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Advertainment: Perfect for an Array of Targets

Dave Evans works as GSD&M‘s strategy director for integration services. Justin Kirby heads DMC. Kristin Kreibich-Staruch works in the vehicle safety office for Daimler Chrysler Corp. Dave Madden holds the title of EVP of sales and marketing for WildTangent Inc. And Ty Montague is co-creative director for Wieden + Kennedy.

Dave Evans works as GSD&M‘s strategy director for integration services. Justin Kirby heads DMC. Kristin Kreibich-Staruch works in the vehicle safety office for Daimler Chrysler Corp. Dave Madden holds the title of EVP of sales and marketing for WildTangent Inc. And Ty Montague is co-creative director for Wieden + Kennedy. Their panel discussion this morning at Ad:Tech 2003 focused on how Hollywood, game makers, TV programmers, and other professionals are experimenting with advertainment, a developing form of “invertising.” Here is a rough transcript of their panel discussion:

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Dave Evans: What we’d like to cover today is a couple of things. We’d like to address the role of entertainment in advertising and the element of choice. Ty will talk about integration opportunities, and we’ve got lots of examples to offer. We also want to talk about custom-published games and viral promotion.

First, I’d like to talk about educational advertising. Chrysler surveyed teens about what they’re most responsive to, and they said video games. So they developed StreetWise, an online video game that illustrates risks faced on the road. 10 shots of tequila might have an effect on me.

Dave Madden: Teens play games. They either own an XBox, a PlayStation, or a GameBoy. And they spend a lot of time online. That opens up a lot of opportunities for messaging, but how you market to teens can be tricky. Games have been the toughest media type for advertisers to get involved in. It hasn’t reached the maturity of other media, but the usage is getting big. TV viewership is down. The reason is, most likely, video game playing. How do you get involved in that? Our perspective is that you can go to an existing video game franchise and put your product in it. Or you can look at the online space and do custom-published gaming. The game is your campaign. How can you make it exciting, have viral components, and encourage replay? These are kids that have Grand Theft Auto. They know what a high-quality game is, and they’re not going to play something that’s not as good.

Kristin Kreibich-Staruch: We embarked on Road Ready Teens because automobile deaths are the #1 cause of death among teens. According to a survey, teens told us they play video games. So we created StreetWise. We wanted to get the message across but still be fun so they didn’t know they we learning. The University of Michigan tested the game with teens. 98% said they had an increased awareness of risks. And 61% said that they’d change their behavior. And that was while we were still in beta.

There are six different levels in the game. It’s fun. I can’t get through the whole thing myself yet. That doesn’t mean that I’m not a good driver. At the beginning of the video game, you’re still on your learner’s permit level and you’re with your parent. Then you can have teenage passengers, and there are more distractions that make more difficult missions. Later on we have a drunk-driving simulator. So far, we’ve had overwhelming success. Teens play the game every day for about 12 minutes at a time.

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Evans: Now Justin will talk about viral marketing and its impact on the industry.

Justin Kirby: We learned earlier today that it’s harder to reach the 18-24 year old. Advertising as an industry and communications practice is in crisis. Much of advertising doesn’t work. Why is that the case? There’s more interruptive advertising going on. There’s clutter. And there’s more channels to choose from. There’s fragmentation. 88% of TiVo users skip the ads. Advertisers have to do something new to stand out from the crowd.

There are some agencies that challenge the whole interruptive model of advertising. Advertising and brands must now entertain and inspire. Interestingly, the Web is the most accessible channel for advertainment content. Whether your using a game, an ad, or a video, users seek these out. They download the content, pass it on, and talk about it. What’s different about this is the interactive engagement. People get engaged in a peer-to-peer context.

Ironically, people are still pushing interruptive ad formats such as popups. Research shows that people don’t just not like them, they dont want them. Consumers are being turned off. Some brands are developing content to go online that extends brand themes. People search for these clips online. They forward them to their friends. The Mazda clips were sent to 40 Web sites and got hits of several million. But in some ways, this has gone on for some time. Let’s look at the Budweiser campaign “Whassup?” People in the UK were using the phrase even before the campaign. It happens in the real world. It’s not just a Web phenomenon.

Where does this happen? People can use viral marketing to kick start a campaign. Then you do your media spend. After, you maintain awareness. Create a buzz and shift product. Hitman 2 got picked up by Yahoo as one of the top six movers in 2002. It helped move a million units of the game. I wouldn’t argue that that happened because of the viral notion, but it still had a major impact on sales.

Even if viral marketing is pre-releasing a network ad before it goes online, it can be the holy grail. You get the viral spread, you can generate buzz, and you get peer-to-peer endorsement.

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Evans: How many of you have seen “The Hucksters,” the movie with Clark Gable? It’s a classic movie, and it’s about advertising. He’s an advertiser. A lot of it is comical, but turn on the TV this afternoon, and you’ll see the same things. Wieden + Kennedy creates campaigns that work across channels. The key is to reach people where they want to be reached. Ty is a creative director there.

Ty Montague: Hopefully the video will work, or it’ll be a very short presentation. Integration is a word we hear a lot. It’s a real buzzword. Some marketers think of integration in terms of making everything blue, making everything match. We think about it a little differently. We’re not as interested in integration as we are in storytelling. We look for ways that we can tell a story in as many media as possible. That doesn’t mean that it’ll look the same. It can mean the exact opposite. But as you dig deeper into the story, you can see that everything’s connected.

I want to talk to you about the launch of ESPN Football, which was a joint project with ESPN and Sega. We had a better product than Madden. Teens were telling us that the feature First-Person Football was better than the Madden experience. But we were up against EA, which is utterly and completely dominant. We didn’t have much money, but we had to get the news out there. We did a television campaign. But we wanted to do something beyond that. And we knew we’d have to take some risks.

