact that they were a special premium product. Whether through buzz about their shows, awards their shows garnered, or the enabling of a few days a year of allowing users to sample their content, they were able to drive subscribers.  Now that the other premium cable networks, like Showtime and Starz, have gotten into the production of buzz and award-worthy original shows, HBO has to change their traditional ways.  One of those is HBO’s entry into their own form of the Freemium model. Freemium is generally the term used for product that are attained for free and then continued usage requires payment, or premiums. HBO’s version consists of them making the pilots of their new shows – GIRLS and VEEP – available on HBO.com, YouTube, DailyMotion, TV.com and multiple distributors’ free on-demand platforms the day after their premieres. The shows will also be available as free downloads on iTunes. To me, this is a smart model for HBO to induce viewers to move from freemium to premium and subscribe to the premium cable network to get their fix of those shows.

Hopefully, HBO's Freemium play will drive engagement and not apathy. (Courtesy of HBO)

Of course, they’ve got to hope that the shows are good enough to compel viewers to actually want to pay to see more. This model is probably a stronger one than the limited opening of the FreeView windows they’ve done in the past.  From a television programming perspective, I would even allow for more than just the pilot episodes to be streamed for free. As it takes a couple of episodes to become truly engaged, they should probably look to make three episodes available. The Freemium model is proving to be more and more successful as time goes on and HBO’s foray into that style of marketing or sampling could be a sign for the future of products that are not traditionally associated with that Freemium way of engagement.

In the music sector, Spotify has certainly established itself strongly on the freemium model, but the uptake to premium is an unscientific process. The numbers reported in a Billboard article covering 2010 and early 2011 showed a slow uptake, but that was before they launched in the US and picked up steam in their existing markets.  Even with that, users are running into issues as people start interacting with the product and deciding whether they want to shell out the money for the premium model. Spotify reports that since launching in the States in June of 2011, they have 3 million users, with only 20% subscribing.

On the gaming front, the poster child for the Freemium model is ANGRY BIRDS. They most recently launched on Facebook in February – where playing is free, but the opportunities to power-up or get other additional gameplay benefits comes with a cost. This incremental revenue may just be a flash in the pan as we see whether Facebook users actually care to purchase additional powers, but they don’t seem to be hurting amidst all their other growth on multiple platforms that all effectively launched on either the true freemium model (limited level gameplay with payment for more) or a nominal premium for slightly robust access and the payment opportunities for even more.

The freemium model across the board is increasing and revenues are driving up.  Steve Smith wrote about it on his MediaPost blog recently. Smith cites an IHS Screen Digest Mobile Media Intelligence Service report that projects that Freemium will drive 64% of app revenue by 2015.

I give HBO credit for trying something different as a strategy to remain above the competition in an ever-tightening race with more and more outlets for the type of content they are known to provide.  Will this lead to other businesses to delve deeper into their own forms of the Freemium model? If so, it’s got to be more compelling that what might have been a very early form of Freemium – giving away free food samples in stores hoping that consumers will buy. Regardless of the product, there’s got to be a real desire by the end users to get more. Hopefully, for HBO, these shows are good enough to drive that craving for more.


Bacteria Builds Disgusting Viral Marketing

It’s always enjoyable when you see someone having fun with the product they’re marketing while they are also doing a decent job of actually marketing the product.  In this day, we see quite a bit of disgusting elements driving viral.  In Toronto, marketers have been having quite a bit of both in the past couple of weeks.

It’s not hard to be squeamish about the marketing of Warner Brothers’ film, CONTAGION, on the streets of Toronto.  To market a film about the fast-moving virus, Lowe Roche advertising agency of Toronto and UK-based CURB Media got their hands quite dirty to create a living, viral Out-Of-Home ad out of bacteria.

To me, it is not only a science and marketing experiment, but arguably a work of art. Once you get past the disgust and bewilderment that people would actually subject themselves to the creation of bacteria and viruses in the name of marketing, it is actually pretty cool as you see the transition in the video.  I am both saddened and happy that they only did the execution in one location.  They say that the bacteria was harmless, but can it really be that harmless?  Check out the detail they were able to achieve with the organic microbes in the red toxic signs that appear.  It was perhaps the coolest use of those toxic icons since the 28 DAYS LATER Theatrical campaign from Fox Searchlight.

Luckily, they captured the “event” on video and posted to YouTube. The live billboards are no longer up (after 5 days of being “live”), but the views hit 40,000 just two days after posting and now, five days after posting, it seems like it is garnering around 1,000 views per hour on the main YouTube posting alone.  It is also growing views on Facebook and Twitter.

It seems like they timed the placement to coincide with the Toronto International Film Festival to maximize foot traffic, but I would have looked to launch it earlier so that the video could be placed earlier and have the time to generate much more buzz for the opening weekend.  Having the video post only two days before street date is not ideal – regardless of how viral it is, really and digitally.

We can only hope that this does not lead to a rash of “harmless” and disgusting viral mareting, but to entertaining and relevant forms of communication for the products we are trying to market.

Be Smart – Keep Your Campaign Consistent and True to the Product

After a number of years of Jennifer Aniston being the spokesperson for Smartwater and representing it in a smart way, things have gotten a little, ummm, less smart.

The thoughts of a misstep became shockingly clear to me on the 405 just North of LAX. My eye was caught by the huge image of Aniston without a top on and the bottle.  I risked getting into an accident to try to figure out what the tag line was: Simplicity Should Be Savored.  I sort of get it as it relates to the image, but not to the product.

In what was perhaps an understated campaign over the past few years leveraging Aniston and the seemingly smart or healthy qualities of the product, the brand always seemed to pose the question that, if you are going to buy bottled water, why not buy something that is more that what you can get out of your faucet?  That something extra was the enhanced elements – electrolites. So, besides the exploitative or shocking nature of the image in the billboard, the tag line is just not relevant to the product as it is not water in its simplest form.

Dont’ get me wrong here.  I am absolutely not a hater.  We constantly stock Smartwater in the house.  I loved the tone and quality of the “Viral Video” they did with Aniston – garnering  close to 10MM plays in 4 months. I certainly am a fan of Aniston. But the image just shocked me in the fact that it is not even consistent with the messaging from the video above – where Aniston questions stooping to the level of others to shill a drink that is inherently smart.

The image is seemingly part of a larger campaign showing Aniston with Smartwater in hand as she goes about her normal routine – lounging around or appearing at an event:

But those taglines actually relate to the product and they certainly do not go to the lowest denominator.

Ultimately, this campaign took a turn in the wrong direction – not because of the risque image – but because it seemed to be done just to do it.  It’s great to have something eye-catching if it works with the brand.  In this case, it wasn’t consistent with the “truth” of the product.