Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton

Yesterday we went to a lecture with Billy Bob Thornton. He was wearing glasses the whole time to cover his "puffy eyes" which I think means extreme SXSW hang over. Mostly he talked about the movie making industry, being an actor and director, etc. He did say one thing about Hollywood which I thought was relevant to advertising and I wrote down because it made me laugh.
"Testing turns anything great into toothpaste."
I wondered what about if you are actually selling toothpaste? Hmmmm...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


So, we've been hearing all week about how alternate reality gaming is one of many new ways to engage an audience with your brand and tell them a story they can get into. Tonight we saw a really interesting film that sheds light on a section of this audience, hardcore MMORPG players. Consisting of hundreds of thousands of people all over the globe, these communities play games like World of Warcraft, Everquest and participate in Second Life on a whole new level. It was truly fascinating to hear these people talk about how they preferred their online friends to their real friends, and in most cases their online identities than themselves. Of course it was loaded with the expected nerdy twentysomething males who live together and play these games 18 hours a day. But it also told stories of people who had found true love, or what some thought of as true love, through hundreds of hours role playing in an alternate universe online. It also touch on a few tragic situations, like a man in Philadelphia who got so caught up in these games he lost his business, house, everything, which sparked him to enter a rehab facility for gamers.....yes, they exist. In fact there is a whole medical society designed around the effects these games can have on people.
It also made a huge case for why these games can be good. They introduced several examples of severely handicapped people who had blossomed and found a reason to live through online identities. They talked about the hope and confidence these games gave them. People who could suddenly walk and talk and be know only for what they created themselves to be in the game and not their affliction in the real world.
In the end the film was really about individuals and the choices they make based on their perceptions of themselves. And how society can sometimes drive these people to want to "escape" through these games because of the way they are treated or looked down upon, but that ultimately it is the individuals responsibility for making the decision to participate in life, and not live through these games.
Don't blame the game, blame the gamer.

Animated Shorts

We saw some killer animated shorts this morning. It's a bummer to see them and know that their life after this will probably be some sad corner of the Internet. They looked great on the big screen. Theaters should get back to showing them before shows, instead of crappy commercials you can see on tv anyway.

Some of my favs:
Tower of Grantville
Shut Eye Hotel
My First Crush
Madame Tulti-Putli
(which won the Oscar this year)
and my very favorite, I Hate You Don't Touch Me or Bat and Hat about a bat and it's relationship to a hat. That's what I thought it was about, until the animator said it was about sacrificing things to get what we want and movies and animation and stuff. At any rate, it was very very good.

What User Generated Video Means to Word of Mouth Advertising

Have you ever read a review on Amazon and had a sneaking suspicion that it was written by the manufacturer? Have you ever gotten something from eBay and been disappointed to find out that it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be? This presentation talked about word of mouth advertising and what it means. As someone who who regularly uses Yelp!, Facebook, Myspace and eBay this was of particular interest to me. I hate when I am sold to, or especially lied to, on sites that I trust.

According to the presentation, the main way that advertisers F*** up when it comes to word of mouth on social sites is by not being truthful with their consumers. Advertisers should always identify themselves as such and remember that in this realm consumers control the brand. It is always better to play it straight. (i.e.- don’t pay people to review your product or censor testimonials.)

The panel also introduced which is a site created to provide consumers an unbiased user generated video platform to talk about products. Think of this as basically a commercial made by your Average Joe about a product they love (or hate) and then hosted online at Maybe Mom’s from Minnesota will be taking all our jobs!

Over 50% of the panels this year at SXSW Interactive were about social networking. It made me happy to think that with the Glad website among the most popular Clorox sites last year, our clients seem to be receptive to this kind of word of mouth advertising. And we aren’t F***ing it up!

Monday, March 10, 2008

They pay people to do this?

