#transmedia watch Hong Kong (summer 2013 edition) Hong Kong’s movie marketing 2.0 and the attempt to be “transmedia”

After Hollywood’s two reigning emperors proclaimed a soon implosion of the movie industry distributors are under pressure to make this summer’s tent-pole blockbusters work. In fact the pressure is so great that even lethargic HK distributors uppen their game. The “innovations” that are hitting the streets right now would not be worth mentioning in any other city, but here in HK they are a big step forward after years of ignoring what happened in other markets.

Hurray, we got NFC!

One of the major players and often innovation implementers is JCDecaux. Simply because it runs all signages and ad spaces on the MTR, an environment with traditionally steady amount of foot-traffic as well as tech savvy consumer demographic. We have seen a great deal of escalator redesigns via custom made large scale sticker posters and turning entire corridors into Canon’s scenic photo landscapes or giant crawling babies trying to sell diapers and milk formula.

Let’s first talk about an old troublemaker, the QR code. It is still a constant in the MTR ad sphere despite the countless failing attempts of advertisers to make it work. Posters with QR codes are regarded as interactive advertising and hence can considered as paramount practice (from a HK perspective). JCD tries different ways to make them work as this means business to them. Entire poster campaigns were created that help educate the usage of QR codes.

Earlier this year JCD launched Pricerite’s virtual e-store on the MTR by installing posters displaying the company’s product range, each with a QR code that would let you order products on the spot (http://www.campaignasia.com/Article/340614,jcdecaux-helps-pricerite-launch-8216virtual-e-store8217-campaign-in-mtr.aspx). Tesco ran this campaign already 2 years ago and it was picked up in Japan and Europe before this began making sense to a HK based brand.

As Samsung gained tremendous market share on the HK smart phone sector in the past year the introduction of NFC enabled advertising has become a viable option. As integrative measure, JCD came up with a QR/NFC bundle package that not only provides the physical linkage on site but also the online content. Film distributors (and other advertisers) do not have to worry about their landing page content anymore and whether it works.

After introducing this strategy in March quick responding brands like Osim or SKII used this offer, even before Samsung itself jumped on it. Now, we see the first movie campaign rolling out with this technology, Pacific Rim. I talked about Warner’s mobile content debacle with the Dark Knight Rises last summer in my 2012 recap post. This time they simply outsourced to JCD to make it work and it really works. But then again, what do people who actually scan either of the codes get? A small mobile enabled landing page with 1 link to like the movie’s HK Facebook page and 2 links to YouTube trailers.

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Last year we were already experimenting in-house with NFC enabled posters to our projects, using the same NFC stickers like JCD is doing now. A poster would have several NFC spots and users that scan would receive different video clips according to the character pictured. However, as a standalone gimmick this did not make much sense, so we tried to include it into a wider outdoor experience concept. However, we decided to use NFC stickers for BluRay covers to our projects in order to provide an additional story extension tool.

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At the end of the day, NFC is a 1 way communication channel. So what exactly is the interactive value from JCD’s code bundle product and why should passengers on the MTR bother scanning the codes? To be honest, I have yet to see someone stopping in front of any poster and scanning a code. In fact, when I did pictures of this poster and tried the code passersby looked at me as I were crazy and would do something socially offending. Do we have a certain behavioral barrier on interacting with content in HK? Unfortunately, when it comes to regular content like this, yes. But not so much when it comes to yellow rubber ducks or cute, fluffy monsters.

Hurray, we got ice cream and games!

I also mentioned in the 2012 recap that Disney is being heading the transmedia game in HK. They continue doing so with Monster University by creating the movie’s campus in front of the Time Square shopping mall. Tie-ins with fashion brands and countless other merchandising deals flooding the city for weeks now. When something is rolling out that huge in HK it must be successful at the box office, at least that is the traditional thinking pattern. The illusion of “it’s big” always prevails over “it’s good” and people will flock to the cinemas. But will Disney break even on these marketing expenses just by the theatrical run revenue in HK? Probably not, and they do not have to anyways.

