Articles on this Page
- 04/02/14--15:59: _Merkle Acquires Dig...
- 04/28/14--16:18: _Microsoft Tells Adv...
- 06/21/14--12:30: _Chipotle, Honda Win...
- 06/25/14--09:18: _MLB 14 The Show Say...
- 06/26/14--11:26: _Marketers Are Ready...
- 06/30/14--15:48: _Community Is Gettin...
- 08/12/14--06:00: _Sony Is Targeting I...
- 08/18/14--14:22: _Sharlto Copley and ...
- 08/20/14--06:18: _W+K Develops a Seri...
- 09/09/14--04:49: _How an Oil Painting...
- 10/24/14--11:42: _Alibaba Is in Talks...
- 10/24/14--11:52: _Sony Advertises Its...
- 12/13/14--16:01: _The 5 Most Embarras...
- 12/17/14--14:49: _Snapchat Quietly Bo...
- 12/24/14--09:00: _'The Interview' Is ...
- 04/02/14--15:59: Merkle Acquires Digital Player New Control
- 06/25/14--09:18: MLB 14 The Show Says Baseball Is Better With Shareable Web Content
- 06/30/14--15:48: Community Is Getting Its Six Seasons (No Movie Yet)
- 08/12/14--06:00: Sony Is Targeting Influencers' Real-Life Friends
- 08/18/14--14:22: Sharlto Copley and Michelle Forbes Will Star in PlayStation's Powers
- 08/20/14--06:18: W+K Develops a Series of Underwater Apps for Sony's Waterproof Phone
- 10/24/14--11:42: Alibaba Is in Talks With U.S. Movie Studios to Stream in China
- 12/13/14--16:01: The 5 Most Embarrassing Revelations From Sony's Sprawling Hack
- Snapchat had interest from Mark Zuckerberg for an acquisition late last year at a value of about $4 billion.
- At the time, Snapchat also was looking to raise money, and Spiegel kept the valuation modest at about $800 million. It is now reportedly worth about $10 billion.
- While Snapchat has been launching ad products this year, it also had considered a subscription service.
- Spiegel was clearly interested in ramping up revenue as quickly as possible to create a sustainable business, a point he has made publicly when releasing the first Snapchat ad products.
- He also had some thoughts on main rivals like Facebook and Twitter. He said Facebook was in jeopardy because of decreased user engagement and its limited appeal to brand advertisers. He wrote that "sustainable brand dollars" had not yet moved to Facebook. The email, from last year, predicted wrongly that Facebook was on the verge of a stock drop.
- Instagram could be Facebook's only "saving grace," he said.
- He said Twitter ad dollars were largely experimental. "Feed based advertising units will plummet in value ... similar to earlier devaluing of Internet display advertising," he said.
- Lastly, Spiegel also said that high valuations of social media companies completely dependent on advertising revenue were unjustifiable based on the overall digital ad market. A year later, Snapchat's only revenue is from advertising, though it's a new kind of advertising that does blend video with mobile.
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."
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.
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.
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
Fans will agree to disagree, but baseball die-hards will never let go of their firm belief that America's favorite pastime is the best out there. Capitalizing on that fanaticism, Sony Computer Entertainment America and Mutt Industries called on baseball players—and Danny McBride (best known as Eastbound and Down's Kenny Powers)—to make the case for their sport.
"We wanted to take back baseball's swagger," Mike McCommon, creative director at Mutt Industries, said.
Sony says the Baseball Is Better campaign, which was an advertisement for MLB 14 The Show, is resonating extremely well. Sales for the game are 40 percent ahead of projected. It also had the strongest day one and week one for the franchise, and is expected bring in the strongest sales year for the series. Fifty-six percent of people who are playing the game never played a baseball-themed video game in the past, per the company.
"In terms of a creative campaign, it’s one of the best we've produced," Sony Computer Entertainment America director of marketing Mike Webster said. "It's bold enough to get people's attention and compelling enough to reignite their passion around the game and say that our baseball game is better."
