OMG U R So Watching the Same Movie as Me

4 12 2007

communal tv watching

“if you pause this again I am gonna kill you!”

There is an article on Tech Consumer today that describes a new HD DVD feature for the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix home release. It’s called “community screening,” and according to the article it will utilize the Ethernet connection built into each HD DVD player.

Here is how “community screening” technology works. The host invites others to watch the movie, and then can simultaneously watch while, “chatting live with your friends while you watch.” Only the host can control the viewing of the movie (play, pause, etc).

I am beyond perplexed about the attractiveness of this feature. It just doesn’t seem completely thought out.

From the official release site:

“Invite other owners of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix HD DVD to simultaneously watch from their own internet-accessed players and text with your remote, PC or cellphone.”

Just a quick note to the movie studio….communication has been available through your PC and cellphone before this feature became available. So you have added texting through remote, which I see absolutely no one taking advantage of.

space jam pic

Maybe I’m out of touch with the youth market, but I just can’t see this catching on. I can’t think of a time I have ever wanted to watch a DVD simultaneously with someone else who wasn’t in the room with me. Except, of course, when Space Jam comes on TBS and I call all my friends so we can watch it together.

If I’m marketing this, here is where I’m selling this feature: constantly traveling or divorced parents. You would call your son or daughter up, and you could watch a movie ‘together’, even if you are apart. Or maybe job training or education DVDs, where you could coordinate a class and then the instructor ‘hosts’ a simultaneous viewing. But that would necessitate lots of people owning HD DVD players, and that just isn’t happening – yet.

So this feature may just be ahead of it’s time. But I hope executives aren’t pushing this as a feature that will put HD over the top of Blu-Ray. If so, they could be in for a looong holiday season.


Andre Still Has a Posse

28 11 2007

Obey Image

Today I took the brand new Karmaloop TV service from Karmaloop for a spin today, and it definitely has a lot of promise. I always dig an ‘insider’ look at an underground-type of industry. My favorite segment so far is an interview with Shepard Fairey, artist and founder of Obey. It was a Fairey experiment that produced the famous image above, which you probably recognize if you were skating in the mid-90’s.

Before I get to the content of the interview though, let me just say that Karmaloop CEO Greg Selkoe clearly should not be interviewing people. He is eating the microphone, his questions are pretty dumb, and he introduces himself with aliases? Who does that besides Sal Masekela and Sway? It detracts from the person you are trying to interview and just doesn’t look very professional. I admire him because he has been pretty successful, but leave the interviewing to someone else!

Once Shepard Fairey took over the interview, it became very insightful. He spoke on his humble roots and how the whole ‘Andre the Giant has a posse’ meme came about. Fairey really goes global when commenting on his reaction to the growth of the ‘Andre’ image:

“…it really opened my mind to the ideas of an image in public sparking a reaction that is something that is outside of advertising and the usual signage that you see that raises people’s awareness about what’s going on around them.”

I had just read something about influential street artist Banksy and his exhibit here in New York. Fairey’s comments got my mind rolling on the whole awareness idea. In advertising, we really inundate the public with ‘awareness’ campaigns that are trashed and forgotten almost immediately. Today one of my clients sent out almost two million direct mailings to consumers. They are hoping 95-98% of recipients don’t trash the piece immediately.

Comparatively, Fairey’s Andre image was first published on a sticker in 1989, and almost twenty years later his art has grown into not only a full business, but has influenced many people to look at the world in a different way.

All we have to do is take some time and create real creative work for our clients. More than just words on a page describing policies and legal. Make them feel something as well. This can be accomplished just as thoroughly with art as a traditional print or TV campaign. But make it something rare – make it something your target will seek out and obtain, rather than have it stuffed into their mailbox. Only then can we create influential works to last over time.

Jordan’s Announce, “They Are Cheap”

29 10 2007

I was sad when the hated Boston Red Sox and their stupid antics won the World Series. Matt Holliday suddenly turned into Travis Hafner, and with Papelbon on the mound, it never seemed close. It seemed inevitable that eventually Papelbon and the rest of the idiots would be celebrating like stupid Japanese Stormtroopers eventually. I turned off the TV with a heavy heart, but somehow I knew someone in Boston was going to pay.

