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    America’s closely watched millennials are now old enough to have kids of their own. Among those 25-34, there are 10.8 million households with children, according to a new report by Barkley, Millennials as New Parents. Millennials have a reputation as image-conscious and spoiled. But growing up at a time that saw America at war, 9/11 and economic uncertainty, this generation of new parents is actually less image-conscious and more pragmatic than you might think. In other words, bye, bye Apple; hello, Walmart.

    Infographic: Carlos Monteiro

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    McCann London filmed this initially explosive yet ultimately rather peaceful Sony commercial in Costa Rica, showing a volcano disgorging countless multicolored flower petals across rivers and fields and the streets, rooftops and denizens of a nearby town. About 8 million flowers were used, Sony says, to symbolize the 8-million-pixel display offered by its 4K Ultra HD TVs. (Did somebody actually count the flowers? Worst advertising internship ever!)

    All the action was captured in camera, without CGI, and while it's certainly a satisfying visual spectacle, it seems subdued compared with Sony's earlier, more famous nods in this direction. In 2005, Fallon unleashed 250,000 colorful rubber balls on the streets of San Francisco for its Cannes gold Lion-winning Sony Bravia spot. A year later, the same client-agency team blasted a vacant housing estate in Scotland with 18,000 gallons of paint, drenching terraces, stairwells, walkways, courtyards and one random clown for a Bravia spot named best commercial at the British Television Advertising Awards.

    Perhaps the new spot seems more laid back owing to its countryside/village setting, contrasted with the urban slopes of Filbert and Leavenworth in "Balls" and the imposing modernism of the Glasgow high-rise tower block in "Paint." Mainly, though, we're dealing with flowers—that's the key difference. Yes, there are a great many of them, and they're shot from a volcano, but are they really so impressive? The fast-bouncing army of balls and the rivers of paint from the earlier commercials had more presence and "personality." They were glorious, yet vaguely menacing. An errant ball could take out an eye. You could drown in all that paint or, at the very least, ruin your sneakers. Here, we have … flowers.

    They're bright and memorable as they float on the breeze. But I just wasn't blown away.

    Via Creative Review.

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    Sony's PlayStation 4 became available at midnight. One thing PS4 shoppers will likely notice right away is that the tech giant has partnered with Facebook to allow gamers to log into the new console with their account on the social media platform. 

    Financial terms were not disclosed. Among the key features make possible as part of the new the agreement include letting players use their Facebook profile photo and real names on PlayStation. But probably more importantly, the PS4 controller features a "share" button that lets users grab in-game photos and video and then push the content to their friends on Facebook.

    So for PlayStation, the move gives its users a streamlined way to interact with their gaming friends on Facebook. It also potentially makes PlayStation distinct from Xbox, which has for years promoted its own social network (Xbox Live). And for Mark Zuckerberg & Co., it will increase the user-generated gaming content in people's news feeds while also likely augmenting the digital giant ability to identify game enthusiasts for ad-targeting purposes.

    Additionally, it may help to reverse Facebook's waning appeal among the teens and early twenty-somethings.  


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    Sony's PlayStation 4 is reportedly off to a quick sales start less than a week on the market, and this week the gaming brand is debuting a cool user-generated interactive initiative intended to keep the momentum going. What's more, participants may find themselves in a remake of PS4's well-received "Perfect Day" television commercial in the coming months.

    In effort dubbed "First to Greatness" and led by BBH New York, the brand is encouraging consumers to claim their place in PS4 history by uploading footage via the console of their best gaming "firsts." There are parameters, such as the moments need to be from PlayStation's bevy of popular games such as Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag and NBA2K14. Their contributions will organized in 64 categories in a digital archive, which will be available on the console. 

    Once the participating gamers collectively achieve 64 "firsts," a new feature will be unlocked on the console that lets every gamer record up to 64 of their personal firsts.

    Some of the consumers' submissions will then be employed as creative for a new version of "Perfect Day." The one-minute spot is approaching a whopping 11 million YouTube views since debuting last month.

    "First to Greatness" is being pushed by banner ads and website takeovers on major gaming sites, while being supported by social-media postings on the brand's properties.

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    Yahoo has debuted a high-definition enhanced ad unit called Image Ads, which will appear within photo slideshows and other "image-rich" online placements, according to the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm.

