Movie marketing in the online world might seem a bit of a tangent for a company that specialises in sport, but we’re interested in what’s good in digital media – whatever the sector. We have some background in film as I worked at the BFI for 18 months, but this post comes from researcher Amy Jones who spotted The Grumblr and couldn’t let it go without digging further. RA. >>
Movie promotion has changed in recent years, to the point where promotional posters are having to be adapted to make sure that they’ve viewable on a mobile device. Increased use of the internet, especially on mobile devices, means that there are a thousand new ways to reach a potential audience, and some movie marketers are exploiting this to their full advantage.
Some, like the people behind 126.96.36.199 and Star Trek Into Darkness are using social media to create buzz around their film. Others are using the internet to target specific groups of people online — such as in the run up to the release of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo when fans of the novels were hit with targeted ads and a specific campaign that tapped into their love for the books. Others, however, aren’t being quite so obvious. They’re taking digital marketing and having a little fun with it, creating some very cool things in the process.
The Grumblr is a Tumblr supposedly written by a Monsters University student. It includes memes, heavily filtered square photos of campus life, chats about essays, GIFs, hashtags, all the things you’d usually find on the social media of a 17-25 year old. Except it’s all to do with monsters.
It’s brilliant, showing the tone and a few snippets from the movie without being blatantly promotional. Plus it links to the website for Monsters University, which is so similar a real academic website it’s almost painful. Apart from the bit where they sell four-armed hoodies in the store, obviously.
The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises were the final two films in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Batman has such a huge existing fanbase that marketers could have gotten away with the old posters-and-interviews technique. Instead they took the huge, rich world of Batman and made something quite brilliant with it.
Let’s start in reverse. When the website for The Dark Knight Rises was launched, it was just a black webpage with a recording of men chanting underneath it. However, when the chanting was analysed with a spectrograph a hidden message was revealed — #thefirerises. If you tweeted that hashtag then you’d get a reply from @TheFireRises, who’d link you to another webpage where you could put in your Twitter account and your profile pic would be added to a larger mosaic that formed the first clear photo of Bane.
Even though the photo was unveiled by clever-clogs Batman fans way before the mosaic was completed, it was a cool idea — and it was followed up with a huge website that let fans peek into the Batman world.
But it was nothing compared to the campaign for The Dark Knight. I left it ’til last because it’s quite astonishing, involving treasure hunts that blend the online and offline worlds, over 31 websites, mobile phones with exclusive content hidden in the middle of cakes, an online newspaper, …it’s no surprise that it had over 10 million unique participants in 75 countries. It was a huge, mind-blowing campaign, but this video explains it all very neatly.
There are so many other sterling examples I could talk about, such as Super 8‘s online treasure hunt and the Monsters Foursquare campaign that I wish someone would look at and expand upon, but the point is clear. There are a hundred different platforms to reach audiences on nowadays, and thousands of different ways of using them. You can use digital to create a world that will extend the film experience beyond the two hours someone sits in a cinema, and create some really nifty things whilst doing so.
Let’s get this clear: Manchester City’s budget for digital isn’t huge. As I have said time and time again, when I was Head of Digital the budget was the smallest I have had in my career since I left the BBC — and that was an age ago.
Last week eConsultancy journalist David Moth wrote the article “Why do Premier League clubs offer such an awful user experience” in which he bemoaned the poor UX on Barclays Premier League official club sites. David kindly exempts MCFC from the critical comments because he rates the UX highly. But it doesn’t take long before the comments by users on the story are citing the imaginarily massive Man City budget as the reason.
Today, at Sport Tech Meetup, although I wasn’t there, I hear there was more praise for the MCFC service and yet more disparaging comment that it was all down to having deep pockets.
This thinking is just plain flawed.
Good user experience comes from clear thinking made visual. It comes from knowing the audience, understanding the behaviours, having clarity of purpose in the business and the ability to deliver on that thinking.
As I wrote in my eConsultancy comment, the people before my time deserve the credit. Poke were architects, Aqueduct delivered (and still do), the internal team led by inimitable Victoria Stansfield (delivery) and Chris Bailey (content) and the head honchos at City gave them the leeway to deliver. Did the UX redesign cost a fair bit? Yes, probably. Good people cost money. Was it worth it? Yes, definitely.
What’s more important is whether there is a long term benefit to the business – whether there is an adequate return on investment. I believe there is – and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating as Russell Stopford, Head of Digital, his bosses and his team, continue to be bold enough to invest (time, effort, focus AND money) in the digital service.
I just described the investment in the MCFC digital services as ‘bold’ and, on a moment’s reflection, I’m not sure that’s accurate. It’s bold in football, certainly. City is the current holder of the Sports Industry Award for best website, as well as a smattering of digital industry awards for various services including mobile and social. City undoubtedly has a very strong reputation for being a digital leader in football, but also in sport as a whole. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube executives are regularly heard heralding the Club’s work at conferences to the extent that audiences are getting bored!
What was most pleasing at the SIA last year was that we beat the Guardian’s sport section and TalkSport. Media companies. For a sporting club to be judged better than media companies at digital media felt like a real accolade, especially two services of such high calibre.