And today, my wish came true. It seems (and I vaguely remember when this contest was announced) that Jordan’s Furniture of Massachusetts will have to reimburse thousands of customers (and millions of dollars) because the Sox won the World Series. The contest stated, simply enough, that if the Red Sox won the World Championship, anyone who bought furniture between March 7th and April 16th at Jordan’s would be reimbursed.

This become a huge PR move for Jordan’s, since this has become a big time story today. And they could be totally on top of it, smiling and happily recounting some great rebate stories. I’m sure there were some people who dropped a ton of money and just prayed the Sox would win. Why doesn’t Jordan’s do a press conference with them? Or schedule to have their new furniture shown off? What if Jordan’s had a special “Red Sox 2007, World Series champs” catalog, filled with the pics of those who won big in this promotion?

But instead, in every single bit of coverage on this story, I hear about how Jordan’s President, Eliot Tatelman, won’t have to cover all the contest expenses because he got contest insurance.

Well doesn’t that just deflate the “WIN” balloons that were streaming from the ceiling after winning the contest. The whole thing was just for the PR, since Jordan’s never intended on following through on their offer. You have to believe that since an insurance company is involved, people may spend years waiting for their rebates. Damn.

So to the people of Boston, it looks like you win twice. First, your beloved Red Sox have struck again. And second, that couch you are lounging in may some day be free. But when is a different story. And thanks, Jordan’s furniture, for tarnishing a great feel good story. I love my feel good stories.

Businesses, not Cities, Win
Fox 4 Coverage
USA Today Coverage Write-Up

More Than Popcorn

16 10 2007

movie pic

Brandweek just released in a report that in-theater advertising has experienced a 15% increase since 2005. I’ve never really thought much about in-theater advertising, but clearly it will increase in popularity and importance with film budgets ballooning and the threat of busts increasing.

The truth is, we have become pretty darn good at picking a flop when we see it. Sure, some well received movies still flop (see Shawshank Redemption and Grindhouse as my favorites) but we’re rarely fooled by junk such as The Heartbreak Kid (Ben Stiller seriously needs a new character type) and the biggest loser, The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

But another part of the problem is, we just aren’t as motivated to head out to the movies with the ticket prices still rising. I know if I’m borderline on a movie, or just don’t feel like making the time, I’ll wait for the DVD. And even then, if a friend says it sucked then I won’t even put in that much effort.

So the challenge then is to drive people to the theater. Make the experience memorable, and customers will go and line up during opening weekend. Give them an added on performance to go along with the movie, and maybe they will be happy to shell out the $30-$40 it can cost to have a date at the movies.

I’m not a marketing genius, but I do know that studios are shelling out millions to place their movies in every available media slot and open space outside of the theater. I literally just watched “The Comebacks” sponsor a spot in the intro to the ALCS game four. And I know Transformers was sponsoring NFL football this weekend (now where was the tie-in there?)

But then you arrive at the movie, and there is no special effort to connect. There is no reason to show up before the previews. If the only experience is the movie, then why NOT just wait for the DVD and watch it in your own home? Save some of the millions from stuffing your movie down our collective throats. With the power of the Internet, we’ve been reading about your movie for months. And even if we haven’t, the local paper and news reviews your movie before it opens.

iron man

I think some of the movies coming up have incredible potential. Slash Film, an awesome preview and review film blog, recently posted their 55 Must See Movies of 2008. Movies like Cloverfield, Be Kind Rewind, Jumper, and of course Iron Man look like sure-fire hits. Couple the movie with something unique, some free schwag, something that says, “we gave a damn that you specifically came to the movie.” I’m thinking a glossy book of pictures from shooting, or a comic that supports the storyline. The more interest the movie studio shows, the more we as viewers will return.

In the end, the movies can be a welcome escape for a lot of people. The movies captivate our attention in the way few other things do (sports and musical performances come to mind). But with the expansion of the home theater, it takes something extra to get us to choose the movies for our night out. But as the numbers show, in-theater advertising is a channel that has serious growth potential, both economically and creatively.

UPDATE: The Movie Blog author John has written an article on why commercials before movies are worse than piracy. Makes it even more important to have a relevant, creative, well connecting idea for marketing to filmgoers.