    The HD promos will show up via desktops, mobile phones and tablets on its properties, including Yahoo Sports, omg, Yahoo Music and Yahoo TV. Advertisers at launch are Fiat, Sony and film studio Relativity Media, which are all being charged on a pay-per-click basis for Images Ads.

    "These new ads deliver high-quality brand images that are as engaging as the surrounding content, bringing the beautiful full-page ads you might expect from a favorite magazine to the digital world," a Yahoo rep explained via email. "With HD-quality images that adapt to fill the size of any screen, advertisers can create brand visuals that are woven organically into users' daily habits of browsing photos."

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    Sony’s under-the-radar video site Crackle—known for Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, if anything—has quietly built up a slate of guy-oriented scripted series. That includes, perhaps surprisingly, several serialized dramas such as The Bannen Way.

    This Thursday, the Crackle series Chosen returns for its second go-round. The dark thriller stars Milo Ventimiglia (forever Gilmore Girls' Jess) as a dad forced to do terrible things to save his family. Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill) and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) have joined the show for Season 2.

    VideoWatch recently caught up with the show’s creators, Ben Ketai and Ryan Lewis, to talk about the Web sleeper hit.

    Adweek: Serialized scripted shows rarely work on the Web (most people watch House of Cards on TV, not computers). Why launch Chosen online, and why Crackle?
    Ryan Lewis: I think one of the reasons we took it to Crackle in first place was that we saw an opening to get into the space in a way that people hadn’t seen. You can make a great show with a cinematic quality that people weren't seeing on a budget.

    Ben Ketai: Credit to Crackle for pushing us to make something that you could see on TV and not "just a Web show." We think what you’re seeing now is this shift from things like Chosen being seen by consumers as Web shows versus being digital. I think companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu making a commitment to decent digital has really helped, and more people want to do that same thing. Viewers are ready make that leap. I drive around L.A. and see just as many billboards for Netflix and Amazon shows as TV shows and movies.

    Lewis: What the world of Web video does is really allow for [early] discovery. Fans like that. Unlike with network TV, which pushes shows on you, you can get in on the ground floor and become an advocate. And then binge.

    What is your budget like?
    Ketai: Let’s just say it’s a fraction of a percentage of House of Cards' budget. But that’s our production company. We have more indie roots. We think we’re part of a generation of do-it-yourself filmmakers.

    Lewis: We have to look at things from a lean-and-mean perspective. What we have on the page is what we’re going to shoot. That’s a great challenge. But there are lots of great actors out there who want to work on great projects.

    Ketai: And there’s a great opportunity to work on a show that targets somewhat of an underserved genre in television. And AMC and FX have helped make dark popular.

    Who is your target for a show like Chosen?
    Ketai: Tweens to adult males, though we hear from a surprising number of women. We think they like Milo.

    What was the reaction to Season 1 like?
    Ketai: We were uncertain. There’s not an expectation in digital along the lines of "watch at 9 p.m. and it does great or gets canceled." But we were really thrilled by the response. It was pretty encouraging.

    What did Sony tell you?
    Ketai: They started talking about Season 2 the day it premiered. And the third is already going into production. The most encouraging thing was the retention numbers. We saw 50 percent of the audience make it to Episode 6.

    Lewis: And they were watching at least 75 minutes in one sitting.

    What’s up for Season 2?
    Ketai: We had a general direction we wanted to go in. It’s a fast-evolving show, but we set up a world and rules for a world. We’re getting to explore mythology layers.

    What about ads?
    Lewis: You’ll see a big push from BMW this season. They were nice enough to let us play around with cars in the show. It fit perfectly. And you’ll see your typical Sony products.

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    Snapchat board member Michael Lynton could be a big help with the movie version of the company's founding if there ever is one. Lynton helped bring the founding of Facebook to the screen with The Social Network, an Oscar nominee out of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

    Lynton is on Snapchat’s board of directors. The company announced a $50 million fundraising round that was revealed today in a regulatory filing. While Lynton was instrumental in telling the Mark Zuckerberg story, the Snapchat founders are living it. They are also being sued for billions.

    An earlier version of this story said Lynton was only just announced as a board member, but he has been with the company since June. Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy founded the company in Stanford in 2012. Its origins are the subject of a lawsuit, with an early partner claiming fast deleting messages were his idea (a similar dispute was at the center of the Facebook origin story told in The Social Network). A looming court battle has not stopped venture capitalists from piling into Snapchat, which according to reports earlier this week is worth about $2 billion.