Success is partially thanks to the efforts of Miguel Cabrera, Brett Lawrie, C.C. Sabathia, Brandon Phillips, Andrew McCutchen and Jason Heyward. The campaign focused on providing flippant sharable online content, including Instagram videos, GIFs and infographics. But, the centerpiece was the YouTube videos that the athletes created that each explained one specific reason why exactly baseball should reign supreme. New videos are still slated to be released, including a brand new clip below featuring Cabrera.
Martin Navarette, the managing director of the campaign, explained that the agency themed the content to fit each athlete's personality. For example, Phillips' arguments capitalize on his trash-talking skills, while Cabrera's was a series of exercise videos that showcased his athletic skills.
"He's the best player in baseball, and has the largest contract in professional sports," Navarette pointed out. "We had him doing the silliest stuff like yoga and double dutch."
Google’s Android makeover gives advertisers new canvasses to reach consumers from TV search to smartwatch notifications to shopping carts. The company is showing off its latest upgrades at its developers conference, Google I/O, this week.
The event is for developers and digital marketers, who build the products and services on Android devices. Google is clearly expanding its footprint with Android software for phones, cars, watches and TVs.
“The design standard across Web, phones—it’s amazing stuff,” said Craig Elimeliah, director of creative technology at Rapp. “We’ve been waiting for a standard.”
The standard Elimeliah refers to is what a Google calls “material design,” and it unifies what can sometimes be a fragmented playground that is the Android software.
Google is not Apple, which has one phone and a single operating system. Hardware makers offer dozens of phones with different degrees of access to Google’s latest Android.
The new design standard is bringing new possibilities.
“The whole thing is a giant ad product,” said one digital media executive. “There are hooks in everything for more targeted ads.”
Here’s a look at Google’s new material design and how marketers can build for the next-generation Android products:
Mobile search re-envisioned
There is a new flat, fluid continuous animation while scrolling through mobile search, using graphics capabilities that weren’t available a year ago, the company said during the developers conference. Google is opening material design style cards that appear at the top of search results to all developers. These cards can be ads and can link directly to apps.
Apps to Web and back to apps
Like Facebook and Apple, which both showed new looks to developers in recent months, Google is making it easier to jump between apps, documents and the Web. Search results for restaurants, for instance, could link right to the Open Table app to make reservation. Chrome website tabs and apps that are active will all show up as windows in users’ recent activity feed on mobile devices.
Google is making notifications more accessible, even from a lock screen. It also is analyzing user behavior to push the more relevant messages to the top. The notification also will be able to link directly to apps. Marketers are particularly interested in getting sponsored notifications in front of people, using technology like iBeacons that detect when users are in stores and they can deliver a promotion or other offers.
AndroidWear is Google’s new smartwatch software that offers a stripped-down version of material design. LG, Motorola and Samsung are selling AndroidWear devices. They are supposed to work seamlessly with Android smartphones, with mobile apps just appearing on the watch when it’s in Bluetooth range of the companion smartphone.
Pinterest, Lyft, Eat24
Already developers are showing that the watch could be a powerful vehicle for marketers. Google has showed off how a consumer could be in a new city (it knows), check their watch, and see a notification from Pinterest that tells them what friends have recommended nearby restaurants. Voice commands can summon a car from Lyft or place an order with Eat24.
Searching for what’s on TV
Google’s new Android TV brings its search engine to living rooms and promises to improve one of the biggest problems with digital viewing—too many apps and movie sites to navigate easily. It’s a problem that Apple, Amazon and other set-top box makers are trying to solve with search capabilities that could sort across Hulu, Netflix, iTunes and other apps. Still, Google has the advantage when it comes to any search, and Android TV promises to look for shows or movies and answer questions like, “what movie won an Oscar?” Then deliver a result with a link to buy the movie. LG and Sony are shipping Android TVs this year.
