YouTube

BMW Shoots Viral Piece, Does it Hit or Miss?

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: advertising, blog, Boston, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, DVD, Facebook, iPhone, Michael Durwin, movies, MySpace, new media, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Web 2.0, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

BMW movie The Ramp

Earlier this year BMW launched a viral video to promote the launch of it’s new model in the U.S. The video was released as a documentary following the stories of a small Bavarian town named Oberpfaffelbachen. The town’s citizens include a stunt driver, over zealous police chief, event promoter and mayor, trying to save the town from hard financial times. They devise a promotion in which they will launch a 300 horse power BMW 1 Series from a 454 meter (1486.5 feet) ramp from Bavaria, across the Atlantic to the U.S. The town has created an entire festival around the event called Rampenfest. Towns folk are turning their houses into gift shops, town managers are tearing down forests for parking. I won’t give away the ending, but obviously something goes wrong. Not as dramatically as I’d hoped unfortunately.

The quality of the video is excellent, the acting, direction and effects (as subtle as the ramp, as obvious as the teeth) as good as a movie. The video has been seen by millions which can give BMW the opportunity to claim a positive impact, especially considering that it was shot overseas and cost far less than a U.S. 30 second spot. Was it successful? It’s hard to say.

As with any viral, guerilla or virtual advertising, it is hard to judge success. Many still talk about the negative impact of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerilla stunt, requiring a payout of 2 million to the city of Boston to cover lawsuits and the cost of our crack bomb squad (who apparently can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a light brite!). The press loves to bring up the GM (Chevy) Yukon promotion run on YouTube. Many people made anti-SUV ads from the audio and video clips GM posted in the make-you-own commercial promotion. This brings us to what determines success.

The GM promotion was considered a failure because of the thousands of ads that were created that shed a positive light on the Yukon, there were a few that were negative. But, is that a bad thing? Most people learn by making mistakes or being told they’re wrong. Negative feedback is just as important, if not more important than positive feedback. How will you know how to improve your product unless people tell you what they DON’T like about it? GM learned that there are alot of people that consider their giant SUV bad for the environment and a gas guzzler. If this prompts them to make eco-friendly, gas-conscious improvements to their vehicles, is that a bad thing for the company or the consumer?

And let’s not forget that with the launch of the BMW campaign, the GM promotion was brought up as a failure again. Really? The Chevy Yukon is mentioned in the press for another car manufacturer’s promotion and that’s a bad thing? Sounds like free press to me. Even when a guerilla or viral campaign can’t be measured in sales or doesn’t have quite the immediate impact a company would hope, there is always the fact that it will continue to keep the brand in the public’s conscience for months and years to come.

Brand visibility is the best way to consider whether or not your viral or guerilla campaign is effective. You can’t often track sales back to a campaign like this or even sign-ups. You may get a solid number of visits to your microsite, but when visitors pull down your video, or assets, or talk about it in their blog, it can be difficult to track especially since those co-opted branding placements end up living for months out of your control.

So, how successful will the BMW campaign be? Well, they millions of viewers at the moment. Add on a few million views of the video once people (like me) download the clip to their iPod/iPhone and show it around, upload it to their YouTube, MySpace, Facebook or blog accounts, hundreds of discussions of it in marketing or news related blogs (where I found it) and then it’s recurring mention every time another automaker or major corporation does a viral or guerilla campaign and it sounds like a success to me.

But BMW knows this. They were arguably one of the first to use viral video not just as a tool to sell cars but a way to engage consumers with their brand, and to redefine their brand as cool. I still have a DVD copy of the BMW Movies from the promotion in 2001. The shorts were directed by Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, John Woo, Tony Scott, John Frankenheimer and featured Forest Whitakker, Madonna, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke and others. It received rave reviews at Cannes, from the New York Times, and Time magazine. They very successfully hit their middle-age, married, 150k/yr target.

The new spot however, at least in the words of Marketing VP Jack Pitney, was, rather than target a demographic, to target a psychographic. While most companies want to stick to categorizing their demographics by generation, age and finances, BMW is smart enough to know that they can pull an 8 year old boy and an 58 year old woman into their brand halo just by virtue of the fact that they may share common interests, like flashy cars, or mockumentaries.

Despite my feeling that this viral video may be a bit long for most viewers (35 minutes), I’m fairly certain that the folks at BMW will be pleased with the outcome. And I’m happy to help them broadcast their brand (even though I drive the “other” german car)!

Links:
Official Film Site

BMW Films Wikipedia

BMW Films Site (no videos here)

BMW Film “Star” (you can find the rest of the films here as well)

Digg submission where I first found out about the promotion

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No Flash on iPhone? Is this a watered down version of the Internet?

Posted on August 28, 2007. Filed under: iPhone, Web 2.0, Wi-Fi, YouTube | Tags: |

Well, we all know by now that Flash is indeed not included on the iPhone. What’s funny is the claim the “this is not a watered down version of the Internet”:

Now, knowing that Flash has been an important part of Internet communications for 10 years, you’d think, since it is built into Apple’s Safari browser already, it would be included in the iPhone. What’s more, considering that YouTube videos are served using Flash, and there is even an entire commercial touting YouTube on the iPhone, there would be even more reason to include Flash as part of the iPhone’s operating package.

