Monday, March 9, 2015

Emergence 2015: Ross Siegel, Stories Behind The Story: Reaching Your Audience in a Multi-platform Age

Ross Siegel, Director of Development at Maker Studios, provided an extensive introduction to Multi Channel Merchants, companies like Maker Studios that assist up and coming YouTube stars with their brand and assist major brands understand the heavily saturated landscape that is YouTube.

Ross started out by defining that every song, video clip, short film, and 30 second cat video has a defined outlet and an audience. He explained YouTube was a virgin platform in which thousands of creators around the world produced millions of content each day from their bedrooms and living rooms at the time he came to work for FullScreen. 300 hours of content was uploaded every minute. And he was set to find opportunities for YouTube in the brand marketplace, and assist other brands in navigating the world of YouTube. His early days at YouTube, found him immersed watching thousands of YouTube videos, learning about YouTube's best practices, how to reach an audience through collaboration, and how data tells a story about how an audience behaves to teach creators about reaching their audience and working out what content they like. 

Working in this new digital media became about working with the authenticity of the creator. He devoured a tonne of YouTube videos to work out what makes videos viral, then several months into his new job, there came the Harlem Shake. Thousands of Harlem Shake videos were being made and shared via YouTube every day. Hundreds of YouTube channels were creating hundreds of these videos every day during this phase. Their clients delivered funny, odd and hilarious takes of this new format. His company helped brands to get on the trend and make their own versions of the Harlem Shake. Pretty soon, celebrities started to get on this too. They had weird and interesting takes on this cult that started going all over the world. At the time, he flipped for the contagious virality of this movement and how the song and its format was inspiring creativity in groups both large and small - he started thinking - what if this Harlem Shake was a plot point that could be used to promote a series, or a new movie. The thought process had began. 

At this point, his job was to link up some of the top YouTube creators of the world known as "influencers", with major entertainment brands. Huge conglomerates were now turning to major content creators to help reach audiences they couldn't reach themselves. He began to see the influence these digital YouTube creators were having in drawing loyal audience members. These people are huge stars across a variety of channels including Vine, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The Janoskians, for example, a Melbourne group of 6 pranksters, were mobbed in LA and landed a movie deal with Lionsgate - this is the potential of being a YouTube star.

Whilst at Fullscreen Inc, Ross teamed up with AT&T to produce "Summer Break", a new type of reality show taking place entirely on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. 9 southern Californians were picked to chronicle their last summer before going off to college. The drama happened in real time, the storytelling structure embraced the normal social habits of these kids, and capitalised on the rapid ingestion of information by their audience. The only produced aspect was the 60 second daily wrap ups of the show. At the time, it was inventive storytelling that garnered 18m views. It generated millions of mentions on social media, gained a second season commitment, and clinched the belief for Ross that millennial stories could be reach beyond the millennial core base with the right creative structure.

Maker Studios help their creators find outlets for their content outside of YouTube. They're looking closer at these platforms to determine where the best fit is for different content created by their clients. Learning how Facebook video behaves different to YouTube. Channelling SnapChat and Vine to reach an audience in a different way to releasing a video on YouTube. MCMs are much like a talent agency for YouTube stars. They reach out for them and ask them to be a part of their network. In exchange, they'll give the stars the tools and technologies to help them grow and monetize their videos. The MCM model works by giving a % of this revenue based on the time and energy that goes into supporting that star. These days, technology makes it easy to get your content online. The flipside is its getting harder and harder to find this content. Today's audiences don't really care what the platform is but they will and always care about the content on them. Its more important than ever for storytellers to thin about what stories they want to tell but how they want them to be seen and where they are seen. Its is better to release your film in a costly theatrical release or a niche release to a targeted audience? What would a potentially viral video promoting your TV or film look like? 

More and more TV executives now ask how shows will be marketed. How they will break through. As storytellers, we all need to adapt and be aware of new content distribution methods. Coming from a traditional Hollywood background, it wasn't easy for Ross to understand the revolution. But Hollywood is catching up. This year's Oscar winner, Birdman, in a lot of ways is about this sea change. In the movie, it featured a relationship between Michael Caton and Emma Stone where she is obsessed in the digital world and he is a traditional film actor. It is a combative relationship and one of the film's peak emotional moments she says "he is irrelevant" and he replies that the play he is putting on "is important to me". She stately replies "you don't matter. You're not important. Get used to it." This directly outlines the change between the traditional and digital worlds. 