Google’s in-store program marries 3D mapping and marketing. Retailers and brands already are playing with the technology, and test devices are being distributed for retailers to play with. Walgreens, with the help of Aisle411, said they would roll out shopping carts with Project Tango capabilities in the fall. Consumers will be able to navigate stores using the 3D maps and find products with discounts and other offers.
Well, that was close.
Sony's offbeat sitcom Community, canceled at the very last minute by NBC, has been renewed at the very last minute (a few hours before contracts with Sony were set to expire, in fact) by Yahoo Screen. Thirteen episodes of the sitcom will air on Yahoo starting in the fall.
At the Digital Content NewFronts this year, companies like Yahoo, YouTube and Crackle were voluble about a commitment to premium content; now Yahoo, at least, will be able to say that, like Netflix, it has a sitcom with huge cult appeal (albeit some very low live viewership) and, unlike Netflix, it's selling ad inventory against that show.
Community essentially lived on goodwill and fandom for five years on NBC; after two consecutive half-season orders (during which time the network inexplicably pitted the geeky comedy against the Death Star of geeky comedies, CBS's unbeatable nerdfest The Big Bang Theory), NBC president Bob Greenblatt finally pulled the plug. Showrunner and creator Dan Harmon was initially blasé about the prospect of renewal (at least that's what fans parsing his every move on Twitter thought), but eventually said in no uncertain terms that he'd be very much in favor of a sixth season. After all, every time the show has come up for renewal (it's been on the bubble since the end of Season 3), fans have tweeted their support with #sixseasonsandamovie (click that hashtag if you'd like to see some serious social media rejoicing, by the way).
Yahoo's fellow digital video concern Hulu, which is owned by a consortium of TV networks and was, rumor had it, where most viewers caught the show anyway, passed on the sixth-season renewal last week. So Community devotees will now swarm to Yahoo to find their show, which should warm the hearts of CEO Marissa Mayer’s ad sales team.
And Harmon, who also has offbeat sci-fi cartoon Rick & Morty on Adult Swim (itself a project he started after he was dismissed from the Community gig in advance of a disastrous fourth season and subsequently rehired), gave a typically pithy quote to the press. “I am very pleased that Community will be returning for its predestined sixth season on Yahoo. I look forward to bringing our beloved NBC sitcom to a larger audience by moving it online. I vow to dominate our new competition. Rest easy, Big Bang Theory. Look out, Bang Bus!”
(No, Internet, we're not going to provide a link for the phrase "bang bus.")
More good news for Harmon and company came in a follow-up interview with Sony president of programming and production Zack Van Armburg at The Hollywood Reporter: Yahoo won't cut a dollar from the series' budget. And really, Harmon gets to have his cake and eat it, too. The show will have its sixth season, and he'll get to leave NBC with this hilarious series of potshots at the network's development strategy:
Pursway claims it can tap into Facebook and other social nets to target email, direct mail and social media messages to the family and friends of influential buyers. Its platform, launched today and dubbed Pursway Connect, borrows machine-learning technology from anti-terrorism systems to scan and identify patterns while analyzing billions of pieces of data from open sources.
Sony Corporation of America is an early tester of the platform, and its vp of marketing, Steven Fuld, said the program is helping the electronics giant drive better conversion rates.
"Pursway has a unique social graph that allows us to reach prospects with strong, real-life relationships with our customers," Fuld explained.
Indeed, Pursway and Sony assert that the program can segment influencers' actual, real-life friends—not just social media ones.
The system canvasses some 150 million consumers in the United States to suss out customers who share their shopping-based messages with friends and families via social networks. Once brands upload a target audience, they can employ it for their direct marketing endeavor.
Pursway says it plans to expand its Connect program to include online and mobile advertising. The company, with headquarters in Israel and Waltham, Mass., raised $7.2 million in funding in October 2013.
Sharlto Copley will star as the lead in Powers, Sony PlayStation Network’s first foray into original programming. Copley, of District 9 and recent box office grand slam Maleficent, joins the lineup of stars in the drama adapted from a Marvel comic book series. FX had been trying to develop the series since 2011.
