Feb 26, 2015

Social Media Turned Awards Season Into Newest American Holiday



Originally published at brief.promaxbda.org on February 25, 2015, co-written with BRaVe Ventures

It’s only a matter of time before Hallmark starts selling cards for it, but it looks like Awards Show Season is the newest American holiday.

And social media is to blame.

The confluence of fans, brands and the shows themselves have taken what were once minor spectacles and turned them into major celebrations. That’s been a boon for the events themselves as well as the brands smart enough to be associated with them.

And what started out as a handful of fans using Twitter to make snarky comments about Super Bowl commercials has turned into an eight week-long celebration of celebrity that takes place not just on Twitter, but on Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest and, more and more, Snapchat.

People now await the second-screen activity going on around these events as much as they anticipate the events themselves. That’s a huge sea change and about as close as we’ll get to proof that the Unified Screen world is here to stay. Brands and shows are creating not just cross-screen executions, but cross-screen story arcs that start before the show and end afterwards. (Another bit of fallout courtesy of social media: award shows used to be a one-day event. Now they eat up much of the week beforehand and a day or two afterwards.)

One positive result of all this inflation is that brands, shows and frequent social media users now realize they need to bring their creative A games, that social media is built on buzz and that the only way to get that buzz is to create something people want to talk about. Which is rarely (if ever) a canned marketing message.

That’s lead to some BRaVe executions this year, the most notable (in our humble opinion) being the four minute Imagine Dragons concert that Target pulled together for the Grammys, the first real example of branded content being used as a commercial. The spot was perfectly Targeted (pun intended) at the music-loving Grammys audience and by giving them something they wanted to see rather than more “me! me! me!” the brand (and the band) both garnered lots of social media love… all while getting their message across.

Not to mention that Target is now running pre-roll in front of the clip on YouTube directing people to buy the band’s new album at — where else? — Target.

From the Golden Globes to the Super Bowl to the Grammys to the Oscars (with Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary special thrown in just to snark things up) this year has seen an increased use of platforms-that-aren’t-Twitter with positive results.


Justin Timberlake, Billy Crystal and Jimmy Fallon all appeared on SNL’s 40th Anniversary special.

Few people over 21 had even heard of Snapchat last year, but then BOOM this year it was all over the big events, with a sizable influx of dollars and creative energy as everyone was trying to reach its young millennial audience.

Last year too, Instagram and Facebook were barely calls to action and had no notable “real-time” plays that people could see. This year, both platforms had major calls to action and Instagram literally won the red carpet at a few of the events — the Golden Globes in particular, but Vanity Fair’s celebrity Instagram portraits by photographer Mark Seliger also made quite a splash.
 Oscar goes a little more classic, a little less glitzy with its Instagram celebrity portraits.

‘The Imitation Game’‘s Benedict Cumberbatch and ‘Cake’‘s Jennifer Aniston gave away a Golden Globe and then posed for Instagram pictures backstage.

And while there was no Ellen Selfie moment in this year’s Oscars — although everyone was certainly expecting it — Facebook still managed to pull in 58 million engagements on a night when Twitter’s numbers actually went down. (Not that it’s fair to look at Twitter’s numbers: things change so quickly it makes little sense to try and do year over end analysis. Rather than comparing apples to apples, you wind up comparing apples to a never ending fruit salad of platforms.)

The takeaway is that Awards Season gives us a unique opportunity to test out those platforms, each of which offers a unique way to reach a segment of the audience that’s tuned out of traditional interruptive advertising and is looking for entertainment, a bar that rises higher every year as audiences continue to look for bigger and better circuses.

More than just a celebration however, Awards Season 2015 has been an eight-week marathon of creative growth as well as a proving ground for the unified screen world that’s showing us why TV+Social+Digital will be the force that drives this industry into a “CreatedWith” revolution.

We’re in the middle of an unprecedented TV (r)evolution right now, so fasten your seatbelts and hang on for the ride



Feb 20, 2015

The Ellen Selfie And Other Oscar Dos and Don’ts


Ask someone what they remember about last year’s Oscar broadcast and the one thing they’re likely to spit back at you is the Ellen selfie. Or maybe they call it the Bradley Cooper selfie, or the celebrity selfie. The one thing they won’t be calling it though, is the Samsung selfie.

Which is a shame because it was Samsung who paid for and sponsored the shot.

Samsung is just the latest in a long line of brands who missed their close-ups, who paid to sponsor or promote something and wound up getting zero credit for it.

So how can you prevent this from happening to you?

Let’s look at the Samsung example first, for it contains some excellent lessons. Samsung gave Oscar MC Ellen DeGeneres a Samsung phone to carry with her during the telecast with the understanding she’d use it to take photos and viewers at home would be impressed that a celebrity like Ellen was using a Samsung Galaxy.