    The valuation is less than some expected —it had been pegged at $4 billion in some reports. The photo-sharing-and-disappearing app that is upending the Silicon Valley ecosystem —Facebook and Twitter are scrambling to react to its popularity— has now raised more than $100 million this year.

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    PlayStation caused a stir at CES this morning when Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House announced that the company would be launching not just a new service with DVR, on-demand and live television, but also a streaming game service that would ultimately allow users to play the company's vast game library on tablets and its Vita device.

    PlayStation Now sounds like more than just an XBox One rip-off. Sony, one of the largest producers of film and TV in the world, has fewer barriers to content distribution than anyone else in the tech space. "We are one of the largest entertainment companies in the world and we will use our unique combination of entertainment properties [...] and devices," House told the audience at the CES keynote. "We plan to start testing this service in the U.S. later this year."

    House described PlayStation Now as "a cloud-based service" that provides "the most popular live TV programs combined with a large library of on-demand content." With respect to gaming, House promised a low-latency streaming experience of The Last of Us, one of the last PS4 games to push the capabilities of the hardware. It's hard to imagine—that particular game had long loading times from the disc—but as a bid to resurrect a piece of gaming hardware, the service sounds almost too good to be true.

    The Xbox has been promoted as a one-box solution to cable and gaming clutter; Sony now appears to be proposing to provide all the content, as well as the single-box answer.

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    Consumer Electronics Association head Gary Shapiro opened CES 2014 with a politically charged speech, issuing surprisingly blunt challenges to everyone from Congress to the government of China: "Believe in innovation: that should be our national strategy," Shapiro declared. "Every new law should be measured by whether it hurts or helps innovation."

    Innovation, Shapiro said, is "too important to be choked by laws written long ago," including patent law, which the CEA has fought to change in order to frustrate patent trolls (lawyers who file broad patents and sue inventors for violating them, or in Shapiro's words, "Lawyers who do not produce any product or service but simply sue those that do").

    "Innovation also means dismantling laws that no longer make sense," Shapiro told the audience of tech pros, journalists and investors. The CEA recently convinced the FAA to allow the use of portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing on commercial flights. "For all those who enjoyed your tablet or e-reader on the way to Las Vegas," said Shapiro, "you're welcome."

    The exec also announced that innovation meant "attacking obstacles to job creation," calling out the nation of China for the recent break in negotiations over an international trade agreement. "We've been fighting to expand the Information Technology Agreement, which removes tariffs on all IT products," Shapiro said. "We were baffled why China blew up recent negotiations with an extremely protectionist position."

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    Kazuo Hirai, chairman of Sony, introduced a surprise guest at the CES 2014 keynote: Vince Gilligan, creator/showrunner of AMC’s hit Breaking Bad, whom he interviewed along with Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Here are some of the highlights in Gilligan’s own words: 

    Gilligan on serialization:“When I was starting off in TV about 20 years ago, the conventional wisdom was that serialized storytelling was to be avoided at all costs. With these SVOD services, it allows for a serialized sort of storytelling, in fact, even the hyperserialized form of storytelling we employed on Breaking Bad. [Streaming] allows people to catch up whenever they want at any hour of the day or night.”

    Gilligan on breaking his equipment: “With these tiny new cameras that exist, we can put them the back of a mailbox or in the wheel well of a car or we can have Walt back over one! And they intercut very well with a motion picture. They’re inexpensive in a way that I can’t even believe! We can risk breaking them! If it comes down between a $300 camera and a million-dollar shot, I’ll break the $300 camera every day of the week.”

    Gilligan on TV for your face: “I’m looking forward to the head-mount display. Just to allow folks to be enveloped in the storytelling, whether it’s Breaking Bad, or as a fan if I could be enveloped in The Godfather or Jackie Brown, one of my favorite Tarantino movies—I’m looking forward to that.”

    Gilligan on Better Call Saul:“I’m going back after this. I’d rather be here—it’s more fun than the writer’s room. We’re looking forward to having that [out] within about a year.”

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    Sony really wants you to know just how relevant it is.

    The legacy tech behemoth is out with an ambitious new 90-second anthem spot from Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., that draws on a star-studded cast to illustrate just how far the brand's reach extends.