Michelle Forbes of The Killing and Susan Heyward of The Following play other key roles in the crime series, which follows detectives assigned to investigate murder cases involving people with superpowers.
The cast also includes Eddie Izzard, Noah Taylor, Susan Heyward, Olesya Rulin, Max Fowler and Adam Godley. Hannibal’s David Slade will direct the first two episodes, set to debut in December. Sony ordered 10 episodes of the show to be produced by Sony Pictures Television, according to Variety.
At CES this year, Sony promised it would be competing with streaming video on demand (SVOD) providers Netflix and Hulu—companies whose services, particularly when used by apps distributed on the PlayStation Network, have grown in popularity over the last five years.
In a June statement, Sony said PlayStation users will receive the first episode of Powers for free and the entire series will be free for U.S. Playstation Plus members.
Powers was originally produced as a pilot starring Jason Patric and Charles S. Dutton. It was published by Image Comics in the early 2000s before moving to Marvel Comics’ Icon, where it continues today.
If you ever hoped to pretend your phone were a fish or an aquatic plant, Sony would like to present its Xperia Z1S.
The brand, along with Wieden + Kennedy and development partners Motim and SoftFacade, is demonstrating the phone's waterproof technology by developing apps designed to be used in and under the water.
A new feature on the phone uses ultrasound to sense when the phone is submerged. A handful of 30-second videos (directed by Sean Pecknold of Society) demonstrate the apps, which capitalize on that detection technology in ways unusual, somewhat amusing and mostly frivolous.
One of the apps is "Goldie," an on-screen fish that flops around like it's dying when you take the phone out of the water. Another is "Plantimal," a modern cross between a Tomagotchi and a Grow Monster. There's also "Rainy-oke" for, quite literally, singing in the rain, as proven by a drag queen performing Cyndi Lauper.
"Photo Lab" mimics the process of developing photos by hand, in an extra cutesy twist of the knife to a practice all but eradicated by the digital age. "Sink Sunk" offers perhaps the funniest and most practical application of the water detection technology: It's a simple game for when you're bored and cranky, hanging out in your kiddie pool.
That's it, at least so far. The brand is making the source code for the feature available via Github, so other developers can play with different uses, too.
In the meantime, it's a reasonably fun way for Sony to promote waterproofing, even though that feature is not unique to the smartphone manufacturer or model. And it fits well enough into the art-meets-engineering motif of the brand's "Be Moved" platform, launched with W+K early this year—even if it does feel a little heavier on the engineering part.
The brand recommends you avoid submerging your phone for more than 30 minutes at a time, though. Just in case you were planning to take it on a nice long scuba dive.
IDEA: There would seem to be a large cultural gap between 19th century art and 21st century entertainment. But BBH didn't see it that way.
"The team came in with a super simple observation: The greatest heroes through time have been immortalized in oil paintings. They thought PlayStation heroes should receive the same treatment," said executive creative director Ari Weiss.
Thus, a fun campaign was born—spanning outdoor, online video, social and more—centered around Emanuel Leutze's 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware, reimagined to feature heroes from PlayStation games (and one lucky gamer) in place of George Washington and his men.
ART DIRECTION/TALENT: Weiss said BBH had three criteria for finding a famous work to reference: Would it be instantly recognizable? Did it have a prominent hero leading a group? And could the agency execute it beautifully?
Leutze's painting was a yes on all counts, so the agency hired Swedish artist Andreas Englund to recreate it. "He's a photorealistic painter, which was perfect for capturing each game character in exacting detail," said art director Daniel Burke. "He also has a subtle sense of humor to his work, which can be seen in his series about an aging superhero."
Englund left the Washington character blank, and fans were asked to pick a famous gamer, from among five choices, to take the coveted spot. (Joey Chiu, who was the first person in line to buy a PlayStation 4 last November, won that vote.)
The campaign launched with a giant mural, mimicking Englund's painting, at the E3 conference in June.
