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- 10/08/12--08:20: _Sony Sues Its Vp of...
- 10/09/12--03:14: _Artisanal Advertising
- 11/08/12--11:41: _Ad of the Day: Sony...
- 11/09/12--05:09: _Top 10 Commercials ...
- 12/09/12--21:04: _Wieden, Beyond 'Hal...
- 01/06/13--21:01: _Sizing Up the CES C...
- 01/11/13--04:33: _People Don't Use TV...
- 02/11/13--15:00: _AmEx Looks to Ignit...
- 02/12/13--11:23: _Intel to Shake Up T...
- 02/12/13--14:24: _As Ex-Partners Vie ...
- 02/20/13--20:00: _10 Trailers Sony Ho...
- 02/28/13--11:57: _Ad of the Day: Sony...
- 04/29/13--19:08: _The Terrifying Slow...
- 06/07/13--05:28: _YouTube's 10 Most-W...
- 06/07/13--12:04: _Gamers Grow Increas...
- 06/12/13--06:01: _'Greatness Awaits' ...
- 07/02/13--02:55: _Comedians in Cars R...
- 07/08/13--09:13: _YouTube's 10 Most-W...
- 07/23/13--05:05: _Filmmaker Garth Dav...
- 07/23/13--09:58: _Ad of the Day: See ...
- 10/08/12--08:20: Sony Sues Its Vp of Everything, Kevin Butler, for Playing a Wii
- 10/09/12--03:14: Artisanal Advertising
- 11/08/12--11:41: Ad of the Day: Sony Xperia
- 11/09/12--05:09: Top 10 Commercials of the Week: Nov. 2-9
- 12/09/12--21:04: Wieden, Beyond 'Halftime'
- 01/06/13--21:01: Sizing Up the CES Crapshoot
- 01/11/13--04:33: People Don't Use TV Apps, and Mobile Gaming Is Set to Implode
- 02/11/13--15:00: AmEx Looks to Ignite Real Twitter Shopping
- 02/12/13--11:23: Intel to Shake Up TV Landscape This Year
- 02/12/13--14:24: As Ex-Partners Vie for Movie Deals, Netflix Expands Originals
- 02/20/13--20:00: 10 Trailers Sony Hopes Will Make You Ravenous for a PlayStation 4
- 02/28/13--11:57: Ad of the Day: Sony Xperia Z
- 04/29/13--19:08: The Terrifying Slowdown for New Creative Business
- 06/07/13--05:28: YouTube's 10 Most-Watched Ads in May
- 06/07/13--12:04: Gamers Grow Increasingly Incensed with Microsoft's Xbox One
- 06/12/13--06:01: 'Greatness Awaits' in BBH's Grand Launch Spot for the PlayStation 4
- 07/02/13--02:55: Comedians in Cars Redefines Sony's Crackle
- 07/08/13--09:13: YouTube's 10 Most-Watched Ads in June
- 07/23/13--05:05: Filmmaker Garth Davis Dreams a Whole World for Sony 4K Televisions
It looks like one of the great spokescharacters of recent years has met an ignominious end. Sony is suing Jerry Lambert, the great commercial actor who has played Kevin Butler, a wise-cracking PlayStation exec, for several years, because he was seen playing a Wii driving game in a recent Bridgestone ad. Kotaku has the statement from Sony: "Sony Computer Entertainment America filed a law suit against Bridgestone and Wildcat Creek Inc."—the entity which reportedly handles Lambert's business affairs—"on September 11. The claims are based on violations of the Lanham Act, misappropriation, breach of contract and tortious interference with a contractual relationship. We invested significant resources in bringing the Kevin Butler character to life and he's become an iconic personality directly associated with PlayStation products over the years. Use of the Kevin Butler character to sell products other than those from PlayStation misappropriates Sony's intellectual property, creates confusion in the market and causes damage to Sony." You can see the Bridgestone spot below, which was later edited to remove Lambert and appears to have been scotched entirely now. Sadly, to see Kevin Butler in action, you'll have to watch unauthorized YouTube clips—as PlayStation appears to have scrubbed its own channel clean of his offending visage. No wonder he suddenly stopped tweeting at the end of August. Ad agency Deutsch declined to comment.
In a nondescript laboratory, a stodgy scientist in a white coat fills a beaker with orange liquid. At the same time, a second beaker sitting untouched on a lab table fills up with an identical liquid—as if by magic.
This alchemical ad for Google Play’s instant data syncing must be computer-generated trickery, right? Wrong. It is a decidedly old-world illusion using a mechanical prop. Hidden under the table, engineer Eric Gradman pumps a three-plunger contraption that fills and then empties the second beaker through a tube.
While Google Play itself is effectively effortless (or so the brand maintains), constructing the custom countertop and coordinating the stunt in this ad most definitely was not. “That was 100 percent in camera,” says Jonathan Zames, writer and director of the spot. “That would have actually been easier to computer generate.”
Then why bother? “When you do it by hand, people sense all the little imperfections,” Zames explains. “It’s more surprising because they can see that real effort went into it.”
Call it artisanal advertising for the digital age. Even as pixel-driven effects get better at simulating reality, top creatives are returning to handmade techniques to pitch the less tangible offerings of tech brands such as Google, Sony, Comcast and Vizio. Aiming for authenticity, their intent is to forge emotional connections with viewers in a commercial landscape that’s increasingly saturated by computer-generated imagery.
“We live in a world of such incredible, seamless, mind-blowing special effects. There’s almost more stopping power sometimes these days in showing something that’s been done with human hands,” says Tom Murphy, chief creative officer of McCann Erickson, who oversaw “Frames,” an intricate theatrical commercial for Sony’s Xperia tablet.
From the quaint to the dramatic, ads featuring hand-built models and props stand in stark contrast to elaborate CGI fantasies pitching traditional brands such as Chevrolet, State Farm, Perrier, Old Spice, Snickers, Coca-Cola and Evian. In recent years, these and other companies have blitzed viewers with computerized apocalyptic landscapes, alien robot invasions, trips to the sun and rapid-fire, superhuman metamorphoses—not to the mention a menagerie of talking, singing and dancing babies and critters. (We mean you, Kia hamsters.)
The rise in artisanal marketing echoes Do-It-Yourself mania and the booming demand for handmade foods and goods. Online craft marketplace Etsy, for example, brokered $436.9 million in sales through the first seven months of 2012, putting it on track to sail past the $525.6 million it recorded for all of last year. The homespun buying trend dovetails with research from The Futures Company revealing that more than 80 percent of Americans believe that society is too dependent on technology and that companies have grown inhuman and impersonal.
“With technology being this overarching force in society,” says Futures vp Ryan McConnell, “people are wanting a more human touch.”
To create that human touch in a spot for Xperia, McCann Erickson took over an alleyway in Warsaw, Poland, where it installed 10-foot-high frames designed to look like oversized versions of the tablet’s screen. In the ad, a single tracking shot zooms through each “window” as actors play out real-world versions of familiar digital sequences. For instance, a pair of swordsmen clad in red are seen dicing up oversized, airborne strawberries in a reenactment of the popular video game Fruit Ninja.
To be sure, an ad depicting some guy using yet another tablet would be boring, but the magnitude of the handcrafted Xperia production featuring actors doing somersaults à la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon bring to life what it might actually feel like to use the device. And rather than hiding or digitally erasing the lights, rigging and grips in the background of the shot, the creative team intentionally left them in to emphasize that the stunts were real and that the effects were “practical”—film jargon for physical.
Meanwhile, the Google Play ad had to illustrate an even more abstract concept: how the cloud-computing software streamlines data files across laptops, smartphones and tablets without cables or repeated steps. A metaphoric stand-in for user content, the vanishing and reappearing orange liquid was actually Gatorade and food coloring.