    Everyone remembers that Sony invented the Walkman. This ad is smart to start by capitalizing on that familiarity. It's also smart to fast forward to the present, where DJ Cassidy, signed to Sony-owned Columbia Records, plays with one of the brand's tablets. Directed by Stacy Wall and shot in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, the ensuing montage manages to pack in cameos from child actress Quvenzhane Wallis, who will star in Sony Pictures' new rendition of Annie, actor Grizz Chapman of 30 Rock, and Spike Lee, shooting on a Sony camera and name-checking PlayStation. In other words, it's a major production loaded with rich and specific examples of Sony's history and cultural influence, that all come together to show the company has actually stayed closely linked to the experiences audiences actually care about.

    It's far from the first tech company to try to bring to life products that can seem cold or complicated. Apple's tone, though, can come across as pretentious—it wants to be the blisteringly cool company that is inventing the future. And Google can often feel excessively sentimental—it wants to be the awesomely geeky company that is intensifying all the most important moments in your life. Sony benefits from the diversity of its business, but nonetheless, its approach keeps the message playful, and ultimately charming—it wants to be the old friend that makes sure you are having fun at the party. And the anthem's titular, feel-good soundtrack, the Who's 1972 hit "Join Together," does a great job of anchoring that message of belonging.

    The new campaign also includes shorter, goofy product-centric videos that fall somewhere between amusing and awkward—using, for example, a metaphor about popping your eyes out of your head to peddle a detachable smartphone camera lens. A little more hammy grandpa jokes than the life of the party. And yes, the anthem's breathless fascination with the meeting of art and engineering feels a little contrived. But it does succeed at fitting into the zeitgeist of "innovation" without leaning on a hackneyed buzzword. More important, for most of the spot, the script stays out of the way, letting the film craft, which is quite deft, build to the voiceover's punch line—that Sony has always been about "making you feel something"—and the ad's tagline, "Be moved."

    So go on, feel something: the vague but slightly unsettling pleasantness of a well-made sales pitch.

    Client: Sony
    Spot: "Join Together"

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
    Creative Directors: Mike Giepert / Chris Mitton
    Copywriter: Chris Mitton
    Art Director: Mike Giepert / Matt Moore
    Producer: Jennie Lindstrom
    Account Team: Diana Gonzalez / Trish Adams / Nick Larkin
    Executive Creative Directors: Joe Staples / Susan Hoffman
    Head of Production: Ben Grylewicz

    Production Company: Imperial Woodpecker
    Director: Stacy Wall
    Executive Producer: Doug Halbert
    Line Producer: Timory King
    Director of Photography: Mihai Malaimare, Jr.

    Editorial Company: Joint Editorial / Work Editorial
    Executive Producer: Patty Brebner / Corina Dennison + Erica Thompson
    Editor: Peter Wiedensmith / Rich Orrick
    Asst. Editor: Steve Sprinkel / Adam Witten + Patrick Murphree
    Post Producer: Ryan Shanholtzer / Olivia Chiu

    VFX Company: The Mill – Los Angeles
    Sr. Exec. Producer: Sue Troyan
    Producer: Dan Roberts
    Production Coordinator: Jesse Looney + David Lawrence
    Creative Director + Shoot Supervisor: Phil Crowe
    Matte Painting: Thom Price
    2D Lead Artist: John Shirley
    3D Lead Artist: David Lawson
    2D Artists: Becky Porter / Nick Tayler / Ben Smith / Remedy Huynh
    3D Artists: Milton Ramirez / Siran Liu / Martin Rivera / Blake Guest / Hartwell Durfor / Blake Sullivan / Miguel Guerrero / Danny Yoo / Krystal Sae Eua / Fabrice Le Nezet / Brett Angelillis
    Motion Graphics: Justin Demetrician
    Art Support: Clare Carrellas

    Telecene Company: The Mill
    Colorist: Adam Scott
    Executive Producer: LaRue Anderson
    Producer: Natalie Westerfield

    "Join Together (Izzie Twins Unchained Remix)" by the Who

    Sound Design Company: Human

    Mix Company: Lime
    Mixer: Rohan Young
    Asst. Mixer: Jeff Malen
    Producer: Jessica Locke

    Credits for the online spots:

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
    Creative Directors: Mike Giepert / Chris Mitton
    Copywriter: Derek Szynal
    Art Director: Mike Giepert  / Devin Gillespie
    Producer: Jennie Lindstrom
    Account Team: Diana Gonzalez / Trish Adams / Nick Larkin
    Executive Creative Directors: Joe Staples / Susan Hoffman
    Head of Production: Ben Grylewicz

    Production Company: Imperial Woodpecker
    Director: Stacy Wall
    Executive Producer: Doug Halbert
    Line Producer: Timory King
    Director of Photography: Mihai Malaimare, Jr.