We used three different Web sites. It was told by two Web sites created by fans of the campaign. It was told through viral videos, traditional TV spots, fliers, letters through the mail, email, voicemail, live prank phone calls, and physical beta copies which we sent to influential gamers. Then we sent them threatening letters demanding the games back. It was live theater that happened at multiple levels this summer. That may be the first example ever of a company picking a fight with itself.

Evans: One of the things I want to get into is the number of different elements you used there. It was live theater. What is it that we enjoy about that? And how can we better get people’s attention? For the first question, we all know that consumer actively control what they see versus what they choose to skip. How does your work ensure that your clients’ consumers will actively select your message?

Madden: From the perspective of games, the premise is that there’s an incredible business going on. People spend up to $50 on a game. If you’re going after that medium, you have to choose. It has to be fantastically entertaining, moreso than a 30-second spot, or people aren’t going to play it. The use of video games online allows you to build a community around your product. If people can compete via leaderboards, it can mushroom as people challenge their friends and pass it around.

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Montague: I’d love to be able to say there’s a scientific way to determine the answer, but I don’t believe there is. That uncertainty makes clients nervous. But if you think about it, they suffer from the same things in the entertainment industry. Even in an industry dedicated to creating entertainment, much less marketing, they tank all the time.

Several things to think about in advance? Know your consumers really well. Nike isn’t a company that markets to athletes. It’s a company of athletes that advertises to other athletes. ESPN isn’t a massive network. It’s a network of sports fans who market to other sports fans. Hire smart people and stay out of their way.

Kirby: I’m glad you mentioned accountability. We got our start by getting creative from agencies and placing it in different places. One guy based in Kentucky can do more for you than the whole of MSN because the people he’s connected to pass content on peer to peer.

18-34 year old males don’t use a lot of media, but the media they do use is expensive. If create material that they’ll pass around peer to peer, it can get passed along. But the trick is to send it to influencers as editorial, not as advertising.

Evans: ROI is important. How do you measure what a game did? What are the metrics and how do you evaluate whether it’s working?

Kreibich-Staruch: We measure how many people play the game. And we’re working with a multimedia road show that goes to high schools. When teens play a game, we look at their ZIP codes so we can see how many people who saw it at their high schools go online to play the game.

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Evans: Another thing we see a lot in the news is product placement. That’s become the target of scrutiny. How do you ensure that consumers interacting with your messages are doing so with full knowledge of the fact this is a form of advertising.

Montague: The way we think about it goes back to storytelling. The kind of product placement that offends people is placement where the product has nothing to do with the telling of the larger story. It doesn’t have a place in the story or help develop the world or its characters. To do successful product placement, you need to understand what story your brand tells and then find the entertainment stories to align yourself with. Minis in the Italian Job wasn’t offensive at all. Minis were used in the original Italian Job anyway. They wrote Minis into the story. Why is is that whenever you watch a movie, the hero uses a Macintosh computer? The filmmakers use that product to reveal something about that person, a creative iconoclast. We relate to those kinds of people, and the Macintosh story helps advance the story of a lot of filmmakers.

Kirby: There are two solutions to clutter. One is fragmentation. The other is creative content. Agencies are trying to merge with film companies and TV companies. That just leads to more and more clutter. On Sex and the City, how many times do we have to see her log on to AOL before we tune that out?

Madden: Teenagers go to corporate Web sites more than they do anything else on the Internet. The reason is that they’re rich and interactive. How do you make that extension in a way that’s friendly, compelling, and inviting?

Evans: If we stick to the story and the products play a role in that, that’s one thing.

Kirby: One of the mistakes that the mainstream online agencies have made is that they’re trying to treat it like TV rather than the telephone. It’s more than word of mouth. It’s word of mouse. You want to create things that people will talk about. That’s more like the telephone.

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Evans: One final question. We all understand the idea of measuring impressions and ad burnout. In things like advertainment, it’s not so much how many times people see it, but how much time people spend with it. How much time is too much? How much is not enough?

Madden: When you look at StreetWise, the game is hard. I’m good at games, and I can’t get through it. When you’re a good gamer, six levels could take more than an hour to go through.

Kirby: Viral marketing is more about whether someone has seen a piece of content and decided it’s important enough to tell their friends about. I don’t know how we can measure that. That third-party endorsement is the ultimate form.

Montague: I’m totally unqualified to answer that question. I’m just a knucklehead. Measurement is a funny thing. If it can be measured, it will be measured regardless of whether it has any ultimate meaning. Like click throughs on banner ads. Then everyone realized no one clicks through it. Magazine ads are considered successful even though no one clicks through on them. Just because it can be measured doesn’t mean it’s meaningful. Why are you measuring it? What are you trying to figure out?

Evans: When people talk to each other in a bar, they talk about the story they heard, not the piece that they saw.

Montague: Take TV commercials and TiVo. They can show you in real time the programming breaks. Eventually, commercials will be clickable and totally measurable. That world fills me with fear. Because we can measure that, we will. And a bunch of people will conclude that because people don’t click on them, TV ads are a failure. That’s not true. Look at the Super Bowl. People say TV ads are going to go away. The Super Bowl is a opt-in medium, and people tune in just to watch the commercials. They don’t give a crap about the game.

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Madden: The production value of a great TV commercial is very high. Click through isnt something that has to be measured because the branding is there. The examples we’ve seen today are brand executions. That’s what’s fascinating about the world we occupy. Just because it’s on the Internet, it may be a better expenditure.

Kirby: The challenge is how to reach the unreachable.

For more Ad:Tech reports, visit the conference blog.

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