“There are no actual apps or music mixed into that liquid,” jokes Gradman, who helped build the table. For the shoot, he camped out beneath the counter manning the pump, aided by a folding chair and a book to stay comfortable between takes.
An artist with a master’s degree in robotics from the University of Southern California, Gradman helped create the Google spots while at Syyn Labs, a mechanically savvy design collective in Los Angeles. Splitting off from the group this spring, he and three former partners (two of whom also worked on the Google series) reformed as Two Bit Circus, which custom builds installations with technological twists. (Other founding partners include Hector Alvarez, Dan Busby and Brent Bushnell, the son of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese founder Nolan Bushnell.)
The new company’s first project is a functioning prototype of a futuristic entertainment system for retailer Best Buy, along with a reality style video series about making the half-digital, half-physical installation.
“Not only are we seeing increasing demand for practical effects, but we’re also seeing demand for people filming us making practical effects,” says Gradman, explaining that watching real people making cool things is one thing you can’t fake with software.
Of course, overall demand for practical effects isn’t what it once was.
Longtime model maker Don Bies says the amazingly lifelike CGI dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Jurassic Park were a catalyst in the rush toward computer graphics. But for some directors, the retro aesthetics of elaborate sets and models like those in films from the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s can have a certain difficult-to-define appeal.
“There’s a cool factor” in using real props, says Bies. Now owner of White Room Artifacts, the 25-year industry veteran began his career creating mechanical puppets for David Cronenberg’s 1986 film The Fly, then moved to George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic’s now-defunct model shop, where he worked on films such as 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (To help Nazi-aligned villain Walter Donovan’s body disintegrate in the film’s finale, Bies rigged vacuum lines that sucked a puppet’s eyeballs back into its skull.)
This year, Bies’ company built a Rube Goldberg machine in a suitcase for another Zames-directed spot for Google Play, as well as props for a Comcast ad that featured dollhouse-style miniatures inside TV monitors that actors wore on their heads. (See photos on facing page.) Following a similar concept, his team also created replicas of automobiles that replace actors’ heads in an Edmunds.com spot to illustrate the message that its employees really are “The Car People.”
Ad creatives may also be taking a cue from contemporary Hollywood directors. To announce Vizio’s entry into the personal-computing market, agency One/x hired New Deal Studios, the same model shop that built props like a Batmobile for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and a steam locomotive for Martin Scorcese’s Hugo.
For the Vizio commercial, New Deal constructed a bleak, eight-foot-tall cityscape out of old computers, to frame the competition as dull and dreary, according to One/x creative director Jason Wulfsohn. Using actual parts rather than digital manipulation made the brand’s message more convincing, says Vizio media director Jason Maciel. “We just felt that building out of actual PCs and putting people into this environment made it feel authentic and real,” he explains.
Still, most if not all ads shot to look homey still get a digital finish. In the Vizio spot, for example, live actors were digitally dropped into the made-to-scale set.
There’s no doubt that consumers today expect a more polished look. A recent study of 518 consumers by visual effects software company GenArts found that purchase intent rose 12 percent when subjects were shown a Puma ad with digital burnish compared to one without.
The mix of live action with digital effects can come off like a commentary on the aesthetics of advertising. A recent Toyota spot from Saatchi & Saatchi London began with the GT86 model, captured live, driving through a digital dystopia straight out of the underworld of Grand Theft Auto. In the spot’s climax, the bright red car bursts through a wall of lights at “the end of the world,” delivering its driver from the nightmare of a computer-generated landscape into—quite literally—the greener pastures of reality.
The point was to illustrate a return to a more classic driving experience, free from the excessive gadgetry of modern cars, says Saatchi creative director Andy Jex.
As the spot’s director Adam Berg relates, the ad tells the story of someone devoid of feeling, escaping from a cold, controlled world. “For that, the CG aspect of it kind of fit the bill perfectly,” says Berg, who recently landed his feature film debut directing Universal’s remake of Cronenberg’s 1983 horror flick Videodrome. (The plot, appropriately, explores the impact of media and technology on the mind.)
Jex insists the Toyota commercial wasn’t intended as a meta critique of advertising itself. Yet it is easy to see it as a commentary on the industry’s increasing dependence on computer gimmickry.
Setting aside whether the reliance on digital spectacle threatens to become a crutch for weak messaging, digital-heavy effects continue to dominate—often to compelling effect. In a recent spot for railroad company Norfolk Southern, agency RP3 conjured a charming, Toy Story-style world in a young boy’s bedroom. After his playthings come alive and jump aboard his chugging steam engine, the voiceover intones: “Wherever our trains go, the economy comes to life.”
Just five years ago, such detailed animation would have been unrealistic under most marketing budgets and timetables.
“CGI-driven jobs are becoming more accessible purely because computers get faster and there’s more and more talent out there,” says Ben Smith, a creative director at top postproduction house The Mill, which worked on the Norfolk Southern commercial. “It all points toward being able to do more in less time, essentially.”
Still, the 60-second Norfolk Southern spot required 1,000 odd man-hours of animation work among six artists. That’s not counting design, compositing and other aspects of the production. Overall, the project took around three months to complete, says Smith—longer than usual due to the intensive nature of conceiving and designing the characters.
“The range of what we’re being asked to do is always expanding,” says CEO Robin Shenfield. He estimates that The Mill gets 90 percent of its revenue from advertising work and employs 700 people—the biggest the company has been since 2002 when it shrunk its division focused on feature films.
Still, Shenfield says, much of the company’s work aims to be photorealistic—or in lay terms, not obviously manipulated. “The whole idea there is to conspire with our clients to give the impression we’ve done absolutely nothing at all,” he explains.
Comparing practical versus digital costs is not easy since production budgets vary widely depending on project size, scope and quality. Given the intensive labor involved in creating digital graphics, it might cost around $200,000 to produce a scene with computers that would cost $50,000 to build by hand, according to estimates. For example, Comcast’s TV monitors cost about $30,000 to build, says Bies. “Let’s put it this way: Plumbers charge a lot more money than we do,” he says. “I wish I made $150 for an hour and a half.”
Expense aside, computer-generated imagery sometimes just falls short.
To promote Unilever’s Axe line of hair products, BBH executive creative director Ari Weiss and his team created a spot featuring two puppets: one a blob of shaggy men’s hair, the other a headless, cleavage-flaunting female torso. The agency enlisted Jim Henson’s Creature Shop of Muppets fame, Weiss says, because it is “notoriously difficult” to create natural-looking locks using computer graphics.
Though handmade effects may be in vogue, Weiss doesn’t necessarily expect the trend to last.
“Creatives are incredibly fickle folks: We like the new toys...and then a new toy comes out,” he says.
So what’s the next big thing? “That’s the million dollar question,” says Weiss.
Maybe better hair.
Over the weekend of Oct. 26, when audiences in Sweden flocked to see the new James Bond film Skyfall (yes, you heard that right—they got the latest Bond movie two full weeks before the U.S. did), one group of fans entered Stockholm's Filmstaden Sergel unaware that they were being filmed for a secret-agent-themed Sony marketing stunt.
Swimming inside the free sodas being handed out by the theater's entrance, the electronics company had surreptitiously hidden several Xperia Acro S smartphones—a new waterproof model. Before the start of the film, audience members were told by a disembodied voice that they might be one of the "lucky devils" with a prize in their soda. Some unseen force then called the hidden phones, resulting in several confused Swedes pulling Xperias out of their ringing drinks. (And kudos to the local office of Crispin Porter + Bogusky for thinking to attach the phones to the soda lids, thus avoiding the nightmare scenario of people plunging their hands into sugary soft drinks. Gross.)