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Other distributors trying to gain some ground at the animation front. Fox started to deploy an all branded ice cream truck for its latest features The Croods and Turbo. But what is more important to Fox than animation is Wolverine this year. The studio’s very own super-hero franchise summer blockbuster that goes up against Warner’s Man of Steel and Marvel’s (Disney) Iron Man 3. Hence, the movie’s importance is so tremendous that Fox set up an interactive game screen that uses motion recognition and a touch screen to be controlled by the visitors of a 2nd tier shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui East.

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What we might get and others already have…

In South-Korea, CJ Entertainment experimented with the Wi-Fi Poster to get people engaged. Passersby can access a dedicated wifi network that is being send out by the poster in order to access the movie’s webpage. Ultimately this bears little potential. While the technology is intriguing it just replaces the process of scanning something with logging into an open network without having actual content value add on or interactivity with the movie’s story universe.

Last year, we also experimented in-house with image recognition apps that would overlay video content on specific photos or locations as sort of augmented reality interface for your smart phone’s camera (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUeSLLpKsrQ). The app is called Aurasma and is connected with Google Maps. Users can create their own points of photo recognition and input own content. Recently, Getty Images picked up this technology for their “Transmedia Storytelling” campaign. The campaigns preferred carrier app is Ogle which is based upon Aurasma. In June, we had the chance to present Getty’s augmented reality enabled photo packets at the HK Webfest 2013 for the first time ever.

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While the above mentioned technology is available for your smart phone, you always need to do a step or 2 before actually “interacting” with the content given. Either downloading and installing an app or connecting to another network. I always tell participants in my transmedia seminars that they need to start thinking about how to create content for interactions with something users/audience are already using instead of establishing something new which creates additional work and education.

Something that comes this concept the closest are the Weibo walls found in Beijing cinema lobbies. You can log into the wall directly from your Weibo account on the phone and grand the wall access to your phone’s photo folder in order to add your pictures and messages to the wall by a swipe. The technology is simple. There is no direct communication between the wall and the phone, it all runs through Weibo. Hence, the possibilities for service providers/advertisers/content producers to gather a vast amount of behavioral data is enormous.

In HK we also have a number of tech startups already holding solutions that help tracking and collecting such data. When we visited this year’s exhibition of the ICT Awards 2013 Winners there were 2 companies that offered digital signages that not only provide a large touch screen solution, for example for cinema ticket bookings, but also recognize and analyze facial expressions while customers using the device. Now, content can be specifically tailored for usage. This technology also works in app form on tablets or smart phones. Admittedly, while this technology is the wet dream of every advertiser it also sounds scary as we already arrived at Spielberg’s Minority Report, with which the loop of the industry’s imminent implosion would come to a close.

What would Transmedia look like for a Paul Thomas Anderson film?

Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA) is the ueber “indie filmmaker”… he has writen, produced and directed almost every single one of his films. Control Freak? Possibly… Artist? Probably.
He frequently works with the same people, always has strangely magnetic characters invade his images and has been awarded or nominated for every award that exists in the film world (although maybe due to his youngness, he seems to always be surpassed by other “masters”).

This is where his latest film comes in.

Production for – The Master – started last year and since then (June), very little has been known about the film other than it being about “an intellectual that starts a religion in the 1950’s”. Slowly people started associating the possible story with scientology (denied by the director) and after the announcement of Joaquin Phoenix as the lead in the film (Phillip Seymour Hoffman also stars), with all the craziness surrounding his previous work (Phoenix did a “Chris Farley/Christian Bale” 2 years ago and went nuts on screen/off screen with I’m Still Here), some started being afraid the movie was “out there”.

Good.

Nothing better than a difficult movie to see to make one’s the juices flow.

But how do you advertise for it?

Modern film campaigns, in the US, have been largely targeting a young audience and so, “brainy”, difficult films, always tend to be sorely represented in the marketing/media world (most are certainly backwashed into the market after or little before the Oscars, so they get attached to the coat tails of that billion viewer event).

