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Archive for January, 2014

What Primetime Television Can Teach Us About Content Marketing

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

By Brad Finegan

gamers-room-999218-mI remember watching television with my parents over a family dinner in 2013.  We were watching the evening news, eating my mother’s roast, when suddenly, I realized something; this was the first time in ages I had watched a broadcast television.

I was floored. Here I am, a media communications major, and I can’t remember the last time I watched a broadcast TV. For my parents, primetime TV is a more-than-weekly evening ritual. Television news, morning and evening, is a daily routine. I, on the other hand, don’t even have cable in my room. What was the difference? What did they see in television that I didn’t? Then, it hit me like a bag of bricks labeled “obvious.”

The Internet.

It wasn’t what I was missing, it was how our youth differed.  My parents come from a generation where television depended on you, the viewer, to free your schedule for it.  If you didn’t, the network would determine the show wasn’t making quota, and that it wasn’t worth keeping on the air.  These days, it’s an absolute blessing if someone actually watches your show when it actually airs on an actual television.

Now, this isn’t to insist that this transition is going to kill television.  Television is visual entertainment, and it’s still the case (maybe even more-so, now) that video connects to others unlike any other medium.  This is to insist that companies distributing content may want to take a step back and learn how we, the viewers, choose to ingest that content.

Generally speaking, if you ask anyone under age 25 how they view their favorite shows, chances are they’ll return the same answers. Hulu, their DVR, and most importantly; Netflix. Avenues such as these stand as new mediums of sharing content amongst a large crowd, and with changing times, there’s a chance that these could become a new standard.

Here’s an example. NBC’s “Community” is a primetime television show about a group of seven quirky community college students and their life-changing and hysterical adventures through their four years of school. The show retained a huge cult following; the issue was NBC couldn’t recognize it. Why? Because fans of the show are generally under age 25, and chances are they don’t even have cable to watch it on.

Ratings (based on viewership) started to slip. The show found itself on a Friday night slot (not great for a primetime schedule) and on the verge of cancellation after its third season. Once their fan base received word of this, they did practically everything they could to save the show. Netflix and Hulu viewing exponentially increased. More people were accessing the show via On Demand services and DVR. The hashtag campaign #sixseasonsandamovie, insisting that the show deserved to receive six seasons and a movie, went viral virtually overnight. These fans were so dedicated to keeping the show on the air, and did everything they could to do so, except the one thing that would actually raise ratings; watching the show on television when it actually aired.

As this was happening, ratings for “Community” were still hardly sub-par, but when the time came, the executives at NBC signed the show for a fourth season. The show is currently onto its fifth season and stronger than ever.

How can we relate this back to content marketing? Well, it shows us that one avenue isn’t always the only avenue. YouTube may be the second largest search engine in the world, but Instagram is the second largest social media site in the world. Why not put some of your video content there? Even though Facebook is the top social media site right now, who’s to say Google+ won’t get there?

Like with television, the future of content marketing is undetermined, more-so now than ever before. Every avenue could have potential to become a new standard. We now have the ability to ingest content from so many sources that no one could ever possibly be sure where the next viral trend will end up. As a business owner or content marketer, you should always keep the potential of “what-if” in mind. As the internet continues to grow exponentially, the avenues we have access to taking are endless, and we shouldn’t squander the possibility of new avenues taking over our respective markets.

 

 

Going Viral Is Good Business

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

6277208304_ab6988a99fBig-budget Hollywood director Michael Bay (Transformers, Armageddon, The Rock) had an onstage meltdown last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He was there promoting the electronics giant Samsung and its new 105-inch curved UHD television. It started off OK, but then the teleprompter went down, leaving Bay at a loss for words. Suddenly incapable of putting together an English sentence, the
A-list director muttered, “Excuse me, I’m sorry …,” turned and walked off stage. The video of the live event quickly went viral, surpassing one million YouTube views.

Now, I’ve met a few successful movie directors, and they all impressed me as outstanding, natural communicators. Directors do nothing all day but communicate – with writers, studio execs, actors, department heads and ultimately, audiences. That’s one of the reasons I suspect that Bay’s gaffe was more stratagem than stage fright. As he watched Bay flounder, Samsung Executive Vice President, Joe Stinziano, pitched him a softball question, “The curve, how do you think it’s going to impact how viewers experience your movies?” It was this unanticipated query that finally drove Bay from the stage.

Picture this: it’s a few days before CES, and Samsung’s newly hired creative team is desperately searching for some way to get Samsung’s name and the fanfare accompanying its curved TV heard above the din of business-as-usual at the world’s largest, not open to the public, tradeshow. Someone in the room mentions “viral video,” but everyone present knows that’s a million-to-one shot. Then a young man in the corner blurts out, “Michael Bay is a big name – can’t we use him somehow?” With that, there is an explosion of ideas. Raising his arms, the senior most exec in the room announces, “We need something like a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ that will be sensational, look spontaneous and is easy enough for Michael to pull off.” Bay is contacted, and he loves the idea.