So, apparently, Sony Xperia Acro S phones really are waterproof. But that's not the big takeaway from this stunt. It's the fact that, in Sweden, you not only get to see James Bond movies before anyone in America, but there's always a chance you might find a fancy new smartphone in your soda.
Let's all move to Sweden.
Client: Sony Mobile Nordic
Nordic Marketing Communications Manager: Martina Johansson
Nordic Public Relations Manager: Erik Yström
Agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Sweden
Executive Creative Director: Gustav Martner
Creative Directors: Jonas Wittenmark, Tobias Carlson
Art Director: Jonas Wittenmark
Copywriter: Tobias Carlson
Junior Art Director: Jakob Eriksson
Junior Copywriter: Elof Ivarsson
Client Service Director: Kristian Jörgensen
Business Director: Therese Olander
Content Supervisor: Karin Branmark
Agency Producer: Annika Andreasson
Event Agency: Grandins Flying Circus
Production Company: Vidiots
This week, long-lost lovers got knocked off their feet by new appliances, Dewar's demonstrated that you needn't have a Y chromosome to enjoy a "drinking man's scotch," and smartphones went for a sugary swim.
Many of the hundreds of TV commercials that air each day are just blips on the radar, having little impact on the psyche of the American consumer, who is constantly bombarded by advertising messages.
These aren't those commercials.
Adweek and AdFreak have brought together the most innovative and well-executed spots of the week, commercials that will make you laugh, smile, cry, think—and maybe buy.
It takes a fool to create something ingenious, says Chrysler global marketing chief Olivier François. In other words, if you’re blissfully unaware of boundaries, you may create something extraordinary—say, an epic Super Bowl ad starring an iconic actor that’s gritty and inspirational and even becomes part of the national dialogue around the U.S. presidential election.
Wieden + Kennedy’s “It’s Halftime in America” with Clint Eastwood—which aired, naturally, in the first break after the second quarter of February’s game—was an instant classic, and an exceptional blend of star power and humanity. Against Eastwood’s rasp, images of “people who are out of work” and “hurting” gave way to the determined faces of men assembling Chryslers. The balance of dark and light and Eastwood’s gravitas disarmed cynics and turned even hardened ad critics into believers.
“That final punch line where they say, ‘It’s halftime in America, and the second half is about to begin,’ I was about ready to go out and try to enlist in the Marines,” says Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “It was very rousing. It was very patriotic without being jingoistic.”
“Halftime” and other work on Wieden’s global reel this year represent advertising at its best—words and images that spark emotions and transcend categories. Surprise is another key element—making, for example, a chubby boy jogging on an open road the focal point of “Jogger,” a Nike ad that aired during the Olympics. Likewise, the shop featured moms not athletes in “Best Job,” an ad that marked Procter & Gamble’s first global sponsorship of the Olympics and celebrated the little things that mothers do as their children grow into Olympians. The two-minute ad won the Emmy for outstanding commercial. Other creative highlights this year include “Beach” for Southern Comfort, “Crack the Case” for Heineken and “Shake on It” for ESPN.
Even for a premiere creative agency like Wieden—Adweek’s Global Agency of the Year for 2012—this was an exceptional year. The most memorable Super Bowl ad. The Emmy (its fourth straight). The biggest campaign ever for Heineken, celebrating the brand’s global sponsorship of the James Bond flick Skyfall. A whopping 45 Lions at Cannes (including 29 out of its Portland, Ore., headquarters, making it Agency of the Year). Banner wins like Tesco, Sony, Facebook and American Express Open. New business and organic growth from existing accounts fueled a swift rebound from the loss of Nokia and Target, in 2011 and early ’12, respectively. The agency ends this year with global revenue growth of 5 percent to an estimated $294 million. U.S. revenue also grew 5 percent, to $205 million.
Among its peers, independent agency Wieden, now in its 30th year, inspires both pride and envy. After all, in the past four years, Wieden has won an average of 29 Lions a year. Agency co-founder and global president Dan Wieden attributes that creative consistency to building a culture that’s “just more fun than you can believe and harder than hell. That generates ideas, great enthusiasm and new ways of looking at old issues.”
Much of Wieden’s standout work in 2012 centered around major events. In late 2011, Chrysler’s François needed an execution to fit a halftime buy during the Super Bowl, perennially the most watched program on TV. Chrysler had made a big splash in the previous big game, casting Eminem in a starring role for the launch of the “Imported from Detroit” campaign. This time, François wanted Wieden Portland to make Chrysler’s turnaround feel part of a national comeback. Hence, the casting of an American icon, who, after some initial hesitation, signed on. The agency enlisted poet Matthew Dickman and novelist Smith Henderson to help write the script.
“Powerful spot,” tweeted Obama adviser David Axelrod shortly after the two-minute ad aired Feb. 5. The next day, Republican strategist Karl Rove asserted that “Halftime” was payback for the federal government bailout of the auto industry. But even Rove admitted the ad was “extremely well done.”
Parodies ensued, including a series of Saturday Night Live clips in which Bill Hader, as Eastwood, squinted and railed about presidential candidates, China and Mexicans. “If those kinds of things happen,” says Wieden, laughing, “you know you just hit a home run.”
Going into the London Summer Olympics, P&G global marketing chief Marc Pritchard wanted to give the “Thank you, mom” campaign a global makeover. Previous ads, from Wieden Portland, focused on U.S. athletes (P&G sponsored the American team at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada). Back then, Wieden global chief operating officer Dave Luhr had challenged Pritchard to create “world-class marketing” for a “world-class event.” This time Pritchard pushed Wieden to “surprise us.” He approved the moms-on-the-job concept on the spot. “When you see something that makes your spine tingle, you’re onto something,” says Pritchard. “I knew immediately that this was a winner.”
While the maternal message is universal, local customs vary. That’s why one scene shows a Chinese mom watching her daughter compete on television. In China, moms don’t attend such events, explains John Jay, Wieden’s global ecd.
“Best Job,” from CDs Danielle Flagg and Karl Lieberman, launched in April, and the global push is on track to generate $500 million in incremental sales gains across 34 brands, including Tide, Crest and Pampers, says Pritchard. One of every three people on YouTube has shared the two-minute ad.
In the spring, the challenge facing Wieden’s Amsterdam office in marketing around Heineken’s sponsorship of Skyfall was to build on the brand’s existing “Man of the World” campaign. The campaign’s 30-ish leading man gets most of the screen time in the 90-second spot, in which bad guys chase the hero through a train full of colorful characters. The star of Skyfall, Daniel Craig, does have a cameo, though.
The ad broke in September and is still running in 34 countries. It is the centerpiece of a broader sponsorship push backed by an unprecedented $70 million in media spending, according to Sandrine Huijgen, global communications director at Heineken. Huijgen, who also works with Wieden’s offices in New York; São Paolo; and Delhi, India, says of agency leaders like Amsterdam ecd’s Eric Quennoy and Mark Bernath: “They push things and I think it works well with Heineken in terms of the personality of the brand. You know, we just want to do things that are different, and Wieden is very, very good at that.”
That reputation led Facebook to approach the agency in October 2011. The social media giant wanted to launch its first brand campaign to celebrate its upcoming billion-user milestone. Facebook execs worked with a small group at the agency including CDs Flagg, Lieberman and Eric Baldwin to develop “The Things That Connect Us,” a 90-second ad that broke in October and has generated massive buzz (not all of it positive) which Facebook shared via its own network. Asked about negative reactions to the spot, Facebook brand marketing chief Rebecca Van Dyck says, “I’m not afraid of that at all.” She adds, “It’s important for iconic brands. I think that’s what Wieden + Kennedy actually does well.”