Open Letter to Ad Execs, re: TV Sponsorships

2 10 2007


This is a bit of an ongoing series, as I try to understand the bone-headed moves some ad campaigns make. To read my first installment, on eBay’s “windorphins” and advertising on the NYC Subway, click here. Today, I’m going to tackle TV content sponsorships: where they are now, and where I think they should head in the future.“Studying Again” by Pan-ga on Flickr!

I was watching Top Chef the other day, one of my favorite shows on TV. For any of you who live under a rock, Top Chef runs on Bravo on Wednesday nights. The finale of Season 3 is this week. The series pits chefs against each other in a series of challenges to determine one “Top Chef”.

When the chefs arrived at their ‘quick fire’ challenge, they were greeted by not a chef, but a Bombay Saffire mixologist. What the heck? The challenge here was to create a dish to go with a mixed Bombay Saffire drink. There were huge Bombay logos everywhere in the kitchen, and the different flavors of Bombay were extensively covered during the challenge. It was then I realized…Top Chef has sold out.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the show, I still love the content. But this type of sponsorship is a slippery slope. When the sponsors, and not the producers, have the control of the challenges in the show, the show takes on a completely different (and commercial) tone. Judges lose their power as sponsors begin to chose who stays and who goes on the show. The entire premise of the show begins to fall apart as it sells it’s soul to commercial chef logo

This is nothing new for Top Chef. They have been touting “the Glad family of products” and the “Kenmore Elite” kitchen the chefs work in since day 1 of the series. But this season they have turned a completely new corner. Failed TV chef Rocco Dispirito brought his new line of frozen meals to this season, with a spot during EVERY commercial break, and an episode where he acts as guest judge. I really enjoyed the “breakfast” challenge episode, except for how many times Padma referred to the Breville blenders the chefs were using.

This blatant, over-the-top type sponsorship is to me not only a growing problem, but a total waste of money. Oh, I believe in sponsorships, but it has to be done right. Did sponsoring ’24’ increase sales for Ford or Toyota? Not in a way that rationalizes all the money they spent on it. And it definitely wasn’t worth it for us 24 fans, who had to watch the Ford trucks logo pushed into our faces again and again.

Obviously this onslaught of branded entertainment is not worth it, nor is it going away. Instead, agencies have to find a way to support the content of the show, not alter or disrupt it. And just stop pushing it our faces already! Subtle sponsorship and support of content can go a long long way.

It seems to say somewhere in the “sponsorship handbook” that if you sponsor a program, you have to shove it down consumers throats or they will forget. It’s just not so.

The introduction of blog buzz has made that strategy obsolete. Instead, a subtle underlying sponsorship can reap you huge benefits as bloggers spread word about your supportive action and how it helped the event/content happen.

Take Top Chef for example. The sponsorships they have are relevant, they are just too blatant. If instead of mentioning Breville blenders a million times, let the consumer be the one to ask. Let them get on the blogs or forums and say, “man, I want one of those blenders! Where can I get one?” Let Tom Colicchio, a trusted source and head judge of Top Chef, provide an HONEST review of your knives, or blenders, or other products. Which you provided to the show, free of charge.

I know after every episode of the Sopranos or Entourage, I would go online to find out what music was playing in that episode. There are more consumer touch points to reach the target than just in the middle of the show itself. A smart sponsor will find where they can assist the participants or the viewers and position themselves there. Relevantly.

bravo TV online forumsWhatever you do, make the media where the sponsorship is inherently interactive. I mean make it on a blog, a forum, somewhere where the viewers can provide their honest feedback. Making the consumer seek it out, instead of shoving it in their face, makes them more likely to remember your brand and brand message.

I know, it’s harder and requires more thought than just throwing a bag of money at a show. This is supposed to be the challenge of our business. But don’t be afraid to try and be creative with your sponsorships, then let the show itself and the bloggers do the work. Watch your brand message spread quicker than any ad campaign could, and you are doing a good deed in the process!

Have other examples of good sponsorships? Feel free to comment below and tell us about them!

Flickr images provided by Pan-Ga’s Photos and FngKestrel. Thanks a lot!

Better Be Nice to Your Dog

17 09 2007

Saw this over at Cool Loking Ads, also known as the Official Cannes Lions blog.  (And by the way, that is no typo – the site is actually spelled ‘loking’.  I don’t get it, but who am I to judge?)