Next, The Mill helped bring the painting to life in a 60-second online spot. "They featured the painting textures beautifully, creating a realistic depth of field. There wasn't a more honorable way to reveal this masterpiece," said art director Diego Fonseca.
COPYWRITING: Heroic voiceover copy on the spot was taken directly from Thomas Paine's famous pamphlet series The American Crisis. "These are the times that try men's souls," the narrator says over close-ups of the characters, now moving slightly. "Yet we have this consolation with us—that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. It matters not where you live or what rank of life you hold. I call not upon a few, but upon all."
"We figured if it was good enough to inspire General Washington and his revolutionary army to fight for a country's freedom, it was probably good enough to inspire gamers playing for their own greatness," copywriter Evan Benedetto said of the text.
The spot ends with the on-screen line "Where the greatest play" and the campaign tagline, "Greatness awaits."
It also points viewers to a microsite, where they can create their own "Gamer Masterpieces" (using three classic works of art and a number of characters and backgrounds), upload them and ask for votes. The top 50 vote getters are getting a real-life version of their Gamer Masterpiece; the top 10 will get the same, plus a new PS4.
SOUND: The music on the spot is a quietly stirring original orchestral track by Human. "We wanted a piece of music that added emotion while letting the voiceover really be the star," said Burke.
MEDIA: The campaign was interactive at its core, but had various touch points.
"Our audience doesn't experience ideas in siloed ways—they just grab a bit here, see a bit there, and it all needs to reward them in some way for spending time with it," said BBH New York chief creative officer John Patroulis. "In this campaign, interactivity and participation became the gravity that pulled all the elements together."
Client: Sony PlayStation
Guy Longworth: Senior Vice President Brand Marketing
John Koller: VP Platform Marketing
Franco de Cesare: Senior Director Home Consoles
Tyler Vaught: Senior Brand Manager Home Consoles
Cristian Cardona: Brand Manager Home Consoles
Cody Morales: Assistant Brand Manager
Mia Putrino: Assistant Brand Manager
Agency: BBH, New York
John Patroulis: CCO
Ari Weiss: Executive Creative Director
Evan Benedetto: Creative
Daniel Burke: Creative
Amanda Brencys: Creative
Diego Fonesca: Creative
Carey Head: Head of Production & Technology
Kate Morrison: Head of Content Production
Douglas Stivers: Senior Integrated Producer
Kelly Bignell: User Experience Director
Anthony Terruso: Creative Technologist
Deb Archambault: Art Buyer
Rachel Freed: Senior Print Producer
Simon Joseph: Associate Producer
Sean McGee: Business Affairs Manager
Armando Turco: Head of Account Management
Mark Williams: Account Manager
Mike Mueller: Account Executive
Eric Schwerdtfeger: Account Executive
Julian Cole: Head of Comms Strategy
Benjamin Zoll: Comms Strategist
Sarah Watson : Head of Strategy
Kendra Salvatore: Brand Strategy Director
Oil Painting Artist: Washington Crossing the Delaware Andreas Englund
Digital Experience we are resn: design, art production, development and animation
Gamer Masterpiece Film Production: Mill+
Creative Director: Rama Allen
Executive Producer: Danielle Ameral
Producer: Stephanie Katritos
3D Lead: Christian Nielsen
3D Artist: Isaiah Palmer
2D Lead: Nick Tanner
2D Artist: Rob Roth
Editor: Ryan Mckenna
Editor Assistant: Leanne Belgiomo
Colorist: Mikey Rossiter
Sound Design: Henryboy
Sound Designer: Bill Chesley
Executive Producer: Kate Gibson
Audio Mixing: Sound Lounge
Tom Jucarone: Mixer/Audio Post
Mark Ledwidge: Assistant Mixer/Audio Post
Alibaba founder Jack Ma, fresh off his company's record-breaking $22 billion public stock offering, is shopping for U.S. movies to stream online in China. Ma and a group of Alibaba executives are meeting with studio chiefs next week to get the rights to content to sell to Chinese consumers hungry for TV and movies from Hollywood, according to Bloomberg.