Tesco’s Matt Atkinson likes what he sees thus far in Wieden’s London office, which, led by managing director Neil Christie, beat TBWA, VCCP and JWT in July to claim one of the most coveted accounts in the U.K. The retailer, which each year produces more than 1,000 ads and spends about $175 million in media, last month broke a campaign that centers around a familiar object in England this time of year: the holiday hat.
The holidays are over. Time to go on that diet and hit the gym. Or you could destroy all those New Year’s resolutions in a flash by attending the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The question is, why?
CES no longer seems to be the peek into the future it once was back when Atari unveiled the first in-home gaming console or when Sony demoed the DVD. With major consumer electronics brands like Apple and Microsoft opting to introduce products at their own events and in the lead-up to the holiday shopping season, CES has transitioned from a gadgetry launch pad to “more of a networking thing,” said Digitaria CTO Chuck Phillips.
“From the marketer side, most of what’s on the show floor actually isn’t that interesting,” added David Berkowitz, vp of emerging media at 360i.
Still, for many marketers, CES remains a destination—and not only because January in Vegas beats pretty much every other place you could imagine.
Agencies Gaze Into the Future
“You just finished putting the previous year to bed and want to figure out what’s exciting in the year ahead,” Berkowitz said. “CES is a good place to do so and not just talk about things but experience a lot of it.”
Even though the event may not be the place for a trove of game-changing reveals, it remains a premier showcase for innovative uses of technology, among them connected devices, as Berkowitz pointed out. Since every home isn’t outfitted with Microsoft’s Xbox and since Apple has yet to corner the market, there’s still plenty of room for other players—Samsung, for one possibility—to show off their innovations.
“It’s a technology-driven conference, but it’s all about the application for me,” said SapientNitro chief experience officer Donald Chesnut, who looks forward to seeing applications of technology, such as near-field communications, key to making mobile payments a reality.
“The primary reason for going is to see what’s out there and take it back to [the agency’s creative team],” Chesnut said. “Technology for technology’s sake is a vacuum conversation.”
What’s Titillating the Techies
As far as television and video gaming are concerned, some of the biggest contenders—namely the next generation of Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation—are off the table until E3. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing cool to see at CES. Cara Scharf, head of Fearless Media, said her gaming clients are interested in the Oculus Rift, a virtual-reality headset designed for video games that is being shown off in Vegas. Id Software’s John Carmack and Valve’s Gabe Newell—sort of the James Cameron and Steven Spielberg of contemporary gaming—have both already endorsed the peripheral.
And there’s more to chew on. “For me, it’s about how tablets and TV are coming together,” said Scharf. Microsoft plans to introduce its Smartglass technology into, well, everything (or at least everything Xbox-related) until all our living rooms look like Minority Report. “It’s not about the controller anymore,” Scharf said. “It’s about how you can control the game without having anything to connect.”
Politicos Do Vegas (Uh-Oh)
It may seem counterintuitive: public policy sessions at the world’s largest tech-gadget show. But this year’s CES will attract leading lawmakers in tech and Internet policy, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), as well as commissioners from the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission.
At last year’s CES, Issa and Wyden changed the debate over piracy legislation that could have had unintended consequences on the operation of the Internet, with Issa urging fellow lawmakers to “bring in the geeks.” Now the geeks are bringing in the wonks.
“We want the policy people to see the vibrancy of technology innovation firsthand rather than regulate or legislate in the vacuum of Washington,” said CES CEO and president Gary Shapiro.
—with Katy Bachman
If you spent any time walking around the various small cities that the major electronics companies erected last week at CES, you probably noticed how confident their executives were that the average consumer is set to have a much different, more intimate relationship with their TV manufacturer.
Instead of exclusively interacting with their cable company’s electronic programming guide, or through a secondary device like an Xbox, the Samsungs, Sonys and LGs of the world seem pretty certain that everybody’s going to start using their user interface, their movie service, their navigation mechanisms and their app stores as the primary way they use TV. (How many people currently even use the remote controls that come with the TVs they’ve purchased?)
But a handful of panelists at a CES event on Thursday threw some cold water on that dream. To here them tell it, if anybody’s got a shot at hijacking the TV experience, it’s tablet and smartphone makers.
“TV is all about content,” said Henry Derovanessian, vp of engineering, DirecTV. “We’ve launched quite a few apps, particularly social apps. The take rate on these apps is pretty minimal. TVs are there to provide entertainment.”
And while Kurt Hoppe, director of Smart TV innovation and new business at LG Electronics did note that the company has seen “an amazing usage of casual games on smart TV,” he acknowleged that social TV apps and personalized interfaces aren’t exactly taking off, at least on the TV itself.
“Your smart TV is not your computer,” Hoppe said. “Yes, there’s a younger demo that loves to tell the world what they’re doing at all times of day and night. But they’re maybe typing that on their smart phone in their lap.”
“It’s TV,” Hoppe continued. “It has to be very simple. People aren’t going to spend 15 to 20 minutes to drag and drop [a customized app experience] like desktop.”
Speaking of the importance of mobile in most consumers’ entertainment lives, later in the day a group of gaming experts shared some not-so-optimistic assessments of the market for mobile games.
“Mobile games [have a] lack of passion among users,” opined Chris Petrovic, gm of digital ventures for GameStop. "Monetization is a challenge ... .You’re going after an audience that plays games for time wasting rather than a hobby. I think we’re going to see the same implosion in mobile coming that happened in social games.” While Petrovic didn’t name names, it was clear he was referring to Zynga’s recent collapse.
Gaming veteran Nanea Reeves, recently named COO at Machinima, said that mobile gaming will have a tough time until the games get more sophisticated, and more hard-core gamers find what they're looking for on smartphones and iPads.
“Core gamers need more functionality,” she said. “The term 'casual gamer' is a misnomer. They are not gamers. They download a few games like Tetris and Bejewled and they play them over and over. They don’t buy a lot.”
And even if they did, “with mobile games, discovery is a bear,” said Reeves. “Even on my own phone its hard.”
Added Mark Friedler, vp of business development at Playerize, “99 percent of iOS apps don’t make money.”
Naturally, there are exceptions. Teemu Huuhtanen, head of M&A for Rovio, maker of the mega-hit Angry Birds, said the company enjoyed 30 million downloads over the holidays, 8 million alone on Christmas Day. He blamed VCs for pouring too much money into the space, leading to companies that are just "paying for users."
Users are not a problem for Rovio. Huuhtanen said that even though certain Angry Birds titles don’t monetize every gaming session, the company makes money on merchandise, such as stuffed Angry Bird animals. Plus, the company pulls in 20 percent of its revenue from advertising, said Huuhtanen.
That’s a rarity though. According to most of the panelists, in-game mobile ad spending is nascent, or “anemic,” as Petrovic put it.
Beyond debating whether mobile is in a bubble, the panelists spent much of Thursday’s entertaining session making proclamations about 2013 (consoles are dead, or maybe not) and taking shots at Nintendo.
Moderator Mike Vorhaus, president of the consulting firm Magid Advisiors, said: “The Wii U is not a new console.”
Playerize’s Friedler was harsher. “I think Nintendo is toast. The Wii U is a crappy product.”
Social commerce is typically Facebook’s and maybe Pinterest’s domain. But Twitter doesn’t usually factor into the conversation.
American Express began to change that last year when it rolled out the ability for card members to connect their accounts and tweet hashtags to receive merchant offers. Now, less than two weeks after Facebook and Discover partnered on the offline Facebook Card, American Express is taking Twitter a step further.
Starting today American Express card members can link their Twitter accounts with their American Express accounts and tweet specified hashtags to actually buy products on the social network. The program is the latest in a spate of partnerships American Express has executed since 2011 leveraging its Card Sync technology—connecting card members with their Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and Xbox Live accounts. But those programs have all only delivered deals, not actual goods. Consider this launch Card Sync 2.0.