Big mistake.

While Samsung executives can no doubt recognize the difference between a Galaxy and an iPhone at 50 paces, the average consumer at home can not. Providing a close-up of the phone wouldn’t have helped much either — viewers would be too busy looking to see what apps Ellen had on her home screen to notice the logo. Chances are good most viewers assumed she was carrying an iPhone anyway. (The fact that she normally does carry an iPhone didn’t help that perception either.)

So what could Samsung have done differently?

This is one case where subtlety is a no-no. They should have had Ellen mention that she was taking photos with a Samsung Galaxy. Or at the very least included #Samsung as a hashtag. That way, what’s arguably the most famous piece of #CreatedWith content would have had some Samsung branding on it.

As we wend our way through this year’s award show season, we’ve already started to get a feel for this season’s winners and losers: Nationwide was a big loser during the Super Bowl after their home safety spot #NationwideDeadKid very quickly turned into the sort of meme brands fear most. Target on the other hand, was a winner for its four-minute Imagine Dragons concert during the Grammys, the first instance of branded content advertising.


Don’t want to be a loser? Here’s some do’s and don’ts on how to approach branded awards-show promotions:

— DO make sure there is some logical tie-in between your product and the event. If not, you’re going to want to create one because the only way people are going to listen to you is if they understand why you’re there. (HINT: “Because everyone else is” is not a good answer.)

— DON’T slap your logo on a promotion that has nothing to do with your brand . People won’t see your logo and they won’t know you’re behind it. And in the unlikely event they do see your logo, they won’t know why it’s up there.

— DO make sure that the promotion is relevant to the people watching the show. A hockey themed promotion may be part of who you are, but unless it’s going to resonate with the Oscar audience, don’t go there.

— DON’T do your own thing. If you’re piggybacking off of a show’s own promotion, don’t do your own (branded) version of it. The show’s version is fun and probably has a popular celebrity attached to it. Yours doesn’t. Guess who wins.

— DO be entertaining. While that sounds super obvious, we’re always amazed how often brands assume their strategic marketing position is so compelling audience will wait with baited breath to hear it. You’re running during an award show about the movies with every star in Hollywood. You’ve got to bring your A game or go home.

— DON’T be inorganic. Nobody likes a GMOP (genetically modified online promotion.) You want to strive to feel like a part of the program, not a bolted on side show.The more organic your promotion feels, the more likely it is to resonate with fans.

Originally published at brief.promaxbda.org on February 20, 2015


Who Needs Networks Anyway? Bringing Film and Television Directly To The Consumer




Originally published at tdgresearch.com on February 19, 2015

Eliminating the middleman has long been one of the tenets of the Internet revolution. While this formula has worked well in a range of industries from taxicabs (Uber) to lodging (Airbnb), it remains to be seen whether it can upend the conventional order of the entertainment industry.

There are a number of startups now banking on the notion that it’s more profitable for content producers to distribute their shows directly to consumers themselves, allowing them to keep the lion’s share of whatever advertising and/or subscription revenue they might earn.

Are they onto something? Maybe.

To begin with, let’s take a look at the core value proposition of what’s become known as “the sharing economy.” In established industries where the elimination of the middleman has worked very well, the sharing economy innovation solves a consumer problem, providing a service they’ve been unable to obtain elsewhere, such as reliable non-taxi taxi service or a safe and accountable way to use an apartment as a hotel room.

In the entertainment industry, eliminating the middleman solves a vendor problem, as content producers believe they are giving up too much of their profits to middlemen (in this case, the studios and networks). And while that may well be the case, it’s not something consumers particularly care about. They just want to watch their favorite programs.

From a consumer point of view, the television industry already has a (relatively) easy and widely accessible distribution system. While many feel it is overpriced, the new solutions aren’t promising to be any cheaper. The problem they are solving is that many content producers look at what networks and movie studios offer (distribution and marketing) and think, “I can do that myself, and make a lot more money doing so.”

Startups like Whalerock and VHX make it easy to find a reliable distribution platform. And marketing, many believe, can be handled for free, using social media. That, however, may prove to be a very dangerous assumption.

Too often I hear people expounding on how easy it is to use social media for promoting entertainment properties, pointing to Vine and YouTube stars (among others) as examples. While this is true for a small subset of performers, once you get past that subset, the premise falls apart.

People look to celebrities like Howard Stern as proof that using social media to drive buzz is a snap. What they forget is that in addition to over one million Twitter followers, Stern has millions of captive listeners via his Sirius radio show. The combination makes it easy for him to create buzz around his projects.