    Editorial Company: Joint Editorial  / Work Editorial (Skeptics Only)
    Executive Producer: Patty Brebner / Corina Dennison + Erica Thompson (Skeptics Only)
    Editor: Katie Turinski + Steve Sprinkel / Patrick Murphree (Skeptics Only)
    Asst. Editor: Steve Sprinkel 
    Post Producer: Ryan Shanholtzer / Olivia Chiu (Skeptics Only)

    VFX Company: The Mill – Los Angeles
    Sr. Exec. Producer: Sue Troyan
    Producer: Dan Roberts
    Production Coordinator: David Lawrence
    Creative Director + Shoot Supervisor: Phil Crowe
    2D Lead Artist: Robin McGloin, Nick Tayler
    Motion Graphics: Justin Demetrician
    Art Support: Clare Carrellas

    Telecene Company: CO3
    Colorist: Siggy Ferstl

    "The Whistlin' Duck (feat. Theo Mertens)" by Bobbejaan Schoepen
    "Inventing Furniture" + "Floor Plan"
    "Moon Waltz" from the motion picture Beginners by Brian Reitzell, Dave Palmer and Roger Neil
    "Theme" from the motion picture Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind by Jon Brion

    Mix Company: Lime
    Mixer: Rohan Young
    Asst. Mixer: Jeff Malen
    Producer: Jessica Locke

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    The Olympics are coming. Time to bawl.

    As the Sochi Winter Games are just a few weeks away, marketers are already out in force, offering up spots like this brilliant, heart-tugging ode to all those moms who help push their potential Olympians. This two-minute clip hit YouTube last week and quickly nabbed 7 million-plus views, easily landing it atop the VideoWatch/VidIQ weekly brand video ranking (it's already over 9 million).

    Interestingly, in second place was another mom-themed spot from Old Spice (5 million views last week), though this one has a decidedly different tone.

    Besides moms, last week's ranking was colored by CES, with Samsung placing three videos, including one featuring raw press conference footage, along with one from Sony's Xperia. Check out the full ranking here:

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    In this week's battle of the brands, four spots—for Guinness, Sony, Apple and Duracell—seek to strum an inspired chord within us. But a fourth, for the horror film Devil's Due, leans on our innate desire for schadenfreude with its frightening prank.

    Which was the best? Vote below. And if your favorite isn't here, tell us in the comments.

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    Angry Birds is getting ready to introduce in-game digital video ads in an expansion of its advertising products that the company will unveil soon, according to Michele Tobin, Rovio’s head of advertising.

    Tobin told Adweek today that the company’s games provide premium inventory for video advertising from brands.

    “We’re rolling out new video products in Q2 that will be built into the gameplay of a number of games,” Tobin said. “In the mobile video space, there’s a lack of publishers who provide real scale and premium environments with total transparency.”

    Rovio’s Angry Birds portfolio has amassed 2 billion downloads with more than 200 million users a month, Tobin said, providing a brand-safe place with guaranteed audience.

    Tobin has been building Rovio’s ad business for less than two years, and she declined to say how much revenue it has generated so far. Rovio already introduced pre-roll video ad units through its online cartoon network called ToonsTV, which streams content from Angry Birds and partners like Sony and Disney.

    Rovio’s first free-to-play app—the Angry Birds GO racing game—introduced new brand advertising potential when it launched in December. That game features sponsored opportunities for brands, which deliver in-game lifts to players, as in State Farm Insurance repairs a user’s cart and Pepperidge Farm lends a power boost.

    “The path we started to go down the past year focused a lot on building native ad units, ad integrations that felt more part of the game, and moving away from standard display,” Tobin explained.

    Tobin did not give full details on how the video ads in games would work, but she said they could provide incentives for users to watch them.

    Mobile video is a growing piece of the digital ad space. Spending on mobile video is expected to grow 81.2 percent this year, according to eMarketer. Google’s YouTube grew its revenue by 66 percent last year thanks to its digital video dominance, and Facebook is building out its video ad capabilities to capitalize as well.