“We’ve been doing a lot in the area of social commerce over the past two years,” said Leslie Berland, svp of digital partnerships and development at American Express. “Twitter Offers launched last year, and the response has been pretty fantastic. We want to bring in the new technology that we have to life in a most dramatic way, which we think Twitter is ripe for.”
Amex's Twitter Offers program has run thousands of offers from merchants across the country, resulting in millions of dollars saved by card members, Berland said. The Sync program typically appeals younger than average card members who are just as affluent, she added.
At launch, card members who have opted in can purchase a $25 Amex gift card for $15. On Wednesday five more products will be added: a $149 Amazon Kindle Fire HD, a $179 Sony Action Cam and waterproof headband mount, an $80 Urban Zen bracelet designed by Donna Karan, a $179 Microsoft Xbox 360 (including a 3-month Xbox Live subscription, two game tokens and a $29 Xbox controller). Those products will be available until March 3 if they’re not out sold out by then.
“To bring this to market, we wanted to leverage our relationships with some of our largest, most global merchant partners to provide products that have massive yield and are simply conveyed in 140 characters or less,” said American Express' head of business and product development Dave Wolf. “This is sort of round one.”
Each product will carry its own hashtag, which will also be featured as favorites on Amex’s Twitter page. After opted-in users tweet a hashtag, they’ll get an automated response to their Twitter account with a confirmation code. Users have 15 minutes to tweet the confirmation hashtag. Once they do, Amex will process the order and send the product via free two-day shipping.
The idea of making a credit card purchase through Twitter could make some people uneasy, but the entire enrollment process takes place through Amex, as was the case with its previous partnerships. After a user tweets one of the hashtags, Amex will check whether that Twitter handle has enrolled in the program. If they haven’t, they’ll be directed to an Amex landing page to connect their card and Twitter account. Amex will be able to see if someone has already enrolled in the Twitter Offers program and will just need to confirm that user’s billing and shipping addresses.
American Express will promote the latest program using Twitter ads, including Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends, as well as through emails to card members and messaging on its own site. “From a targeting [perspective], we’re looking at those following the relevant merchants and tweeting about related products and services,” Berland said of the ad campaign.
Berland said she doesn’t consider the latest Twitter program a pilot, saying that “from here it can grow and take shape.” Though she wouldn’t say whether it could take shape on Facebook, Foursquare, Xbox Live or even potentially Pinterest, the last major social network lacking a Card Sync partnership.
Intel has a sizable presence in the consumer electronics market, but outside of those old "Intel Inside" ads, consumers don't consider the chip maker on the level of an Apple, Samsung or Sony. That's about to change.
Intel is planning to launch an Internet TV this year that will distribute live TV, on-demand programming and an app platform, said Intel Media vp/gm Eric Huggers on Tuesday during All Things D's D: Dive Into Media event. "I believe we can bring an incredible television experience via the Internet to consumers," he said.
Huggers said that his team has been working directly with TV programmers on the product, though he wouldn't say whether any companies have signed content distribution agreements. The hang-up may be the product's business model. Customers would pay Intel instead of the cable companies, he said.
However Intel's hardware comes with a carrot that might attract programmers' interest. The TV will feature a front-facing camera that will be able to detect who is watching it. Huggers didn't detail the level of recognition technology, but suggested that it could distinguish between a child and an adult.
That could be a boon for programmers looking to know who's watching their shows and advertisers aiming to target their ads to specific audiences. The camera could also creep out consumers, but Huggers said they would have the option to close its shutter.
If consumers can get past the camera's creep factor, they may like Intel's plans for bundling content. While the company isn't looking to end cable companies' practice of bundling of regularly watched channels with never-seen ones, Huggers said Intel's hope is to create more intelligent bundles that serve as a form of personalized curation.
"If the bundles are bundled right, there's real value in that opportunity to create a more flexible environment where [users] have more control than they do today," he said. "I don't believe the industry is ready for pure a la carte [programming]," in which consumers could pick and choose what channels they want."
It's got to be bitter to lose a contract to your old business partner.
That's what happened to Netflix yesterday when Starz won a deal over the streaming-and-delivery service with Sony Pictures to distribute the studio's new product. It's a deal that was one analyst pegged at $2 billion, which in itself suggests how much Netflix's business model has changed. Just two years ago, the service's entire rights budget was estimated at $700 million.
That's likely one reason that Netflix is investing in stuff like today's big deal: a new show with DreamWorks Animation called Turbo: F.A.S.T. (not to be confused with the Turbo F.A.S.T. workout software—here's hoping that's not trademarked, Netflix!) spun off of the upcoming DreamWorks movie Turbo.
DreamWorks has been agnostic thus far in terms of its distribution partners. The studio has partnered with both Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network in the past; on both networks, its offerings have focused on established IP from its movies.
But Turbo: F.A.S.T. is the first cartoon that DreamWorks has sold to a small-screen partner before the movie that it's ostensibly supporting hits theaters. This is potentially a win-win deal: DreamWorks will have a multiplatform rollout for Turbo: F.A.S.T. and Netflix will expand on its kids' offerings, which have recently included a wide-ranging deal with Disney and, with the new DreamWorks pact, will include that company's slate of 2013 films as well—The Croods, Turbo, and Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
"Netflix boasts one of the largest and fastest-growing audiences in kids' television," said DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg in a statement. "They pioneered a new model for TV dramas with 'House of Cards,' and now together we're doing the same thing with kids' programming."
It's a much more comprehensive slate than Netflix's pacts with other movie studios, and Netflix seems to be siding with other pay-for-content services like HBO and Showtime in its corporate opinion that original programming is the coin of the realm, at least with consumers.
Given the vast multiplicity of ways to watch serialized and theatrical video programming, subscription services like Netflix are only as good as their originals, since rights deals for established content are much lower-profile than debut series. They're also harder to come by: as linear networks like Starz, which originally partnered with Netflix on much of its sexier content, begin to see Netflix as a serious threat, the bidding wars over early windows on movies and TV shows get progressively more heated.
And those originals are good for business. Because metrics like total viewers and audience retention don't matter to a company that doesn't sell ads, the one serious datum is the company's subscriber revenue, and just before the premiere of Netflix's highest-profile original to date—House of Cards—that number rose a reported 2 million in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Christmas may be 10 months away, but Sony knows it’s never too early to start building buzz for its long-awaited holiday release, the PlayStation 4. Beating rival Microsoft in the race to announce the new generation of game consoles, Sony today unveiled the first legitimate details of the PS4, including some of the launch titles that could be crucial in making the device a sales success right out of the gate (unlike the PS3, which initially saw sluggish adoption due to its combination of high sticker price and low game selection). What will the PS4 cost? No idea. What does the console look like? Good question. For now, Sony would rather focus on showing you how amazing these new games are going to look. So why disappoint them? After the jump, we’ve gathered up the 10 trailers that are supposed to leave you panting for a PlayStation 4. Even if you don’t plan to wait in line for one, you’re going to want to watch these:
Sony PlayStation 4 Announcement Trailer
Here's a quick wrapup video from Sony's announcement event, with highlights of several games and features:
A sneak peek of the new project from Bungie, creators of the Halo franchise. Destiny will be available on current consoles, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but is also being developed for the new PS4:
Sony describes DriveClub for the PS4 as a "next-generation, socially connected racing game that captures the heart and soul of car culture." The realism of the gameplay footage is pretty staggering:
Deep Down (Working Title)
Fantasy RPGs are a staple of video gaming, so it's no surprise that Sony has one lined up for the PS4 (even if it doesn't have an official name yet). In this trailer, you get to see some hot, hot man-on-dragon action:
Infamous: Second Son
Popular anti-hero game series Infamous returns on the PS4. Notice that the security camera footage show's the date of Sony's announcement event, Feb. 20, 2013:
Killzone: Shadow Fall
Another longstanding PlayStation franchise that's set to return on the PlayStation 4:
Indie game icon Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid, has created a colorful and intriguing new title for the PlayStation 4:
Trailers for this open-world epic have been around for a few months, but here's some pretty incredible footage from the PlayStation 4, with narration from the game's lead designer:
Just so you don't think the PS4 will be all murder and mayhem, here's a trailer for a clever game with younger players in mind:
PlayStation 4: See the Future
This five-minute clip featuring the brains behind the PlayStation 4 is probably a bit too geeky for most casual gamers, but if you're curious to hear about the philosophical changes that will separate the console from its predecessors, it's worth a watch:
So what do you think? Assuming the price is right, are you intrigued enough to consider picking up a PlayStation 4 this holiday season?