But few celebrities have those kinds of resources.

Social media is easy to use for marketing purposes if you have the time and the staff to run a proper campaign. A good social media marketing campaign is far more complicated than just issuing a tweet every other day. It’s a full time job, one that requires both a dedicated support team and the temperament to become a ceaseless self-promoter. For many celebrities that’s just not who they are, and if they ever decided to take that route, their fans would surely have a negative reaction.

But that Kardashian-esque compulsion for constant self-promotion is the only thing that’s going to deliver the sizeable audience they need. Without it, they’re better off sticking with the studios or networks.

This is not to say direct distribution by content creators is a total wipeout. It has worked very well for performers with dedicated followings. For example, comedian Louis CK is able to sell his specials directly to fans precisely because they are so loyal. Ditto for WWE, which enjoys millions of devoted fans and Twitter followers. Many music acts could probably achieve the same results, provided they have developed sufficiently large social media followings to market their performances.

Niche performers can also benefit from cutting out the middleman, provided they have an active social media fan base. Former Kodak CMO and Bloomberg TV personality Jeffrey Hayzlett was able to launch his own C-Suite Network, using his sizable social media following to create buzz for the show that runs on an OTT platform created by Piksel.

As live viewing numbers continue to decline, we can expect a greater number of content creators to explore the direct-to-consumer model. Of course, we will be surveying the landscape as this plays out, so stick with TDG and stay ahead of the curve.




Ready For It’s Close-Up: How 2nd Screen Is Going To Transform The Oscars


With the Oscars fast approaching, it’s interesting to think about what the show might look like once Twitter’s new third party ad system in place. That’s the newly announced system whereby Twitter is going to allow Tweets to be surfaced as native advertising on third party apps and sites.

Like the Super Bowl, the Oscars attracts a large global audience, and everyone is watching the show live, at the exact same time. As such, it’s one of the few events that still draws a real-time audience — even the Grammy’s were delayed for the West Coast this year.

The Oscars, even more so than other event shows, is made for social media. There are dozens of readily identifiable stars (with sizable social media followings) coming in on the red carpet and heading up to the stage to present and accept awards. There’s the host, Neil Patrick Harris, who has 13.7 million Twitter followers and 1.3 million Instagram followers.

There’s the fact that Twitter gave Harris the honor of producing the very first Twitter native video, a :30 promo for the Oscars that was shot with his phone’s camera. And of course there’s the world’s most famous selfie, the shot that Bradley Cooper took with Ellen DeGeneres that swiftly became the most retweeted photo ever.

Now let’s imagine that Twitter’s third party ad serving platform had been in place last year. That photo could have been served up (by Samsung, the company who sponsored the photo and by the Osars themselves) and pushed out to hundreds of major websites and mobile apps, along with a call to action to tune into the Oscars now.

I can only but imagine the amount of traffic that would have created, especially if it was part of a feed showing other key Oscar moments.

Which is another thing to remember: in addition to spontaneous moments like the selfie, the Oscars are chockablock full of what you might call “tweetable moments” as well known actors come on stage to receive their awards.

These can soon be syndicated, along with thirty second video clips and 140 characters of copy, to a variety of sites and apps where they can create the sort of buzz that helps to drive tune-in. (Especially if the tweets come with a compelling call to action.)

The real value of 2nd screen however, won’t be in the amount of tune-in those Twitter ads will drive. Rather, it will be in the data that the Oscars will be able to collect. They’ll be able to learn which skits created the most buzz and with whom, which ones drove the most tune-in and if there was a correlation between the two.

They’ll learn which sites and apps drove the most traffic, which demographics are responding to which segments, which messages attached to the same photo or video worked best.

They can use those findings for the next Oscars to build on and retain the current year’s audience. Determine which skits and jokes work best and which ones fell flat in order to guide next year’s script development.

The data will also help them sell advertising, as they’ll be able to give potential advertisers a clearer snapshot of who their viewers are and then offer them different opportunities by combining on screen and 2nd screen options.

That won’t be happening for the 2015 Oscars, but it’s something to think about as you’re watching: how much more powerful is 2nd screen going to be at next year’s show when Twitter’s third party site ad serving is in place.

Originally published at www.2ndscreensociety.com on February 19, 2015.


Feb 14, 2015

The Emperor Has No Clothes


There’s a fairly clear hierarchy in the world of apps: the ad-supported version is for apps you don’t use very often or don’t like enough to care if there’s a constant flow of banners interrupting them. But if an app proves compelling enough, you’ll gladly pay the dollar or five to get the ad-free version.

At first glance, the viability of the second model seems like a no-brainer, even for the television industry. In fact, people already pay for channels like HBO because they find that the quality of the shows to be worth an extra $15 a month. The logic is quite simple.