Ross concluded by sharing a quote from Kevin Spacey who said "our stories become richer and are becoming far more interesting when they go against the subtle order of things to achieve the unexpected". New mediums are emerging - we need to break out beyond what's comfortable for us to get our stories to reach our audiences. Somewhere there is a writer out there figuring out how to tell a story via Instagram. Ross finished in saying he hopes everyone finds power in embracing these technologies to tell their story as the opportunities are endless.

Emergence 2015: Glenn Urquhart, Evolve Your Transmedia

Glenn Urquhart, GROUP CREATIVE DIRECTOR, LIFESTYLE CHANNELS - FOXTEL. Keynote: "Evolve your Transmedia"

While rather a difficult keynote to follow (Mr Urquhart you could win the award for most words spoken in a single minute), I did manage to write down a few key messages about producing transmedia campaigns.

Glenn promoted the simple rule of understanding the traditional conventions of literature, art, and filmmaking, so you can turn them on their head and subvert them through juxtaposition. When you understand art, you understand us, people.

As storytellers, we're writers so we should take the writers approach. Its important to experience sub cultures beyond what you normally do, live through other people, read, watch, and listen to as much as you possibly can. The ridiculous and sublime is happening everywhere around you. Inspiration is everywhere. By understanding the conventions of art, you'll understand us. When you subvert the traditional conventions, you'll produce more emotional responses.

The Grand Daddy of transmedia campaigns - the Dark Knight campaign - illustrates the power of these productions. 10 million people from over 75 countries participated in a mass alternative reality game where The Joker left his mark in public places to produce an army of followers around the world. Phone calls, emails, user generated photos, public protests for the fictional mayor Harvey Dent, interactive games, video - all were used to produce the biggest hype about the film leading up to the premiere in 2008. Glenn noted that by giving people the power to make stories with your brand, you can make it bigger success than if you had tried it yourself. This is what transmedia storytelling is about.

TVNZ produced a similar campaign for Shortland Street, a New Zealand series that normally attracts a 30% share each night. On a smaller scale, the producers had to deliver fans online content for 5 weeks during the summer break. A transmedia clue hunt was born in which content was released via social, text messages, videos, anagrams, voice calls, emails, and traditional media. 60,000 people visited the site on one day alone and 17,000 was averaged per day. When the new season launched after 5 weeks, they pulled a 53% share for first episode, an unprecedented event.

Transmedia campaigns with a dense rich story with a large fan base are generally successful. If you don't have that fan service, you need to speak to your niche. This guarantees you will get that shareability - if you can't, go for the emotional uppercut. Don't be afraid to commit, you must commit 500%. Creativity can be brought down just to being bold.

At Foxtel, Glenn discussed transmedia campaigns made for the Lifestyle Channel and Embarrassing Bodies Downunder. To launch the new show, they personified 6 ailments into The Unspeakables using music, videos, a content-rich website, toys, and other online content marketing the general principles of the show. The result was a higher than expected share for the launch of the new show when it released. As well as this, Foxtel are working on a transmedia project as part of H100 called Life in the Trenches a where a trench is built outside the opera house and participants try to find out which soldier whilst travelling from one end of the trench to the other, eventually finding out if they survived the trenches or died on the battlefield.

Glenn's speech highlighted the key important fact that when it comes to transmedia, there is no limit other than your willingness to commit to an idea and deliver the project. Budgets can be large or small. Audiences can be mass collected or niche. Either way, everyone has the opportunity to produce something unique through transmedia storytelling.

Emergence 2015: Lee Hunter, Marketing Innovation @ Google

Lee Hunter, Head of Marketing and Innovation at Google Asia Pacific, just delivered his keynote speech "Innovation at Google", an inspiring talk about the technological discoveries and projects that Google has produced in the past few years and the reasoning behind why they produced those projects.

Lee defined an important question - what is marketing innovation? Marketing innovation is thinking of ideas we can bring to our users that also support us. With Google being such a massive company, they have a relative level of conservatism they have to maintain. To assist them in this, they have an excellent attitude towards problem solving that is encouraged from the most senior of employees to their newest recruits.