Following the show, it was confirmed as the largest ever, with 150,000 attendees, 35,000 of whom were from outside the U.S. “One-third of the world’s population interacted with CES in some way this week, as we experienced the future,” said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association. “From curved and flexible Ultra HD TVs and next-generation smartphones to drones, robots, sensors, the Internet of Everything, Hi-Res audio, connected cars and 3D printers, it seems like the only thing missing from the 2014 CES was a time-travel machine,” Shapiro said.

I think you’re starting to get the idea. Corporate America knows that the least expensive and most effective communications tool now available is the viral video, and I’m predicting an uptick in the number of celebrities having some telegenic mishap in the vicinity of the product they are promoting. Remember the truism, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

How did things work out for Samsung and Michael Bay? Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards (21 million U.S. viewers) had host Tina Fey doing her wildly funny impersonation of Michael Bay, as she stumbled, coughed, and finally gave up on an introduction of presenters Chris Evans and Uma Thurman. Its 105-inch TV (price still not announced) got coverage from CNN, Bloomberg and all the network news programs. The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and hundreds of other newspapers worldwide carried stories. By all accounts, it was the hit of the show. And coincidentally, the new Michael Bay-produced pirate series, Black Sails, debuts this Saturday on YouTube (a week before it airs on Starz).

What do you think? You can watch Michael Bay’s CES 2014 meltdown below:

photo credit: Newspapers B&W (2) via photopin (license)

Do It Yourself Video Production

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

6047261859_5d1f6cefd3I’m happy to report that the era of do-it-yourself video production seems to be drawing to a close. I’m not talking about teenagers making experimental films with their friends. Rather, I’m talking about businesses, organizations, and individuals trying to save time and money by choosing the DIY option over professional video production.

Beginning around 2005 we began seeing conditions that led to a DIY video “perfect storm.” First, affordable hardware and software, capable of high quality editing, appeared in the marketplace. Second, millions of people became accustomed to the convenience of shooting video on their cell phones. Third, the economic downturn of 2008 brought drastic budget cuts, particularly in such “discretionary” areas as advertising, training, publicity, and promotion. And fourth, there grew a cultish faith within the business community that the clever application of technology was the solution to most every problem.

Clearly, many of these factors remain extant. What then was ultimately responsible for the failure of DIY video? Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of these videos failed to effectively communicate their intended messages, and in some cases, they were actually counterproductive.

You cannot give a highly creative individual the right tools, a little training, and a hearty slap of encouragement and expect them to make a successful video. It’s here that I’d like to draw a distinction between the “creative individual” and the “creative professional.” Creativity, in itself, is never enough to craft a video that communicates effectively. That takes years of study, practice, and critical thinking. Every creative professional started out as a creative individual, and then made the conscious choice to study the language of film & video, master its techniques, and commit to a lifetime of learning.

I love this quote from the great theoretical physicist Niels Bohr, “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.” A broad grin spreads over my face when I think back over the many mistakes I’ve made during my long career. Fortunately, most of my really disastrous errors occurred while I was in school and during my apprenticeship thereafter. Needless to say, most DIYers fall short because they are simply not prepared.

There’s another reason that DIY videos are unsuccessful. Whether it’s fair or unfair, the standard against which all videos are measured is the one we’ve all grown up on: the production standards of Hollywood films, television programs, and TV commercials. Average viewers may not be able to explain the reason they find a particular DIY video so unconvincing. All they know is that something feels “wrong.” Usually what they’re responding to is the combined effect of many small weaknesses: the music is a bit too loud; the voiceover is somewhat stiff; the graphics are difficult to read; the narrative lacks a beginning, middle, and end; the lighting is bright and unflattering; the onscreen talent appears a bit unsure and uncomfortable; the pacing seems slow, and on and on.

It’s attention to all the tiny details that can make or break your video. Even the most meticulous DIYers are likely to fail, simply because they don’t have the critical skills to find the small weaknesses, and they may not have the necessary knowledge to fix those weaknesses once found (not to mention those problems that are impossible to fix).

Industry professionals have noted that the rise and fall of DIY desktop video is much like the rise and fall of DIY desktop publishing before it. Software like QuarkXPress cut into the business of many professional typesetters and layout designers until DIYers realized that the precipitous drop in quality that resulted was hurting business.

The fact is, my client’s video will likely create a distinct impression on those who view it. Video is the most powerful communications medium ever created, and it is up to you whether you make the most of the few minutes you have the viewer’s attention. Generally, you get only one shot. After watching your video, people come away with a lasting positive or negative impression of you, your organization, and your product or service. And that’s the reason that a truly creative, professional video from Primeau Productions is such a wise investment, paying dividends long into the future.

photo credit: Queen-watching via photopin (license)

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