Instead Apple is making YouTube re-encode all of their videos using Apple’s H.264 Quicktime codec to show videos on the iPhone. Granted, that compression codec is gorgeous. But, that means that only a limited amount of YouTube videos are available on the iPhone. You can’t just go to YouTube.com to see them.

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Live Earth Not Live on iPhone

Posted on July 7, 2007. Filed under: advertising, Apple, Duran Duran, Flash, Geri Halliwell, iPhone, Live Earth, Microsoft, President Al Gore, Quicktime, YouTube |

Once again my mind is boggled by Apple’s failure to include Flash on the iPhone. I’ll be out and about all day and was hoping to catch some of the Live Earth music festival today. No luck. Whether it’s the sponsors’ (which include Microsoft) fault for using Flash for so many of the more important navigational elements without a non-Flash alternative or iPhone’s failure to include a 10 year old plugin is enough cause for debate. What I’m most shocked by now is that once I was able to navigate to a non-Flash, non-Internet Explorer page that actually broadcast the show, I checked to make sure it wasn’t Flash. To my surprise it was not. It was good old streaming Quicktime. An odd choice for a show sponsored by Microsoft. I guess they know their target audience. So, I copied the address to put on the iPhone. After all, there has been much talk about YouTube re-encoding their videos into the H.264 compression format for Quicktime. I can see those videos on my iPhone so it should be a cinch to watch these videos right? Oh, Snap! I get a broken plugin icon. What the hell?! So the Apple iPhone that is supposed to give you the real Internet, not a watered down version of the Internet, from the company that created Quicktime, can’t play a Quicktime video in their own browser?!
Wow.
This could have been a great publicity tool for Apple. Imagine allowing folks all over the country to take Live Earth with them wherever they go.
“I’ve got a better idea. Let’s not.” they must have said.
I’m not happy. While it seems like Apple put alot of thought into this phone, it’s almost as if a fw dcisions were made by interns while evryone else was on a lunch break.
Shame on Apple for not being able to support even their own products!
They could have even worked it out through YouTube. Did they? Of course not. A search for Live Earth on the built in YouTube widget (since youtube.com doesn’t work due to a, you guessed it, lack of Flsh plugin) reveals ovr a dozen videos, none of which have anything to do with Live Earth except for a promo from President Gore.
Shameful!
By the way, as I write this, I’m in front of my Apple G5 watching the ever beautiful Geri Halliwell introduce Duran Duran, who sounds amazing.

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Oh, Snap! Web 2.0 is Destroying the World?

Posted on June 19, 2007. Filed under: advertising, Andrew Keen, BBC, Blair Witch Project, Boston, Boston Metro, Britney Spears, CDs, Consumer Generated Content, Dave Mathews, Fantastic Four, Grammy's, Massachusetts, Michael Durwin, NBC, new media, Nirvana, Paris Hilton, Shrek, Tool, User Generated Content, Web 2.0, White Stripes, YouTube |

Andrew Keen was interviewed in today’s Metro Boston discussing who Web2.0 was ruining the Internet and culture in general. He states in his new book “The Cult of Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture”:
“millions of millions of exuberant monkeys … are creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity,”

Keen rips apart user-generated content as a threat to existing cultural standards saying that anyone with a keyboard and a camera or a microphone can make their own news, movies or music and disseminate it on the web. The crux of his stand is that this is disintermediating Hollywood, news outlets, record labels, etc. He further states; “My fear is that if Web 2.0 continues it’s sort of idealistic rampage through mainstream media, we’re going to be left with nothing but this level playing field, and professional media is going to be undermined.”

Wow! 

What Keen is missing is that the cause behind the surge in user-generated media is the basic law of supply and demand. If the demand did not exist, the supply would dwindle. Why are there so few horse-drawn wagon repair shops? Because something better came along that people wanted: cars. The public constantly complains that today’s films and music, for the most part, suck. That’s not to say that there aren’t great movies and CDs being made. What is true is that many are jammed together, lowest-common-denominator targeted rehashing packaged for mass consumption. There wouldn’t be a half-dozen independent film channels if the public was happy with the available cinema. Certainly the latest Shrek or Fantastic Four has it’s audience (me for one), and a large one at that. But the public is fragmenting by choice. They are no longer willing to accept what they are force fed and are looking elsewhere for entertainment that touches them on a deeper level. I heard recently, so it may not be true, that most movies lose money. This is most likely due to the enormous operating costs of the studio, actors, special effects, directors, marketing, etc. Yet a little movie like the Blair Witch Project, made for $60,000, made over $29 million in it’s opening weekend. This was filmed with a small crew and limited cast, virtually no special effects, unless you count flashlights, and was marketed on the web by it’s writer and director. Blair Witch 2 was made for $15 million and made only $13 million it’s opening weekend. This one was made by a major production company. By the way, the original gets an 8 out of 10 stars rating while the major studio version got only 2 out of 10 stars.