Ma’s reported wish list includes Walt Disney, Viacom, Lions Gate Entertainment, Warner Bros., Sony, 21st Century Fox and Comcast.
In July, Alibaba struck a deal with Lions Gate to stream the Hunger Games franchise and TV show Mad Men to Chinese audiences. The New York Post reported that Ma wants to buy chairman Mark Rachesky’s controlling shares in Lions Gate, when he steps down as early as next month. Rachesky’s shares are worth about $1.6 billion.
China is the No. 2 film market in the world, making the convenience of online subscription content a natural fit for Alibaba’s e-commerce network.
However, China is not a straightforward place to do business. Last month, Chinese regulators announced they would cap the amount of foreign TV programs local providers could stream to online subscribers. Neftlix’s House of Cards, which attracts millions of Chinese viewers, was rumored to be in jeopardy. In April, Chinese regulators yanked NCIS, The Practice, The Good Wife and The Big Bang Theory off video streaming services without giving a reason. The Big Bang Theory was reportedly pulling in 120 million viewers a month.
It remains to be seen if Ma’s clout and business savvy will overcome Chinese regulators and net him another lucrative revenue stream. Alibaba’s stock has been soaring on news of its interest in movie streaming.
Adam&eveDDB and directors Leila and Damien de Blinkk headed to Canada to film this remarkable new spot for Sony's 4K Ultra HD TV. And indeed, not since Jean-Claude Van Damme and Coors Light have we seen such a noteworthy ad about frozen balls.
Those in question here are blown bubbles that freeze in midair in the icy weather. We see natural crystal-like structures form, with no special effects used. It's lovely stuff—and surely that much more mind-blowing when actually viewed on a 4K Sony TV. The soundtrack is Josef Salvat's version of Rihanna's "Diamonds."
"We were blown away by the beauty of the intricate patterns that the freezing of the bubbles' surface was creating at very low temperature. The feather, flower and star ice shapes were so delicate and mesmerizing when they reflected light," says Leila de Blinkk. "To bring out all these details in 4K was to almost discover a new world, that we didn't suspect existed."
"This time we wanted to create something beautiful that truly reflects the experience of watching a Sony 4K Ultra HD TV—being able to put these fleeting moments of natural beauty on film felt like a fitting successor to all we've done before," adds Gildas Pelliet, head of marketing at Sony Europe.
Agency: Adam & Eve DDB
Art Director: Christopher Bowsher
Copywriter: Frances Leach
ECDs: Ben Preist, Ben Tolett, Emer Stamp
Agency Producer: Matt Cragie
Planner: Toby Harrison
Directors Damien & Leila De Blinkk
Post production : MPC London
The true scope of a massive hacking attack against Sony Pictures remains unknown, but one thing is clear: Each new revelation seems to dig the studio only deeper into a public relations sinkhole.
Problems began in late November when Sony employees arrived at work to find their computers compromised. A hacker group calling itself Guardians of Peace, or #GOP, threatened to release highly sensitive documents, from executive salaries to overblown movie budgets, if Sony didn't comply with some demands.
The group's demands centered on the upcoming release of The Interview, a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. The premise of the film involves an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. While many have assumed North Korea's government was behind the hack, the FBI has so far found no direct link.
In the aftermath of the hack, media outlets have pored over mounds of leaked Sony Pictures emails, and plenty of humiliating details have arisen from the documents. If you've had trouble keeping up with all the revelations, here are the five most embarrassing so far:
5. Sony's password security was laughable
While not as salacious as many of the other leaked details, one of the most laughable is that Sony kept a list of its login details for social media and financial accounts in a directory literally titled "Password."
4. Producer Scott Rudin thinks Angelina Jolie is a "spoiled brat"
A string of emails between Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, the man behind the highly anticipated Jobs film chronicling the life of Steve Jobs, revealed the well-known but rarely exposed nastiniess of showbiz.