So what’s really relevant is whether the investment is commensurate with the opportunity.
Of course I don’t have exact figures (and even if I did, no NDA would let me blog them) but from my work across sport and other industry sectors, I am sure that Man City’s digital spend is slightly on the light side compared to most emerging brands and growing businesses of similar size who are attempting to use digital media to their advantage. MLS clubs, for example, don’t need to be convinced of the value to their business of digital media – their investment, as a percentage of revenue, is significantly higher.
So why does MCFC’s digital service stand out?
Speaking of my own time as HoD, the then CEO of City Garry Cook, and also my immediate boss, believed that there was a need to leverage every opportunity to deliver a better service to fans, to engage and entertain, to inform but also to listen – and to reach out to all fans on all platforms. So, facilitation from on high is crucial.
But the desire to be innovative, to adapt, and the confidence to be able to run the service to high standards at the same time as developing new products and grasping new opportunities – this is what really makes the City service stand out. That and the access given by the football players and staff, the great content generated and putting the fans’ needs first.
I have employed the some of the same strategy and tactics – not similar ones, but exactly the same – at organisations as diverse as the BFI, a small legal practice, a friend’s craft business and the Premier League Champions. The principles don’t change – but how you apply them does.
The key is not in the size of the investment, but in what you do with it.
UPDATE: I should add that I’ve just been told that there are lots of very complimentary comments at STM, but often accompanied by the ‘not that we have their budget’ comment which may just be a reflexive caveat rather than an intended criticism <partially-gets off high horse>
This post was originally published on Richard Ayers’ personal blog.
“You should see my four-year-old with an ipad / mouse / iphone / tv remote / [insert relevant period technology]“.
This is one of the phrases that winds me up most when I’m at a conference, listening to someone speak about the internet with the new-found fervor of the recent convert. Don’t get me wrong, I love converts and their enthusiasm. I love tech-savvy four-year-olds – but I don’t want to be sitting in an audience being lectured about a 10 year old behaviour pattern they’ve only just discovered. That’s stage 1: zealotry. Tonight was all about stage 2 but more of that in a minute.
It was Jon Williams of the BBC who raised my heckles. “Twitter is nothing new, it’s just like another tips line” he said, clearly feeling no need to put any qualification around that, and “social media doesn’t replace journalism, it complements it”. Of course he ended the discussion saying “we are privileged to be reporting such extraordinary moments” but only after he’d sidelined twitter as just another source. In fact, it was left to Jon Snow to be excited – to point out that the difference with twitter is that one comment can lead to another and another from multiple sources which can lead to links, data, pictures and video – and all within seconds because the scale and range of the network is so huge in comparison with anything we’ve known before. Sadly this glimmer of excitement and enthusiasm quickly faded as he realised that he was supposed to be chairing – but it seemed like he knew more about social media than anyone else on the panel.
Stage 2: Ennui.
‘It’s nothing new. We’ve seen this before. The story isn’t the technology, it’s the people. The technology is just a platform.’ These are all phrases with enough truth about them to cause plenty of damage to a media organisation. They cause damage because they breed complacency and they downgrade awareness of and investment in new technology.
At this point, I should caveat that I don’t know Mr Williams (@WilliamJon). In fact, I used to work with Sky’s Sarah Whitehead (@swhitehead1) when she was at the BBC, but other than that, I don’t know the panellists and I haven’t worked inside a news broadcaster for 10 years – so there’s a chance that last night’s panel wasn’t the best representation of what goes on within the BBC, Sky, ITN, Al Jazeerah, etc. But seeing as the second half of the evening was supposed to be dedicated to debating whether social media had been shown to revolutionise broadcasting in the case of the Arab Spring, I felt we didn’t even scratch the surface. Ironically, but not surprisingly, there was no hashtag for the debate, but thanks to @IanKearney for tweeting.
The stories on covering conflicts were impressive, harrowing, fascinating. The journalistic credentials were unparalleled. But the level of digital media debate was low. Perhaps I was in the wrong place, but it’s not just that I wanted to hear more geek talk. It gave me genuine concern that a lack of discussion might cover a lack of knowledge or interest…
Stage 2: Ennui is what happens when Media Executive A has gone through the excited digital stage. In fact, they’ve been through fear, opportunity, hope, excitement, over-excitement, disappointment… and now they’re just bored of the excitable digital-types who used to invade their newsrooms (publishing offices, media centres etc etc). Now they know all the TLAs, they’ve been on all the digital media courses, they know the difference between a follow and a retweet – and to the bosses on high (who know they don’t know anything) they sound digital. Or digital enough.
The panel was made up of hugely experienced and esteemed journalists with long and decorated careers in journalism and broadcasting. Sadly, there were no other voices involved – none that could have talked through the importance of social media. Oh for a Clay Shirky or Jay Rosen or Jeff Jarvis or Emily Bell or Aleks Krotowski or Kevin Anderson or any of a long list of others. Steve Herrmann (@BBCSteveH), the BBC’s News Online Editor would have had an interesting perspective, perhaps.