There is a serious movement to abandon network news and news paper outlets in favor of consumer-generated news, blogs or the BBC. Many feel that due to their focus on the bottom line, network news agencies are focusing more on local drama or celebrity gossip than international news. As a musician, you don’t want me to get started on what record labels have been pushing. Keen says “I think record lables historically have found and polished marvelous talent.” Is he kidding?! Does he listen to the schlock on the radio? Are the Britney’s of the world really marvelous talent? Let’s not forget the Paris Hilton CD. This is typical of record company offerings. You don’t get very many White Stripes, Tools or Dave Mathews. Whether you like bands like this or not, they are quality musicians, writing quality music and releasing quality CDs. Not pre-packaged tarts with a crew of 50 year-old songwriters and mixing board gurus that represents a majority of record company releases. What he additionally fails to mention is the financial structire of record companies. Most bands don’t even make money from their CDs, the record companies keep it. Most must rely on ticket and t-shirt sales.

If anyone is killing our culture it is the very few that sit at the top of the heap of news outlets, record companies and film companies. They are the ones who continue to push watered-down, titilating, bland a rehashed content. By doing so they are creating a need that will only be filled by independents, consumer generators, etc. Consumer generated content will never be mainstream, it will always be nitch due to the very nature of it’s fragmented targeting. This blog will never be read by the millions that read the New York Times. I’l lbe lucky if it is read by dozens. But what blogs, YouTube videos, Virb bands etc. do for our culture, besides filling the need left by Big Media, is to keep those guys on their toes. It has always been true that the underground becomes the main stream once the big corporations figure out a way to monetize it. That’s not a bad thing. Once Nirvana started selling millions of records and made it to the Grammy’s, it created a new counter culture that hated grunge. 

It’s cyclical and circular. 

Unfortunately it seems like Andrew Keen and his supporters only see a curved line. Smart marketers like those at NBC and the other networks are taking advantage of technology that wouldn’t exist, web video, or be popular if consumers hadn’t been pushing forward it all along. Even the big media magazine Time realizes the importance of the consumer. Keen seems to feel that it is big media’s job to give consumers what big media thinks is appropriate. This is like a parent talking to a child. Consumers want a conversation. They’ll give their hard earned dollars to big media, only if big media listens to them, and gives them what they’re asking for. I wonder how Keen would feel if he went to an ice cream stand and was automatically given chocolate or vanilla. What if he wanted orange sherbet? What if the kids across the street from the ice cream parlor started selling home made sherbet? Should they be stomped out because they were destroying the culture of vanilla and chocolate? They may put the parlor out of business, the business may buy them out, but one thing is for sure, we all benefit from the choices being offered.

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Failure to Launch (Correctly)

Posted on April 4, 2007. Filed under: ABC, advertising, American Express, blog, Boston, broadcast, Chia Pet, consumer marketing, Kate Beckinsale, Lost, Michael Durwin, movie promotion, movie trailer, new media, OnDemand, Sony Pictures, tv ad, Vacancy, viral marketing, YouTube |

Vacancy Poster

I just saw a preview for the new movie Vacancy. Kate Beckinsale is in it so of course I’ll see it, when it comes to OnDemand. The trailer was interesting enough, mostly because Kate Beckinsale was in it, but I was most intrigued by a bit of text at the end of the trailer under the In Theaters…
The text gave a number: 1-888-VACANCY. So of course, being the marketing/tech geek that I am, I ran to my phone to give the number a call. 1-888-982-2262(9) for those who can’t stand dialing by letter. The extra 9 is moot, but necessary to spell the title. First, the number flashed so fast that I thought it said 1-800.. I got the Alliance Data Help Desk. Obviously the wrong place. I rewound my DVR and saw that it was 1-888. I called. Nothing. I just got a ring then a disconnect. I tried several times with the same result.
I did try again the next night (just a few minutes ago) and finally got through. There is a very creepy message with a few options; 0 for operator, 1 to hear specials and 2 to make reservations. The operator was a bad voice mail, 1 talked about slashing prices and 2 asked me to leave a number and hit pound for them to get back to me.
So first things first. When you run a commercial with a phone number attached for more information, make sure the number works and the system can handle the estimated amount of calls you expect. Even the people who sell Chia Pet know that. Next, make it worth my while! If I, as a consumer, are willing to make the effort and take on the expense of chewing up my minutes to interact with your marketing, make sure I’m going to get something out of it. A chance to have dinner with Kate Beckinsale would be a nice start, but even a chance to sign up for advanced screenings or unlock special features on the web site.
This promotion reminds me of the one American Express ran with Lost. They gave a special URL to a landing page with esupposedly exclusive content. Wrong! To begin with, once you hit the site it said nothing would be available until the next day. Great way to lose 75% of your audience. Then, when the content was available, it wasn’t exclusive, at least not to the show. It was merely clips from that episode. You could get that on ABC.com any time you wanted, or YouTube for that matter.
In all I think it’s great that companies are trying to take advantage of new media and new strategies online. But, when they do run a promotion like this, the only way it is going to be effective is if something engaging is going to be offered and for promotions like this that have the potential to reach millions, make sure it works!
Oh yeah, make sure it includes Kate Beckinsale!

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