One ongoing conversation dealt with Angelina Jolie's insistence on having David Fincher direct her rendition of Cleopatra, but Pascal and company had plans for the director to work on the Jobs film. Jolie was not pleased with the decision and apparently wouldn't back down.
At one point, Rudin fired back to Pascal about Cleopatra: "I'm not remotely interested in presiding over a $180m ego bath that we both know will be the career-defining debacle for us both. I'm not destroying my career over a minimally talented spoiled brat who thought nothing of shoving this off her plate for eighteen months so she could go direct a movie. I have no desire to be making a movie with her, or anybody, that she runs and that we don't. She's a camp event and a celebrity and that's all and the last thing anybody needs is to make a giant bomb with her that any fool could see coming."
In another email, Rudin dismisses potential Jobs production partner Megan Ellison, daughter of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, as a "bipolar 28 year old lunatic."
Since the emails leaked, someone snapped a photo of Jolie and Pascal appearing to have one of the most awkward conversations ever.
The conversations about Jolie and Ellison were part of the much larger implosion of Sony's plans for the Jobs biopic, which you can see in excrutiating detail on Mashable.
3. An exec called Kevin Hart a 'whore'
Sony co-chair Pascal was a recurring participant in embarrassing email conversations that have since come to light, including a discussion with two other executives about actor Kevin Hart. Hart allegedly requested more money from the studio for tweeting about an upcoming film he would be starring in.
Studio exec Clint Culpepper responded to the situation by proclaiming: "I'm not saying he's a whore, but he's a whore. I never cease to be amazed at the chutzpah of actors."
Hart fired back with a statement via Instagram about the importance of self-worth and maintaining a personal brand:
2. Sony has been part of an industry cabal against Google and piracy
Attorneys from Sony, five other studios and The Motion Picture Association of America have spent much of the past year conspiring against Google over access to pirated content, according to many leaked emails that generally avoid naming the search giant and instead refer to it as "Goliath."
The effort began after the failure of the federal SOPA initiative, with studios shifting their approach to lobbying at the state level and partnering with Internet service providers like Comcast. The collection of Hollywood lawyers even drafted a chart of high, medium and low priorities for cracking down on pirated content.
While not embarrassing in the titillating way that other leaks were, this high-level look at the movie industry's anti-piracy strategy was obviously not something Sony wanted in the public forum.
1. Execs shared a racial joke about President Obama
Another email exchange between Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, this one discussing President Obama, generated the most high-profile faux pas revealed by the hack.
Pascal was headed to a lunch, where the president would be in attendance, and shot off a quick note to buddy Rudin for suggestions of what to ask Obama. The two then passed a series of jokes back and forth about how Obama likely prefers movies starring black actors.
Rudin: "Would he like to finance some movies."
Pascal: "I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?"
Rudin: "12 YEARS [a Slave]."
Pascal: "Or the butler. Or think like a man?"
Rudin: "Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart."
Both have since apologized, with Rudin noting:"I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive—and not funny at all."
Pascal's apology followed shortly after: "The content of my emails were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am."
It's not just Sony whose corporate secrets are being outed by an ongoing leak of hacked documents. Emails released today also reveal Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel green-lit the $15 million purchase of a smartglass company owned by his college friend.
Emails received by Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, a Snapchat board member, show that the popular photo-sharing app company bought Vergence Labs, which was co-founded by Spiegel's college friend Jonathan Rodriguez.
The company developed smartglasses called Epiphany Eyewear, which allow the wearer to record video. It's unclear if Snapchat bought Vergence Labs in order to recruit its talent, including Rodriguez, or if the multibillion-dollar startup has plans to get into hardware. Snapchat did not immediately return a request for comment.
What is clear is that Spiegel and Rodriguez have been friends since freshman year at Stanford University where the two lived in the same dorm building, Donner House, according to an e-mail conversation with Rodriguez last year.