    Finland-based Rovio has made its money from its paid games and global merchandise sales. It has yet to release its 2013 earnings but revenue doubled to $195 million in 2012—the year that its ad business unit was born.

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    Last month, Sony rolled out a sweeping celebration of its own contributions to technology and the arts. Now, it's diving deep on the same subject, taking viewers on a tour of Northlandz, a giant model railroad museum in New Jersey, as miniatures photographer Matt Albanese uses a Sony QX100 camera to capture images of the tiny scenery.

    Northlandz's creator, Bruce Zaccagnino, co-stars in the documentary-style ad, offering such bits of humble-bragging genius as: "Thousands of people will come out, and they'll say this is a wonder of the world. … I don't think it's a wonder of the world. It's not the Taj Mahal." Fact is, the landscape is quite impressive. The photos that come out of Albanese's work are plenty cool, too, and a nice testament to the potential of the camera.

    But the four-minute documentary, created with Wieden + Kennedy, makes the whole thing feel pretty forced and awkward. "For this project I chose a camera that will get me into tight spaces and gives me unique vantage points," says Albanese. That may be the selling point, but the footage and the photographs make the point well well enough without the contrived sales pitch. A little less throat-clearing and philosophizing might serve the spot well, too—but at the end, Zaccagnino's extra talent makes for a perfectly oddball kicker.

    The campaign includes a website,, that goes beyond the film and features an interactive companion piece with three panoramas you can rotate and zoom into.

    Credits below.

    Client: Sony
    Project: Be Moved - Separate Together

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
    Creative Directors: Mike Giepert, Dan Hon
    Copywriter: Charlie Gschwend
    Art Director: Devin Gillespie
    Information Architect: Jason Sack
    Creative Technologist: Billy McDermott
    Head of Interactive Production: Pierre Wendling
    Head of Production: Ben Grylewicz
    Content Producer: Katie Reardon
    Account Team: Trish Adams, Diana Gonzalez, Nick Larkin
    Associate Director of Technology: Ryan Bowers
    QA: Robb Hand, Rachel Mason
    Executive Creative Directors: Joe Staples, Susan Hoffman

    —Web Film Partners
    Production Company: m ss ng p eces
    Director: Josh Nussbaum
    Executive Producers: Ari Kuschnir, Kate Oppenheim
    Head of Production: Dave Saltzman
    Line Producer: Veronica Balta
    Director of Photography: Alex Khudokon

    Editorial Company: m ss ng p eces
    Editor: Adam McClelland
    Post Producer: Amy Crowdis

    Colorists: Nat Jencks, Adam Mcclelland

    Composer, Original Score: Matt Abeysekera
    Sound Design & Mix: Eli Cohn

    —Interactive Experience Partners
    Development Partner Company: BOSSA
    Executive Creative Director: Hans Weiss
    Creative Technologist: Jeramy Morrill
    Lead Developers: Jeramy Morrill, Josh Gross, Matt Greene
    Creative Director: Andrezza Valentin
    Art Director: Sarah Skapik
    Producer: Nic Santana

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    Brent Rambo just left a cushy executive job at Sony Online Entertainment to join, of all things, Orabrush—the startup that makes tongue scrapers for people and dogs—as the company’s first CTO. He got his 15 minutes of fame last year when a 1992 Apple spot, starring the now 37-year-old, went viral. Rambo hopes to inject Orabrush’s YouTube videos with the same tech genius that propelled him into the Apple ad years ago. But digitizing creativity can be tricky.

    Why did you leave an electronics giant for a tongue cleaner?
    Even though I had a lot of leeway at Sony, I really wanted to go to a startup. Orabrush wanted to ramp up its marketing scale, and I felt like I could get them there.

    Orabrush has had great success with video. How do you intend to improve on that?
    We are going to advance the work humans are doing with a technology platform, optimizing the videos for paid search, YouTube Adwords, banners, etc. We’ll have sales conversion rates, [view] rates and age group demographics. It lets creative people focus on creative and analytics folks work on analytics. It will eliminate their so-called grunt work.

    Will your system affect what consumers end up seeing?
    Some videos will not be 100 percent completed by people. They will be dynamically created. For example, based on data, we will put out 20 or 50 versions. There will be versions cut up and carved out by a machine.

