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Did You See That Gorilla?

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Lisa Tanzer, SVP Marketing, Cookie Jar Entertainment
Lisa Tanzer, SVP Marketing, Cookie Jar Entertainment

By: Valerie Milano

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 1/5/10 – I am curious as to how marketers of TV shows and movies are going to reach me.  My Tivo is chock full and only my friends can convince me to start watching something new. I zip through commercials because I am older and just plain tired of being pitched to. By now, I have been mislead and lied to so many times by advertisers that I have become bitter and untrusting or, at the very least, exhausted from processing the claims of products that later have been proven to cause bloating or death.On my Tivo, I have countless science shows, something called “Rob and Big” and several “Pimp My Ride”s. (Okay, I am the mother of two children.) I have come to rely on my trusted social network to guide my TV and movie viewing.  I am supposed to Tivo “Ugly Betty”, (Okay, my friends are mostly gay.)  I have just laid out, in a nutshell, why buzz marketing works. We are most influenced by the people around us and the people we look up to. We are moved into action by our social needs to be in communication with, and be a part of, what is going on.

Buzz marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, stealth marketing and viral marketing are all put to use by the good folks who want you to watch their entertainment programming. How smart are they to tap into the patterns and habits we already have put in place in order to create a unique, personal encounter with each of us. They reach us on the web sites that we visit, the coffee houses we frequent, the video from YouTube that’s forwarded to us and on our cell phones. It’s smart and it’s effective. If you could orchestrate a permeating chatter and create an overnight sensation like say “The Blair Witch Project” you have wedged your program into the vernacular of a generation with very little expense. A marketers goal is to create that ‘tipping point’; that hip, hush puppy wearer who walks by just one other hip person, that sparks a hush puppyish idea, that turns into a runway show, that features hush puppies, that creates a perception that hush puppies are now cool….. and so it goes.

Stealth marketing is trickier business. Creating a false identity on line is a slippery slope. Once a consumer figures out that she’s being pitched to, well it’s a turn off, or a betrayal, depending on how dramatic she is (very). I am always suspect of the ‘customer reviews’, I mean if I were selling a pair of shoes I think I would have my friends write in about how ecstatic they are with these incredibly stylish shoes, right? The “Lost” enthusiast who is chatting with you or posting a comment could very well work for “Lost” (and does BTW).These fansites spring up so adeptly and thoroughly. It’s very smart and very effective and it taps into a very old-fashioned social paradigm. It’s the chat with ‘my trusted neighbor over the fence’. All of this new technology and new communication lines have brought us back to what we already know and trust. Full circle.

So, imagine I work for an ad agency and I pitch this idea: (and bear in mind I’m selling chocolate). “Okay there’s this gorilla, he’s sitting behind a drum set just listening to say… Phil Collins. And then he like starts like, playing the drums–and hey–maybe it’s actually Phil Collins in a gorilla suit!” “Is that it?” “Yeah.” “Awesome, let’s do it.”  Cut to an internet sensation everyone just has to see and discuss. It’s an ad for a Cadbury Milk Chocolate something-or-other. Really.Shock and awe, word of mouth. Viral marketing. Brilliant. Everybody talked about it.

This new paradigm is a godsend for a network like PBS. Their programming lends itself to internet searches. PBS’ best friend is Google. They have amazing producers who create content that Google ranks highly. The PBS website gets 11 million visitors per month, that’s a 25% increase from 2007. They had seven million views on their kids site this past May. According to Kevin Dando, PBS’  Director of Online Communications,  “Once a visitor has checked the PBS website they are much more likely to become a PBS viewer within that week.” Dando’s strategy is to put his product where people already are. Billboards kinda do that too but there is a sense of control you feel when you are clicking the buttons rather than the buttons clicking you! Dando is against stealth marketing, he wants to be transparent.  Of course, he’s got a respected product and is linked with teachers and educators. Nevertheless, PBS has a presence on Facebook, iTunes, Twitter, YouTube and countless Blogs.

The Frontline report “Bush’s War” had two million on line views after it aired on TV. Two million people watched it sitting at their computers.TV has become an appendage to the information/entertainment body.  (My idea of watching a show involves my comfortable couch, a glass of wine, lots of pillows and a puppy on my lap. But I digress).

Michael Benson, co-EVP of Marketing for ABC Entertainment, had this to say: “We need to be multi-platform marketers and work to make emotional connections with the potential audience in ways that are unique and surprising, while remaining organic to the shows we are marketing.” ABC has utilized ALL avenues already discussed, including using texting.  I don’t think I would mind a friendly text reminding me to buy some movie tickets that have just gone on sale.  Truely, I could use a text reminding me to set my Tivo tonight for “Lost”. I am old and forgetful but still love to receive a text!

According to Laurel Bernard, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Fox, they openly participate in the community by having actors, writers and directors participate in message boards and blogs. Fox has an official ‘Fox insider blog’ where they communicate directly with fans. Fans dig that. Fans tell other fans. Ms. Bernard’s team has brilliantly created stealth content on line for the fans to unearth secret sites or other show tie-ins. Kinda like the decoder ring that revealed “Drink your Ovaltine? (I’m guessing a lot of this decoding is done while on the job, oh well)

For the show “Revelations” John Miller, Chief Marketing Officer for NBC Universal, sent out a totally unbranded viral campaign. Sites were put up in Latin and potential viewers were left to figure it out. Kinda like giving a polar bear in a zoo a block of ice with a fish in it rather than just the fish. Better for overall mental health, but I digress.

In order to reach a viewer like me zipping through the commercials, NBC puts their spots in the lower third of the screen, in order to make them more visable in fast forward. The CW has developed “Content Wraps” and “CWickies”. Keep looking for “CWingers” which started last season.

Lisa Tanzer, SVP Marketing, Cookie Jar Entertainment said when asked Have you posted or would you consider posting a video on YouTube to create interest in or initiate discussion about your show or product?

Her answer “We’ve had a great consumer response to our shows and products, and many fans have posted videos of Cookie Jar shows on YouTube. You can find episodes of Caillou, clips of The Doodlebops’ concerts and even a Doodlebops rap. It’s a great way to get exposure and for fans to share their favorite episodes and clips. We would consider posting clips on You Tube.”

How do you reach the potential viewers who zip through commercials and ignore pop-ups?

“It is critical to keep kids engaged. We want to give them a complete entertainment experience. One way is by building online environments for our brands. In addition to producing the television series, “Magi-Nation”, we have created on online world with an exciting role-playing game to go along with it. We also have a line of consumer products including DVDs and a Nintendo DS Game in the works which will add another exciting element to the brand and keep kids entertained through different mediums.”

Can you help us understand how you have adapted your marketing strategies?

“We’re trying to reach kids on all levels. Our Doodlebops brand not only reaches kids through a popular television show, but also through DVDs, records and toys. Kids have had the opportunity to experience The Doodlebops at live concerts – they recently finished two 70+ city concert tours and will be performing again this summer. Kids can also experience The Doodlebops online through their website. They can play games, listen to songs and join their fan club.”

My deduction–There has never been a better time to go into advertising.  For the creatives out there, the out-of-the-box thinkers, the artists, filmakers, and pranksters alike, there is a place for us or at least jobs.

It’s an exciting time when I can watch a movie on my cell phone (if I’m wearing my reading glasses). This new age of advertising seems to take in the viewers intelligence which we appreciate and will reward by tuning in.