YouTube and Google means different things to different people. Lee set himself a challenge to come up with a big idea and try get it off the ground in a few months from when he started at Google. He was working around adwords at the time and thought - what if you get students to upskill themselves? What if you gave student teams a couple of hundred dollars in an adwords voucher and they create a campaign for a client that/s never been on Google before? He set this idea to my superiors, they said yes and it turned into the Google Online Marketing Challenge.

Google has the attitude of "don't do it small, if you're going to do it go global as soon as you can". He spoke with professors all over the world and happily and its now gone out to about 80,000 students. All from an idea 3 months in because of the culture of innovation they have there. Google CEO and founder Larry Page was quoted in saying "If you're not doing some things that are crazy, then you are doing the wrong things." For Lee, he said its very helpful if he is being overly ambitious that he can show his employers this quote when attempting something extremely ambitious and they'll say, ok off you go.

Lee focused on 4 key areas during his speech: looking for inspiration anywhere; focusing on one real user; making it matter; and not being afraid to fail but if you do, fail fast.

Look for inspiration everywhere:
Lee discussed a very successful project created by YouTube and Google a few years ago called "Life in A Day, an idea brought to him by Tim Partridge using user generated content to produce a true reflection of life in the day on YouTube. They asked users to upload a snapshot of their day which would then be turned into a full length feature film directed by Ridley Scott. They ended up getting 5000 hours of footage to use which they then had to edit down into a 90 minute film that ended up premiering at Sundance online to millions of viewers.

An important comment Lee made was "letting others speak for you says more about us". Lee worked on a project inspired by John Butterill, a nature photographer who shared a video of him showing a bedridden woman his view as a photographer. The video inspired other photographers to do the same. and very quickly the idea took off, all without any involvement from Google. Lee said "if you tried to do that yourself, it wouldn't work. We let the story tell itself."

Focus on one real user:
Because you're dealing with a scale of billions and 100s of millions of people, you have to try to figure out the art vs science. Lee mentioned how Google try to figure out the right story to tell. The way they think about it is through the users' and magic (what the product can do and how it affects their users' lives). They want to personalise these products. Search is a hard product to market - everyone uses Google search but how do you get to those human stories. A simple advert they created for search was through a video which showed the searches one man makes during a small period in his life from going on a gap year to Paris, to meeting his girlfriend, to marrying her, to having their first child. It was an emotive product that only used content found through Google Search online.

Make It Matter:
A lot of markeitng you do wants to have a point. Lee said that at Google, they are at their most innovative when they have a big responsibility to come up with creative solutions to problems, using technology for good. GoogleX is where they push the boat out as far as possible - soon to be created breakthroughs - where they come up with a totally radical solution for difficult problem. Examples include:
  1. The self-driving car
  2. Project Loon - getting the internet to people who don't currently have it, flying balloons up to space which creates a network for people who have no other way of getting to a network
  3. Project Wing - tries to tackle the problem of delivery in places where the infrastructure isn't really there. 
Don't be afraid to fail, if you do fail fast:
Its all about iteration. Seeing how people react to it, seeing if we can attract more talent. Failure is only a true failure if it takes too long and you don't learn anything from it. You need to recognise, and declare your failure, figure out your mistakes and move on.

Google Glasses - people say this was released too early. Our attitude is we have learnt a lot from it. We don't think there was no set model for how you introduce this to the world. Bringing it out to the public was just another step in that iteration process. We failed but we believe we failed and learnt a lot. 

The Culture of Innovation in Australia:
Lee commented that we have really favourable conditions for entrepreneurship in this country but we have a significant feeling of fear of failure. There is a lot of great talent within Australia. As people, we are behind this idea of freedom and openness. We love technology - we are early adopters. We are behind tech entrepreneurship. There are 1500 startups across the country. But, we have a problem with tall poppies. Relatively speaking to other countries,  we don't celebrate entrepreneurs. We really don't have a high tolerance for failure and we don't demand enough choice - we're very happy to accept low amount of competition. We don't support those who can't compete.

What do we do?
Having the right culture is fundamental to innovation. The Google ideal is really powerful and can be demonstrated through a number of their projects. Its important to build culture of openness and contribution. Building communities that can participate in technological innvoation. We need to celebrate entrepreneurship and failure or at least don't have a go at those that do fail. To cap it off, Lee summarised this perfectly in saying "getting together like we are at the emergence festival is a great start."