    It sounds like you’re turning editing over to robots. Is this software new in the video space?
    I feel comfortable saying we will be one of the first [to use the technology] on the digital marketing front. But there are the Facebook [Look Back] videos, which recently went into everyone’s timeline. That’s dynamically created content.

    What else do you have in store for your new employer?
    [Orabrush sister brand for dogs] Orapup ran a campaign where they manually tested 46 price points, 30 packages, 245 landing pages and 55 videos. With the machines, we can narrow [executions] down to the fastest path to success.

    Long before becoming a video ads innovator, you were in an Apple TV spot. How did that happen?
    They were running a national contest for junior high kids. I won by reverse engineering [software] on Apple’s platform. I kind of manipulated it to do things it wasn’t supposed to do. It got their attention. Apple engineers actually called me and asked me how I did it.

    Did you ever think that ad would resurface, much less go viral?
    Ha, not at all! The video of that commercial is on Betamax tape—to give you an idea of how old it really is. Somebody evidently dug it up out of Apple’s archive and put it online. Next thing you know I got 500 Facebook invites and my email inbox is blowing up. It was fun. Everything kind of came full circle.

    How did you become a software wunderkind in the first place?
    When I was 8, I told my mom that I was getting bored after school. Then, she got my first computer. From there, I was consumed. To this day, I am on a computer nonstop at work or home. People always say, “Do what you love.” So yeah, this isn’t a job to me.

    Is it OK to call you a classic nerd?
    [Laughs] To the extreme.

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    Sony wants to let you know it’s the little things that make a huge difference. In its ad for the Xperia Z2, it showcases how paying close attention to minutiae can make you stand out in the dance world.

    The commercial also doubles as a great way to show off the smartphone's underwater capabilities. No, this is not some waterproof iPhone hoax.

    Plus, there’s nothing better that a little "wakey wakey, eggs and bakey." While you’ll still have to scramble your own eggs, Oscar Meyer has promising new technology that will pump out fresh fried bacon scent when your cellphone alarm goes off. Interested parties can apply for the beta test.

    Check out the top brands this week:

    NOTE: Adweek’s VideoWatch Chart, powered by VidIQ, reveals the Top 10 Branded Web Videos on YouTube every week. The chart tracks more than just pure views, as VidIQ incorporates sharing data from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, among other data sources in an effort to measure true engagement. Every video is also ranked with VidIQ’s proprietary Score which helps judge the likelihood of a video being promoted in YouTube Related Videos, Search and Recommended Videos.

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    Customer relationship marketing specialist Merkle has acquired New Control, a digital and direct marketing shop whose clients include Chase, PNC Bank, Visa, Gap and Sony.

    The terms of the deal--which was driven in part by the agencies' shared interest in financial services brands--were not disclosed. During the first year, the firm will operate as New Control, A Merkle Company. After that, the New Control name will dissolve.

    Negotiations between the Columbia, Md.-based Merkle and Chicago-based New Control took roughly four months. Mergers and acquisitions firm AdMedia Partners advised New Control, which had been looking to expand its capabilities.

    “We believe that clients are increasingly looking for a more integrated solution in the marketing value chain," said David Braun, president of New Control. "We knew we had strengths in marketing consulting and creative development, but understood that there were areas of the marketing chain where we needed to bolster our capabilities. Looking at the market, we saw that Merkle had already developed best in class offerings in these identified gaps, including technology, analytics, digital media, mobile and social."

    New Control's almost 90 employees become part of Merkle's digital agency group, which will now have a presence in Chicago and another San Francisco office, where New Control has a second office. That group will now number 400, while Merkle's total headcount will reach 2,100.

    Braun added that "after getting to know Merkle better we saw an instant cultural fit and recognized that we were servicing similar key industries, such as insurance and financial services. Altogether, this resulted in finding the best partner for an acquisition."

    Said Craig Dempster, an evp and digital agency group leader at Merkle: "We saw that there was a great group of talented people over at New Control. There was a strong culture and entrepreneurial spirit. We liked that, and that they had a strong industry focus within financial services, it seemed like a good fit." 

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    Microsoft’s Xbox studio arm is getting ready to churn out shows. The company rolled out a lineup of new entertainment projects at today’s NewFronts presentation to pitch the ad world on the offerings.

    “Our commitment to advertising is clear,” said Stephen Kim, vp for global agencies and accounts.