There was no discussion of ‘twitter to break the news, facebook to organise, youtube to share’. There was no mention of journalists being held to account by online communities who know the subject matter better – and by the impact of that on working processes – how being part of an ecosystem or a conversation has revolutionised reporting at the Guardian and other media institutions. Yes, I could have spoken up – but questions from the floor by digital media practitioners always end up sounding like rants – and that never helps the cause. The debate itself needed to be more balanced – or at least more focussed on the practice of using social media in newsgathering. Yes, there were interviewees in the VT piece about social media who knew what they were about, like Alex Gubbay (@alexgubbay) (formerly, BBC News social media chief, now moving to Johnston Press), but these weren’t the voices on tonight’s panel.
There was some good conversation stimulated by @stewartpurvis around impartiality. But there was scant discussion of anonymity and the essential and interesting place it holds within internet-based discussion. And there appeared limited awareness of the fundamental scale of social media and the power of the scale of the network.
Second source? How about hundreds?
There was mention of getting a second source – but this wasn’t extended into the idea to get multiple sources – that scale means mass-corroboration as well as mass-collaboration. I’ve always found an important premise is to understand a user’s provenance online – their history and profile within the community and conversation ecosystem where they reside.
[alert: incoming personal anecdote confirming experience of conflict reporting and internet heritage]
When I worked on the Kosovo Special Report on BBC News Online in 1998, there were 3 of us in the team. I handled what we’d now call the data journalism of updating the daily record of allied bombings. But if social media had been around I could have corroborated those stories – I could have shown pictures of schools bombed-out when Nato said it was an armoury. However, this also highlights the issue of scale again: with twitter, facebook and youtube – and the need for broadcasters’ representatives to reside in the online community so that you can know the reputation and reliability of a source, or to use mass-corroboration as your principle – you need resource, huge resource, to be able to effectively operate as a broadcast journalist body. It’s a manpower challenge.
What worried me most about Mr Williams comments – and the rest of the panel – was that there seemed to be no sense of being in a media revolution. As Clay Shirky says (and I paraphrase)
“In a revolution, no-one knows how it’s going to play out – not even the revolutionaries”
But if you think twitter is just like another tips line – then you might not have your eyes on the horizon. You might not realise that we don’t know what the next massive step will be in the digital impact on how we report news, cover elections, reflect revolutions. And if you’re not constantly adapting and working on changing your organisation to the next technological thing that comes out, then you risk missing the nuances of revolution because all you can do is react to the barrage of voices that hits you when massive news stories break.
Why does any of this really matter? The panel all agreed that our journalistic purpose is to uncover truth – to go, to see, to tell what we see – but my worry is this: if you’re not alert to the nuances of technology; if you think that we’ve been through the digital revolution and we’ve got it covered; if you think that all your journalists are more than capable and digital-enough then the risk is that the authorities, like those in Bahrain, will learn to use the internet and social media in better and more effective ways – and truth will just become increasingly difficult to find. Complacency about the need to be alert, to invest and to adapt our media organisations to the ever-moving point in the revolution of digital media felt heavy in the air tonight. I hope that digital revolution in these companies is still going on and that we haven’t slowed it down into a complacent, bored, regressive stage in broadcaster evolution.
It would be a mistake to judge an entire organisation by the one person who was picked (or available) to speak on a panel. I’m sure there are some excellent digital people in those companies and I would ask Bafta, next time, to get them in on the debate.
Tonight’s panel was chaired by Jon Snow ( @jonsnowC4) with
James Brabazon, Freelance Journalist & Trustee, The Rory Peck Trust – @james_brabazon
Ghazi Gheblawi, Libyan Author and Blogger – @Gheblawi
Bill Neely, International Editor ITV News – @billneelyitv
Jacky Rowland, Senior Correspondent Al Jazeera English – @jackyaljaz
Sarah Whitehead, Head of International News, Sky News – @swhitehead1
Jon Williams, BBC World News Editor – @WilliamsJon
This was originally posted on Richard Ayers’ personal blog.
I had the pleasure of helping Max Gadney organise the inaugural Design of Understandingconference which went very well yesterday – at least the reaction on twitter seems to have been good and there are some nice notes from Eva-Lotta Lamm here. Almost half the people there were designers of one form or another – and half the speakers weren’t.
I’m a content guy and a commercial guy – a hybrid – and I’m a wannabe designer/technologist. Fifteen years of working with designers and developers of various kinds has always been fun and stimulating – and though I’ve acquired the odd skill here and there in those disciplines, I’m not a practitioner. For me the day was inspiring precisely because I was hearing from exciting people who come from an area outside my expertise.
So many ideas pop to mind, so many thoughts to follow up – so I shall eschew golf and cinema and beer this weekend and I shall be spending it online trying to get a handle on the many sparks of inspiration.
One final thought: There should be a rule that you have to go to a minimum of three conferences a year, and that two of those have to be outside your particular professional area – but in something related to your work. That’s the only way to ensure new, enlightening, inspiring perspectives. Or, at least, it’s the best way to develop yourself if, like me, you’re a hybrid.