Fun fact: Associating with David Bowie, whether in physical or purely musical form, instantly increases your cool factor by about 1 trillion percent. See: fashion model Iman, TV series Flight of the Conchords, the movie Labryinth and Lincoln Motor Co.
So, to elevate an otherwise just sort-of-neat ad for its new smartphone, the Xperia Z (pronounce it "zed" for full effect), Sony had the good sense to enlist the talents of the artist formerly known as Ziggy Stardust—or at least his vocals from a 1977 outtake of the song "Sound and Vision." (Yes, the same song Beck covered so memorably for Lincoln.)
The Xperia spot, from McCann London and director Tarsem—his credits include everything from REM's "Losing My Religion" video to the recent film Mirror, Mirror (also known as the Snow White retelling that didn't result in Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson's tragic breakup)—begins with the popular "Our brand through history" trope. But Bowie's soundtrack makes the slow-motion flashback scenes, from a group of people watching a rocket blast off on an early Sony TV to some kids playing with the first Sony PlayStation, seem substantially less cheesy.
The big finish, Tarsem's present-day depiction of the Xperia Z in action, is visually stunning: A pair of tourists in India use the smartphone to record a Holi festival celebration—in which the participants throw brightly colored powders at one another—before rinsing the apparently waterproof device in a stream of clear water.
Moving at half speed and set to this music, Tarsem almost makes you forget that you're watching your 30th smartphone ad of the day.
Product: Xperia Z
Agency: McCann, London
Production Company: @radical.media
Director: Tarsem Singh
The quiet is deafening. Where are the creative new-business opportunities out there?
While media reviews continue apace, significant creative-only reviews have been relatively scarce this year in what agency leaders and search consultants call an unusually slow period. Also, the size of the creative prizes, with a few exceptions, has been smaller.
Marketing spending is one of the first to be cut in a downturn, and in the U.S., it’s a battle for share and taking business away from competitors. That explains the large amount of review activity around media buying, a huge line item in marketers’ budgets that’s subject to the increasing clout of procurement and constant digital change.
It’s a different story for creative reviews, however, where the first quarter is traditionally busy, given that marketers have new budgets approved and typically want to have an agency in place before the summer kicks in. If an advertiser is reliant on holiday sales and it was a bad fourth quarter, it’s often time to pass the buck.
“If it’s a calendar-year client, you’re now in the second quarter, so you’ll want to have an agency by the end of the summer and have the fall to work on a campaign that will debut in January,” said one search consultant.
Since January, four media reviews representing more than $1.6 billion in spending have begun (Danone, Nationwide, Walgreens and Bacardi). Media also is part of three other creative and media reviews launched in the same time period (H.H. Gregg, Staples and Sony PlayStation), and collectively those marketers spend about $250 million annually. In contrast, spending behind the handful of creative-only searches that began in the past four months totaled $940 million, and when you back out JCPenney, that total drops to $500 million.
There doesn’t seem to be a definitive explanation for the scarcity of creative-only reviews, but David Beals, president of the R3:JLB consultancy in Chicago, offered that the long downward economic stretch has forced marketers to look at their agency relationships. “My suspicion is that a lot of marketers have already taken a hard analysis of that, and we’re in a lull,” he said.
Other consultants find themselves doing more relationship management work. “We can often help work through pain points in order to retain and strengthen their existing agency relationships,” said Ken Robinson of Ark Advisors in New York. “We’re not just matchmakers. We’re also marriage counselors.”
The good news from Robinson? His firm has a two-month lead time for searches, and the pace of creative searches may pick up again in the summer.
Agency executives see other trends at play. One suggested that marketers are more inclined to shift business without reviews, especially considering the relatively short lifespan of a CMO these days and the time it takes to conduct a search. Also, some marketers may just be more discreet, contacting fewer shops about their opportunities and reducing the possibility of leaks, said another agency exec.
Let the games begin!
Sony and Microsoft stormed Adweek and YouTube's Ads Leaderboard in May as both companies introduced their next-gen gaming consoles—the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One—in teaser videos. Both of those clips made the top five this month. But they were eclipsed by a teaser for an actual video game, which took the top spot.
Elsewhere on this month's list, Old Spice nailed down two spots in the top 10 for the second straight month. And Kmart followed up April's enormously successful "Ship My Pants" ad with "Big Gas Savings," which reached less stratospheric but still respectable levels.
Audi of America placed high on this month's list with its hilarious spot starring Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto. And Cruzan Rum also snuck in with its amusing take on laid-back island life.
The view counts, which fell back significantly from their record levels in April, are as of June 5. To be eligible for the YouTube Ads Leaderboard, videos must be marked as ads on YouTube (i.e., they get some paid views) but must also earn significant organic views. See all 10 spots at the link below.
With each new announcement about the upcoming launch of the Xbox One, Microsoft seems to be making a few more enemies.
Gamers and industry observers have become increasingly skeptical of the next-gen gaming console thanks to features that seem catered far more to piracy-paranoid game publishers than to game buyers. For example, Microsoft said today that users won't be allowed to play games if their consoles are disconnected from the Internet for more than 24 hours. (Laughably, the brand says you can still "watch live TV" while disconnected, though I'm not sure defaulting to a cable box is a great selling point.) Reddit's Gaming community has exploded today with posts mocking the Xbox One's unpopular features and requirements. As of this writing, 23 of the top 25 posts on the Gaming subreddit are anti-Microsoft (check out several of the best after the jump).
It's not all a reaction to the required-connection announcement, either. Despite Microsoft's assurances that you'll be able to turn off the motion-detecting Kinect's microphone and camera, gamers still see the mandatory peripheral as an potential invasion of their privacy. Players also weren't thrilled to hear that the ability to buy or sell used games will be determined by the game publishers, who might require you to pay full price when you install one of their titles, even if you buy the disc used.
The infuriated response by gamers is definitely a PR nightmare for Microsoft, but here's the real question: Will Sony manage to keep looking like a hero? So far, Sony has revealed relatively few details about the PlayStation 4, and there's a good chance that as gamers learn more about Sony's own anti-piracy measures and hardware requirements, much of the brand's recently garnered goodwill could erode. Or as today's most popular Reddit Gaming post puts it, "Don't screw this up, Sony, and you will own the next generation."
While most gamers were focused this week on learning what the new Sony PlayStation 4 will look like and how much it will cost ($399), ad geeks were treated to their own big reveal: the console's new marketing campaign. "Greatness Awaits" will be the launch tagline for the PS4, and the campaign rolled out this week with a suitably epic 90-second anthem spot from BBH New York. The agency won the PlayStation account earlier this year, succeeding longtime creative lead Deutsch/LA, whose ads featuring fictional PlayStation vp Kevin Butler were roundly beloved until ending awkwardly with a lawsuit against the star talent. The new guard's inaugural work for the PS4 features actor Taylor Handley (from CBS's recently canceled series Vegas) delivering a long-take soliloquy on embracing your greatness. Speckled with cameos by game characters and self-destructing set designs, the ad ends with the actor diving into the fray to break some pirate legs and clothesline a few clowns. If those are both part of the same game, I'd be willing to pre-order a PS4 today. Credits below.