I went to a really cool seminar yesterday about feature film distribution. The panel was made up of "taste makers" who acquisition films for all of the relevant indie studios right now. I found it interesting that each one of these studios had a philosophy and certain type of film they wanted to put out. They sit together every year and decide what kind of films and statements they want to make. They all mentioned that buying a film at a festival is becoming more and more rare these days. They're really interested in acquiring screenplays and owning the whole production. They all agreed that theatrical release isn't where you make money these days, but that online, VOD and DVD purchases are most important.
What I found most interesting and relevant about this seminar was how these films are marketed and how they determine what niche to pursue distribution in first. Obviously they can't just do a marketing blitzkrieg for a small esoteric film, and in most cases that wouldn't be appropriate anyway. Instead they find "street teams" and alternate media plans that are specific to each film. A great example was from one guy who bought a film at Sundance last year called "Samoan Wedding". He and his team loved the movie but knew it wasn't going to play to a wide audience. After a little research they decided to only play it in Hawaii for two weeks to see how it went and then the plan would be to release on DVD and spend most of the promo budget then. Well, it worked, it opened in 2 theaters in Hawaii only with a huge word of mouth and little or no physical press and they made they're money back in two weekends. This enabled them to spend even more money marketing the film on DVD. There were lot's of examples of this strategy and were all tailored and unique to the style of the film and the audience they were trying to reach.

The Web Agency: There Will Be Blood

The title of this panel was a tad alarmist. The description of it on the website says that social media, a transition to digital marketing, combined with an economic slowdown could create a “perfect storm.”

The panelists, including Kevin Flatt, ECD of Tribal DDB, were a little less dramatic in their predictions. In fact, because it was so based on predicting the future, the panelists disagreed on a number of points. But there were a few points to take away:

The new media will transform the old media, not completely replace it.

We’re all headed to the same place, it’s just a matter of how broad an agency wants to go with their range of services.

When asked what people need to do to survive the change: Have a deep understanding of how consumers interact with all the media touch points.

11 Tips for Managing a Creative Environment

This two-person panel was made up of the CEO and design strategist from Adaptive Path, an SF-based company that, according to their website, “helps companies create products and services that deliver great experiences that improve people's lives.”

They picked the brains of a range of people who manage creative environments, mining them for insights into striking the balance between creative freedom and strategic deliverables on a rigid deadline. A comedy troupe, a head chef, orchestra musicians, a screenwriter collective, a stage manager, a writer and producer and a magazine editor all contributed to these 10 tips (these will probably read pretty dryly, but it was a really well-done, interesting and hopefully helpful panel):

1. Cross-train the entire team. Have specialists, but give everyone exposure to all aspects of the job.

2. Rotate creative leadership/ownership from job to job.

3. Actively turn the corner from divergence to convergence. This means that you should have two phases. The first in which there are no bad ideas, everything is thrown up on the wall and there is NO KILLING or telling why an idea won’t work. Then there should be a distinct point in which you shift to editing, killing off the bad, and organizing the good. The point is to cull the ideas down, so don’t keep throwing out unrelated ideas.

4. Know the roles in the convergence phase. Your role may be anything from the decider to “shut up and listen.”

5. Practice. Practice. Practice.

6. Make the mission explicit to the whole team. Make the mission actionable, not theoretical.

7. Kill with kindness. When killing your babies, or other people’s babies, even the ugly ones, do it kindly. Be supportive and respectful. “Great idea for phase 2.” “Remember that for the extended version.”

8. Leadership is a service. Good leaders listen, understand everyone’s investment and interest, then help them represent their ideas in the best way. Facilitator rather than Dictator. Give people space to do their best work vs forcing your vision on them.

9. Generate projects around the group’s creative interest. Identify specific interests/talents and fill roles accordingly.

10. Remember your audience. You are probably not them.

11. Celebrate failure. Appreciate spectacular misses. After the project, have a post-mortem party (or “After Party”) in which you discuss what worked, what didn’t and what was learned.