Why, then, has the ad-free model never made it to the world of television?

The best illustration of the lopsidedness of the current system is the CBS drama Under The Dome. Episodes of the show, an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, will first air on CBS with a full commercial load and then air ad-free on Amazon Prime five days later.

But what if instead of selling rights to Amazon, CBS allowed viewers who had the CBS app to pay $2.99 an episode (or $34.99 for the entire 13-episode season) for the right to see the series ad-free five days before the ad-supported version ran online? And why not make that option available for every series?

In circulating the idea with executives at various networks, the reaction is always similar: it’s a thought-provoking idea, but advertisers would be furious and feel we were undercutting them, and the app would cannibalize the networks’ most loyal linear viewers (at minimum, the most affluent ones.)

While I see their point, that migration is already happening. Netflix is lifting high-income, high-value viewers from broadcast and cable channels. Ditto for operator DVRs and VOD. Seems their loyal viewers are not so loyal when presented with a compelling alternative. And if this is going to happen, why not keep them within the network circle, albeit OTT?

That said, legitimate barriers exist, and the greatest barrier to getting ad-free programming on TV is unfortunately the toughest to overcome. To wit, everyone involved in the television advertising ecosystem has bought into the fiction that people actually want to watch commercials. The entire system, including Nielsen ratings, is predicated on this false perception. Allowing people to pay a fee to opt out of having to watch commercials, and then rewarding them for doing so by giving them first access, would only serve to highlight this fact, to show that the emperor has no clothes.

But with linear viewing in rapid decline, an ad-free system may be the networks’ last best choice. Viewers have proven they have no problem paying to see shows they like. (It’s paying for shows they don’t like that’s the rub.) It remains to be seen which network will be the first to introduce an ad-free service on television and whether it offends advertisers such that it cuts into network revenue.

The ideal candidate would be a mini-series — — something like The Slap, the eight episode American adaptation of an Australian series that launches Thursday night on NBC. The network could easily position it as a ‘special event’ and use this as its rationale for offering an ad-free version.

The benefit to the network is two-fold: if the show turns out to be popular, it would dramatically increase the number of people who download and use the OTT app. This would then allow the network to charge higher rates for ads that ran on the app and keep the audience that would otherwise migrate to Netflix or another streaming service. Second, they’d get valuable data about the show’s audience: who they are, what shows they like to watch, what they liked on Facebook or other social apps, etc.

Networks could also establish an alternative revenue stream from their OTT apps. Viewers could pay for an individual episode (transactional) or pay a flat monthly fee for access to the entire network (subscription). Or they could offer both. The final decision would rest on which option they believed would generate the greatest profits, which would vary from network to network. Regardless, networks have a variety of ways to implement an ad-free model.

If the case for ad-free TV options is so compelling, why isn’t the model already in use? Apart from fear of driving away advertisers, networks fear driving viewers to OTT, even their own OTT. In their mind, it remains unclear how they can make the same money from OTT as they do from linear.

Unfortunately, that train has left the station and viewers are watching less linear TV and more OTT than ever before. That’s why it is in the best interest of the networks to make sure those viewers stay with them as they move to OTT rather than defect to a third party.

That said, it will take time for networks to become comfortable with the ad-free model, and it will take someone with true vision to be the first mover. However, once someone does move, the floodgates will open.

A version of this article ran as a TDG opinion piece on February 12, 2015


Feb 10, 2015

From TDG Research: The Emergence of Netflix 3.0

Netflix has become the poster child for how to successfully challenge -- and change -- the television industry. It has built its success with a content strategy that involves innovative original programming mixed with a much larger base of older network shows (we used to call them “reruns”). 
But that may all be about to change. 
Netflix is facing two very serious challenges to its current hegemony over OTT streaming, and its business may never be the same. 
READ MORE


Feb 7, 2015

From Lost Remote: A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing: Jesse Redniss and Alan Wolk on Twitter's Latest (and Genius) Play

This piece, co-written with Jesse Redniss, first appeared on Adweek's Lost Remote site.
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 Twitter’s recent deal to run sponsored tweets on third party sites like Flipboard and Yahoo Japan may have inadvertently solved one of the platforms biggest problems: while people like knowing “what’s on Twitter” they often don’t like using the platform itself.
As many observers have noted, no other social media platform gets the sort of viscerally negative reaction that Twitter does, especially from otherwise tolerant and tech friendly people. But while those same people may profess to “despise” Twitter, they are generally interested in what’s being said there. It’s the age old tale of a love/hate relationship, but now, consumers benefit the most by being on the receiving end of an experience that was once confusing and elusive.