I think this is a cool, original way of looking at the man-dog relationship. Instead of actually showing the dog relaxing in their favorite spot, the image shows the aftermath, with the human owner uncomfortably situated on the floor.

These ads came not just from extensive numbers research, but also from consumer insights. These insights create an instant emotional connection with dog owners, who are their target. It definitely brought a knowing smile to my face, as I thought about moving Marisa’s golden from his favorite spot.

The art is good too, with the lighting and design separating these ads from traditional dog food fare. Taking the dog out of the ad made it that much more eye-catching and appealing.

My only question is: is the dog food really called Crack Active? Sounds pretty scary.

Open Letter to Ad Execs re: windorphins

12 09 2007

This is a post that most surely will be edited, revised, re-written, added on to, addendum-ed, fixed, etc. in the months to come. Basically, this was the catch-all title for my rants on different topics. Today’s topic (well, I’ve been thinking about it for the last few days) is advertising on the MTA, or the New York City Subway.

So let’s begin with what I, and no doubt everyone around me on the subway, hate. WHY oh why is every inch of most trains covered in the exact same ad? Just yesterday I rode on the Justin Timberlake train, followed by the Budweiser train, and then finally the hated Windorphins train.

windorph_subway.jpgSeriously, I hate these Windorphins. No idea what they are, and don’t want to know (although if you do, fellow blogger Syposphere did some research). I just want them gone.

I would probably be hooked, or interested, if the ad wasn’t played to death all over the train. Maybe one ad on the train, maybe two to be sure and cover most of the car. But every single panel? What is the advantage of that? Haven’t any of you ever ridden on the train for more than 5 minutes? You do a lot of looking around, and not just at the people (that gets creepy fast) you really DO look at the ad panels. So change it up a bit (and not just the already annoying copy).

But note what I said there – I DO look at the ads. I do notice them. So the Subway is a good place for ads – no, its a great place for ads. There I am, stuck in a train, listening to some music and just looking around for a good 30 minutes. I am ready to be inundated with advertising messages. But for the love of Mike Staub can you make them interesting? (or at least humorous, as this was)

It’s incredible (but not necessarily surprising) to me when a singular individual, with a tiny tiny ad budget, does better advertising than most professionals in the subway. A few days ago someone had posted their rap group’s flyer over the Justin Timberlake ads. All the flyer included was the name of the group, a website, and then the copy: “(famous rapper) would approve!”

That was it. Was it great advertising? No. Do I remember the group name or the website. No. But someone probably did, and it cost them nothing to make a few hundred paper copies of their flyer. I wish I had taken a picture to provide.

So what can a company do to make an impact in the MTA. Well, a long long while ago I covered a great example of just that (read that post here). The short answer is, make the experience memorable, make it innovative, or give the commuters something to smile about and take with them the rest of their day. ANY of those would work, and a combination just makes it better. And none of those are particularly hard with some thinking.

So don’t just take the JT ad from the magazine, stretch it to fit the subway panel, then send it out. Nope, that sucks.

Instead, create a new concept for this media, base it on the same big idea and appearance, and send it out.ds-subway.jpg Or, if you are going to completely inundate subway riders with your ad content, make it interactive. I was riding yesterday and thinking…what if Allstate replaced subway seats with giant hands…”you’re in good hands…” Run that for a month on a few select train cars, get people laughing, giggling, taking and sending their friends pictures. Then, when the event is over, put brand new benches in the hands’ place. This provides a lasting benefit for the riders – and believe me they won’t quickly forget that.

And yeah, you are going to weird some people out. You might annoy some. But as long as your advertising isn’t inherently annoying like the windorphins, you are good in my book.

Or how about a ski mountain ad running above the swinging hand holds over the seats? Unlucky people who are stuck holding them will appear to be taking a ride up to the top of a mountain. Have I designed it? No, but someone can. Replace the handles with ski grips and you are good to go. A water skiing school or wakeboard gear shop could benefit from this idea as well.

As an industry, we should be working towards making people’s days happier, more enjoyable. Call it a rosy view, but if we all had that as one of our goals, I believe we would be more successful.

I guess the best place to start is getting rid of those damn windorphins.

More links to come over at the scary basement.