    Microsoft's Xbox Entertainment Studios showed off some intriguing interactive features for upcoming shows that give viewers more ways to connect with each other and the content. One short film called Possibilia lets viewers choose how the narrative—in this case a story about a couple's break-up—progresses with ever-expanding options of alternate scenes.

    Xbox Entertainment Studios is where premium quality content meets cutting edge technology,” Kim said on stage at the James Farley Post Office in Manhattan, where hundreds of industry players attended Microsoft’s third NewFronts event. Comedian Craig Robinson hosted the event, and the band Lake Street Dive performed.

    Critics of Microsoft’s content strategy have noted the slow pace of development of its most-anticipated project, Halo, a series produced by Steven Spielberg and based on the hit video game. The company still has no Halo previews to show off, and the project was announced a year ago.

    Another series Humans won’t be available until 2015. Still, Microsoft had a number of high-energy shows in production—in the comedy, sci-fi, animation, documentary and sports categories. 

    Microsoft executives noted that the company is well-financed and a formidable entrant into this new content world. It does have the bucks to bet on programming, but so do rivals like Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, Yahoo and Google.

    The company also is competing for the living room against Sony, which has sold more next-gen gaming consoles—7 million to 5 million.

    Here is a look at some of the Xbox shows on tap:

    Every Street United
    This show is perfectly timed for the World Cup and takes us into the world of street soccer where the gifted and gritty players display crazy talent.

    Atari: Game Over
    A documentary reveals the biggest video game flop of all time—E.T. for Atari. The game is the stuff of legend because it was so hyped yet was so bad, and eventually Atari tried to cover up its failure by dumping them in a landfill, which gets unearthed in the film.

    A show that covers familiar sci-fi ground: What would happen if robots became too like humans?

    Microsoft is the exclusive partner of the mega-music festival coming in June.

    Extraordinary Believers
    Perhaps the most original of all the Xbox Originals in development, this show is from the creators of Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken. It’s a funny mash-up of Candid Camera, Punk'd and starring animated characters dropped into the real world.

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    CANNES, France—In one of the marketing industry's hottest categories, branded content and entertainment, three U.S. campaigns won gold Lions at Cannes here tonight, but the top honor went noticeably unawarded.

    Chipotle and CAA Marketing topped the leaderboard with three gold Lions in Branded Content for The Scarecrow, a three-minute animated video that's been viewed on YouTube more than 12.8 million times. The video and the marketing effort around it have been big winners throughout this year's Cannes Lions, taking a Grand Prix in both PR and Cyber, along with multiple golds.

    Read more about The Scarecrow in our article on its PR victories at Cannes

    While Chipotle was the category's clear winner in terms of number of gold Lions, the judges declined to honor the burrito chain nor any other entrant with the Grand Prix, the festival's highest honor. The absence of a top honoree was no random quirk of scoring. Jury president Doug Scott, president of OgilvyEntertainment, told Adweek that the panel hopes to encourage bolder ideas in future years. 

    "Despite the fact that we saw great submissions from clients and agencies around the world, and awarded 11 golds, none of the work exemplified all of the key elements of extraordinary branded content—originality, craft, integration, brand alignment and most importantly narrative," Scott said.

    "It is my belief that we as the provocateurs of culture need to push harder with our creative tools and create stories that not only reflect the present but set the future."

    Despite the general criticism and lack of a Grand Prix, the judges did honor quite a few campaigns with prestigious gold Lions. Beyond Chipotle, U.S. marketers earning gold Lions were:

    • Honda and agency RPA, taking home two gold Lions in Branded Content for its U.S. campaign "Project Drive-In," an integrated campaign to raise awareness and support for America's drive-in theaters, which face closure due to the high cost of upgrades needed to meet Hollywood's transition to digital projection. 

    • Samsung and 72andSunny for the "Oscars Selfie"

    • Sony Music and Interlude N.Y. for "Bob Dylan: Like a Rolling Stone"

    The non-U.S. gold Lion winners were:

    • Volkswagen Brazil / AlmapBBDO / Kombi Last Wishes - Brazil - 2 gold Lions
    • Terre Des Hommes Netherlands / LEMZ Amsterdam / Sweetie - The Netherlands - gold Lion
    • AMIA (Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina) / Ogilvy & Mather Argentina/ AMIA Booth - Argentina - gold Lion

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