Client: Sony PlayStation 4
Agency: BBH New York
Chief Creative Officer: John Patroulis
Executive Creative Director: Ari Weiss
Creative Director: Nate Able
Copywriter: Rick Herrera
Head of Integrated Production: Justin Booth-Clibborn
Senior Producer: Jennifer Moore Bell
Production Assistant: AJ Gutierrez
Head of Account Management: Armando Turco
Account Director: Melissa Hill
Account Manager: Georgie Gooley
Account Coordinator: Marshal Kerns
Production Company: MJZ
Director: Rupert Sanders
Director of Photography: Greig Fraser
President: David Zander
Executive Producer: Kate Leahy
Producer: Laurie Boccaccio
Production Supervisor: Adriana Cebada Mora
Production Designer: Dominic Watkins
Costume Designer: Mayes Rubeo
Local Production Company: Kinema Films de Mexico
Local Production Co. Producer: Jose Ludlow
Editorial: Work Post NY
Executive Producer: Erica Thompson
Editor: Neil Smith
Assistant Editor: Healy Snow
VFX & Finishing: The Mill NY
Exec Producer: Jo Arghiris
Senior VFX Producer: Charlotte Arnold
VFX Supervisor: Iwan Zwarts
VFX Supervisor: Rob Petrie
Assistant Producer: Juan Handal
Colour Producer: Heath Raymond
Colourist: Fergus McCall
2D Lead Compositor: Iwan Zwarts
2D Compositing Artists: Kyle Cody, Dan DiFelice,
Additional: Danny Morris, John Mangia, Ilia Mokhtareizadeh, Greg Spencer, Dan Giraldo
2D Conforms and Cut-downs: Jade Kim
3D Lead Artists: Rob Petrie and Joji Tsuruga
3D Lead Lighter: Olivier Mitonneau
3D Animators: Jeff Lopez, Alex Allain, Tyler Hurd
3D Artists: Olivier Varteressian, Per Bergsten, Ivan Luque Cueller, Billy Dangyoon Jang, Boris Ustaev, Hassan Taimur, Ruben Vandebroek, Tim Kim
3D MASSIVE: Wyattt Savarese, Ed Hicks, Hassan Tuimir
3D FX: Nick Couret, Ian Baxter, Phil Mayer, Cedrick Grousse
Matte Painting: Can Y. Sanalan
Title Design: Mario Stipinovich, Tetsuro Mise, Eugene Kolb
LIDAR services provided by Scanable: Travis Reinke
Rotoscoping provided by: Trace VFX
Sound Designer: Brian Emrich at Trinitite
Music: Woodwork Music
Music Producer: Andrew Oswarek
Composer: Phil Kay
Mix: Sound Lounge
Mixer: Tom Jucarone
Crackle has always had something of an enigma. Founded as Grouper, a YouTube wannabe from the early 2000s, the site was acquired and rebranded as Crackle.com back in 2006. Since then, the programming has bounced between originals featuring Married ... With Children’s David Faustino to old episodes of Party of Five to guy movies like Pineapple Express.
Then, last year, via a unique relationship through Jerry Seinfeld, Crackle saw its profile soar with Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Adweek caught up with Eric Berger, exec vp of digital networks at Sony Pictures Television, and gm of Crackle, to talk about season two of the show.
Has Crackle been in need of a defining hit, or a show that helps provide the site with an identity?
Yes, because we have definitely evolved a lot. We were very much about short form, typical Web series, inexpensive content. Years ago we were about user-generated content and indie stuff. In the last two years, we’ve really pivoted. We think of this as one of our networks we run worldwide. And we think this is how you build a network for a next generation. We’re building up long-form, premium content, and we’ve got hundreds of full length movies and TV shows. As we think about originals they have to sit side by side with these movies and TV shows. So we’re evolving to long form. You see that with chosen, which stars Milo Ventimiglia, which is coming back for a second season, and a sequel to the David Spade movie Joe Dirt.
But Comedians really brought a lot of new attention and viewers, right?
It’s absolutely a signature program. Jerry Seinfeld could have gone anywhere to do something, and Crackle was a great home for him. We’re not just about being a big, aggregated service. Crackle is very programmed. We compare what we are doing with AMC, FX.
You’ve been doing a lot of promotion too, like a traditional network.
The first time around, all we did was post one sentence on the Seinfeld Facebook page. We said, check it out. It’s just exploded. This time, Jerry’s been out there making the rounds. And we’ve done twice as many streams as we did last year at this point. We did 2.5 million streams in two weeks. The first episode has done triple the numbers from last year. The episode with Sarah Silverman.
The audience is really diversifying too. We’re on 20 different applications and platforms. We’ve found that 60 percent of the show’s audience is online. The rest is on TV and connected devices. That’s really how we build the service.
What do you attribute that to?
Well, this is frictionless for users. The content travels, and it’s free on all platforms.
Beside Comedians, one really interesting thing about your recent NewFront is that you are bringing back the show The Bannen Way, which seemed to pop for you, but hasn’t aired a new episode since 2010.
That was one that was developed with an old model. We did a handful of 10-minute episodes that rolled up into a 90-minute movie. It sold well around world, on TV and on DVD. It went through a [typical windowing] cycle that went around the world. Our TV group even looked at it, asking, "Does it make sense for a linear series? This is making a lot of money for us."
Are you still going to distribute it globally? It seems like this is the model that companies like Vuguru have embraced—using TV and DVD sales abroad to fund Web shows.
We think we’ve cracked this to some degree. The slate makes a lot s sense now for where we are. We’re doing 10 more episodes of The Bannen Way, of Chosen as well. We’re doing full-length movies. We think there are plenty of Web video dollars [to be had]. But we’re looking at everything. The same group that sells House of Cards sells our stuff to distributors. All of our stuff is in house. As a company we’re building IP, and we’re also creating other businesses. The ad dollars aren’t as big as in other industries. That’s everything though. TV shows don't make enough money just on TV. Look at syndication of Seinfeld reruns. That’s not a slam against Web video.
Are you seeing a post-NewFront market take shape?
We really are. It did jumpstart the industry and legitimized some of the buying. It forced a lot of companies like ours to put our best foot forward. We built a new sales team dedicated to Crackle last November, with execs in Chicago, L.A., Detroit, etc. And there’s been nothing but incredible upside from the NewFronts. One thing that’s helped us is that these shows are going to get made. They are not contingent on an advertiser signing on. We’re not waiting. That was a criticism last year, that stuff didn’t get made.
What’s next with Cars?
Jerry has said he wants to do 24 more. So we’ll release a third season at some time. We’d love to just keep doing more with him. We’re looking for other shows all the time—more comedy. It does really well.
Samsung has innovative cross-promotions with musicians down cold.
Separate divisions of the company—Samsung Televisions and Samsung Mobile—had the two biggest hits on YouTube and Adweek's Ads Leaderboard for June, ranking the most-viewed commercials on the video site during the month.
Both spots were tie-ins with musicians. The former was a digital short film starring Usher and inspired by the title track from his new album, Looking 4 Myself. The latter hyped the early release of Jay-Z's new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, exclusively to 1 million Samsung Galaxy users. (Never mind that the actual album drop didn't go smoothly at all in the end.)