"I know Evan from living on the same floor of our freshman dorm (Donner)," Rodriguez wrote, responding to questions about his memories of Spiegel. "Evan is very friendly and hardworking and I have warm memories of his kind and outgoing nature. I am extremely impressed with the great success he is achieving through countless hours of dedication to a product he truly believes in."
The Silicon Valley-based university is a fertile incubator for emerging tech, and it should come as little surprise that startup founders have close connections when so many hail from that campus.
The leaked Snapchat e-mails—including one between Spiegel and a venture capitalist—shed new light on the young CEO. Here is some of what we learned on top of the purchase of Vergence Labs:
Call it a showing of Christmas patriotism, at least for some viewers.
The Interview shot to the top-selling spot on Google's Play store almost instantly after being released online on Christmas Eve in defiance of a hacking group that threatened to shut down Seth Rogen and James Franco's buddy movie.
The Interview started streaming online Wednesday afternoon after Sony got help from rivals like Google and Microsoft to stream the flick even though the hackers tried to blackmail the company into dropping support for the movie.
It soon sat atop the top-selling movies category in the Google digital store, and remained there through Christmas and into Boxing Day. It racked up almost 1,000 comments within a couple hours of launch. There were mostly positive reviews, and it has 4.7 stars out five. Many commenters didn't even seem to care if the movie was good or bad, but just wanted to stick it to the people behind the attacks that tried to stop the movie's release.
One reviewer said: "It tastes like freedom. This will forever be the movie that defines American freedom of speech ... for better or worse."
Another reviewer said: "I bought this movie just to say "FU" to the hackers," and a number of others had similar sentiments.
Sony said today it would stream The Interview on YouTube and Microsoft's Xbox Live while also playing it in select theaters Christmas Day. There were no reported incidents at any of the 331 independently owned theaters that screened the movie on Christmas.
After its digital launch, the movie created an outpouring of support on news sites like Business Insider and Mashable, which live-blogged while viewing the film, and "Watching The Interview" was trending on Twitter.
"This movie will be awful, but it's my choice to watch awful," one Twitter user posted.
The opening of the movie had been thrown into question after a hacker group (possibly working for North Korea and possibly not) leaked Sony secrets online and threatened more if the movie wasn't shelved. The Interview will now have a mostly digital run on YouTube, Google's Play store, Sony's website, and its rival Microsoft's streaming service.
In making the movie available, the digital industry is both defying threats to free speech and showing its strength as a distribution channel that is channging the face of media and enteratinment. YouTube is more known for its videos from homegrown talent than for renting Hollywood movies.
The threat to The Interview seems to have united longtime foes. Sony is a direct rival with Microsoft in gaming, and the company has a public feud with Google over contentious online piracy rules. In fact, the hacked emails exposed new fissures between Google and the movie industry in the fight over the Stop Online Piracy Act, which the search giant says threatens to censor the Internet while Hollywood studios want it to protect the value of their movies.
Even still there is a united front to stream The Interview, according to a Google blog post Wednesday.
"It was tempting to hope that something else would happen to ensure this movie saw the light of day. But after discussing all the issues, Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the sidelines and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country (however silly the content might be)," David Drummond, Google's chief legal counsel, said.
The movie will cost $6 to rent online and $15 to buy the digital version. It goes live at 1 p.m. today.
The computer attack on Sony started a month ago, with a group called Guardians of Peace threatening to release internal Sony Pictures documents until the company quashed the movie, a comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.
The emails that leaked embarassed Sony as they revealed personal communications from executives. Some emails were about Hollywood stars like Angelina Jolie and Kevin Hart, and others touched industries like the tech sector. One email even came from Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, because Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton sits on the startup's board.
Sony and theater chains buckled under the threat of more damning leaks and the promise of attacks at movie theaters if The Interview weren't totally silenced. The White House even got involved with President Barack Obama urging Sony not to give into the blackmail. The feds suspect that North Korea was behind the computer attack, causing an international crisis.
In the past few days, with the movie opening effectively blocked, Lynton had maintained that the company did not cave. Now there are other options for its release.