The Samsung Televisions spot, created by Huge, is particularly compelling. Directed by Rich Lee, it features two Ushers facing off against each other—with a "down-to-earth" Usher seeking revenge against a "celebrity" Usher after fame causes his romantic relationship to collapse. The spot has topped 40 million views since it was uploaded to YouTube on June 13.
See all 10 of this month's spots at this link:
Elsewhere on this month's list, a pair of Despicable Me 2 videos did well (one of them from the studio behind the film, the other a brand tie-in); another PepsiMAX stunt broke through; and YouTube itself placed a spot with an inspiring gay-pride video posted in the wake of DOMA's downfall.
PlayStation, Microsoft and Nike Basketball also show up on the list, as does Dollar Shave Club with the sequel to its viral masterpiece from 2012.
The view counts are as of July 5. To be eligible for the YouTube Ads Leaderboard, videos must be marked as ads on YouTube (i.e., they get some paid views) but must also earn significant organic views. The list only ranks videos uploaded in June.
IDEA: Sony's 4K Ultra HD television, with four times the resolution of regular HD, literally stops people in their tracks. Filmmaker Garth Davis saw one at the Sundance Film Festival and ended a conversation in midsentence to go look at it. That eureka moment led to 180LA's new 60-second spot for the TV, directed by Davis, who also stars in it and does the voiceover. Filmed with Sony Cine-Alta F65 and F55 4K cameras, the ad features Davis ruminating on how the beauty and clarity of 4K help close the gap between what he can imagine in his mind's eye as a filmmaker—illustrated by the ad's grand and surreal visions—and what he can actually show on a screen. "My brief was very simple," said Davis. "To bring to life my imagination with no boundaries as long as it celebrated
the colors aqua and red, and there were scenes epic enough to show off the 4K resolution."
COPYWRITING: The agency wanted to explore what such amazing visual resolution would mean to a director. "We literally asked Garth to imagine what kind of world that kind of detail might inspire him to dream up," said 180 copywriter Zac Ryder. "He came back to us with a bunch of ideas, and we worked together to shape them from there." Watching TV at home, Davis looks down to see a small bluebird in his hands. Looking up, he finds himself sitting on a chair in a vast ocean. He sees a woman in a red dress; a giant spaceship; a floating house; dozens of people in period costume climbing huge ladders; cannon warfare among a throng of ships.
"The sea connects to our inner world and can be deeply emotional and surreal," said Davis. "I also love how the imagination can be so random, and the connection in the scenes are somewhat there but not understood. … I looked back for inspiration at Salvador Dali, J.M.W. Turner, Fellini and Andrew Wyeth, all of which reminded me to be bold, mad, elegant and precise." Davis' voiceover ends with the line: "Now there are no more barriers between the world that I see and ones I can show you. Only on a Sony 4K Ultra HDTV." The spot ends with the Sony logo and tagline, "make.believe."
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Davis—who also directed Coke's "Sleepwalker" and Schweppes's "Burst" ads—filmed for four days outside Auckland, New Zealand, in a few feet of water in a giant bay. The cinematographer was Claudio Miranda, who won an Oscar for Life of Pi and had worked with 4K cameras before. Davis wanted real water—no CGI. "That meant putting all of the camera equipment, lighting rigs and generators on rafts while we shot, and then moving all of the equipment in and out with the tides," said Ryder. "It was pretty time consuming. But the end result looks incredible."
The 4K version of the spaceship, built by MPC in real-world scale at nearly 300 meters in diameter, is the largest digital asset ever created for a commercial, the agency says. It's no coincidence that the spot has strong splashes of color. "One of the things that is unique to Sony, obviously, is color," said Davis. "So, not only are we telling a story that's surreal, we're also trying to capture moments of intense color."
SOUND: An original score by music house Human is a mix of piano and orchestral sounds, changing from scene to scene. "We wanted to create a track that would replicate what's happening in Garth's imagination," said Ryder. "So as Garth is imagining new worlds, the melody begins to evolve and find itself."
MEDIA: The ad is running on national broadcast TV, in cinemas and in rich-media banners online.
Vice President, Brand Experience Marketing & Direct Visual Merchandising: Patrick Bewley
Director, Brand Experience Marketing: Christine Gately-Evans
Senior Manager, Brand Experience Marketing: Ken Byers
Agency: 180, Los Angeles
Executive Creative Director: William Gelner
Creative Directors: Dave Horton, Matthew Woodhams-Roberts
Copywriter: Zac Ryder
Art Director: Adam Groves
Head of Production: Natasha Wellesley
Producer: Emma Starzacher
Account Director: Nancy Bernacchi
Account Manager: Mike Slatkin
Account Coordinator: Sarah Lynch
Planner: Mitch Polatin
Production Co.: Reset
Director: Garth Davis
DP: Claudio Miranda
Managing Director: David Morrison
Executive Producer: Jeff McDougall
Head of Production: Jen Beitler
Producer: Karen Sproul
Production Designer: Kim Jarrett
Costume Designer: Barbara Darragh
Casting Company: Catch Casting
Casting Director: Linda McFetridge
Editorial Company: Rock Paper Scissors LA
Editor: Stewart Reeves
Executive Producer: Carol Lynn Weaver
Producer: Alexandra Zickerick
Effects Company: MPC LA
Creative Director: Paul O'Shea
VFX Supervisor: Andy Boyd
2D Artists: Miles Essmiller, Paul O'Shea, Martin Hall
Concept Artist: Robert Brown
Matte Painter: Kristin Johnson
3D Artists: Andy Boyd, Scott Metzger, Ross Denner, Aaron Hamman, Atsushi Imamura, Steward Burris, Jean-Dominique Fievet, Jonathan Vaughn, Rick Walia, Hayley O'Neill, Mike Wynd, Dustin Colson, Ian Wilson
Telecine Artist: Mark Gethin
Telecine Asst: Derek Hansen
Executive Producer: Asher Edwards
Producers: Nick Fraser, Diana De Vries
Recording Studio: Eleven Sound
Mixer: Jeff Payne
Asst Mixer: Ben Freer
Executive Producer: Caroline O'Sullivan
Original Music: human
Sound Design: human
It's a more-than-familiar narrative: At the end of the world, you'll do horrible things to survive. But this new spot from 180 Amsterdam, for the post-apocalyptic PlayStation 3 game The Last of Us, breathes a little new life into the premise.
While the voiceover dips heartily into the clichés of the genre, the visual conceit is powerful. Thanks to some neat effects, a clean-cut—boring-looking, even—live actor transforms into the game's weathered, tortured, machete-wielding CGI protagonist.
That captures the implicit promise of the game: Pick up the controller, and become somebody else—someone stronger and more exciting—for a little while.
In fact, you'll become a hero, as the girl you're traveling with in the game may be the key to curing the human race—an element of the narrative that's oddly not clear in the ad, even though it would bolster the ego play.
Of course, when it's all over, you'll go back to your life of wondering whether that plaid shirt really goes with your khakis, and staring at your computer like a zombie.
Agency: 180 Amsterdam
Production Company: Minivegas, @radical
Direction, Postproduction: Minivegas
Executive Creative Director: Al Moseley
Creative Directors: Martin Terhart, Graeme Hall
Art Director: Stephane Lecoq
Copywriter: Martin Beswick
Account Director: Gemma Knox
Account Manager: Simone Raspagni
Project Manager: Meredith Bergonzi
Producer: Bethany Papenbrock
Executive Producer: Brian Bourke
Line Producer: Ralph de Haan
Post Producer: Lauren Becker
3-D Lead: Sergio Pinto Buerba
3-D Artists: Klaas-Harm de Boer, William Torres
Lead Compositor: Sven de Jong
Compositor: Dave Zaretti
Offline Editor: Sander van der Aa