Such an example was easily demonstrated by PTA’s previous film There Will Be Blood – a 25 million dollar production (with a severely lacking media/screening campaign), that was for the most part, one of the best films of the year (2007/2008), released for oscar classification on the last week of December, relatively badly received in the B.O. just before the Oscars’ live event (the film was steadily in the 2 digit ranks) and then pushed everywhere after the middle of February and its interest during the Oscars (8 nominations). This gave the movie a solid B.O. (box office) for a cerebral, period film – 76 million dollars, but it would have gone relatively unnoticed wasn’t it for the awards season.

PTA, this time around, doesn’t want this to happen.

Trailers are the center piece of almost any “modern” campaign and, with the quality of some of their editing, almost every film that is advertised through a trailer “leaked” on facebook/youtube/twitter, is “going to be awesome!!!”. But that doesn’t happen.
Trailers adulterate, distort and flourish most films that they advertise and… most of the time… falsely advertise a film that no one (or very few) actually want to see. 

The Master was presented last year (in poster form) at Cannes as “The Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project”. That (like for most oscar campaign films) was the first tease.
Then came the second poster. And the third.

So then, PTA to get the public’s interest peeked, came out with not 1 but 2 unconventional teasers (“Was there a fight?” and “Hopelessly Inquisitive”) in the space of  a month, this, before he had ever shown the film to any critic around the world (just a limited footage screening in Cannes, this year).
At this point, the Weinstein Company (the production company had previously passed on producing the film) was intrigued and bought the international rights for the film.

Not soon later, a theatrical trailer for it came out (… thank you… Weinstein Company… for “keeping things common”), and several “secret screenings” have been held.

With the trailer out, my thinking was that it was just another “teaser campaign” with the 2 previously released clips being just a “drop in the water” of the “what could have been” Transmedia/New media campaign.

But it wasn’t.

Yesterday, another one came out – “I lost my ship!”

4 have come out in total. Together they make about 6 minutes of footage.

Rumor is, these videos are “cuts”, “extra footage” or simply “raw footage” that didn’t make it to the film.
It isn’t unknown to come out with dropped footage before a film screens in theaters, but this is usually thrown together into the theatrical, teaser trailers.

No one wants to show pieces of their films for free… but PTA doesn’t want you to go see a film you don’t want to see. He’s giving you exactly what you want. A real look at what The Master is and not what an editing (subverting) team, can make it look like through “masterful” editing/sound manipulating techniques.

But he’s doing it differently. He’s not showing you the film.

He’s showing pieces that didn’t enter the puzzle.

He’s showing you content that isn’t in the final product.

Trailer

“Was there a fight?”

Hopelessly Inquisitive

She wrote me a letter

“I lost my ship!”

Do you want to see the film? Maybe… at least you can see from the videos how the pacing, style and acting will be like… so… you choose.

Not a tough choice. It might not be your type of film but, at least, you can definitely decide if it is worth it or not.

Nevertheless… If more of an example of how off quilt the campaign for the film is…

Check the film’s official page – http://www.themasterfilm.com/

Simple.

It just shows us what the film looks like through video/youtube form. Period.

Do you want to see the official poster?

The-master-poster

Simple.

A trend flows through the videos, poster, website.

Simplicity.

And not the usual “bullshit” of Augmented advertising that comes out every single week. With manipulating coloring schemes, face/body positioning and loads of unwanted visual information.

And then there’s Twitter.

If there ever was a film that is being helped by its Twitter comments (reviews) it might just be The Master.

It’s getting rave reviews from the surprise showcases in the beginning of the month (and the August 3rd Venice 1st Screening), having more critics, fans, etc, wanting to see it as fast as possible.

So much so that the Weinstein Company has decided to come out with the film on limited release on September 14th (almost a full month before its original release date).

Yes… I know what you’re thinking. “This isn’t Transmedia!”, “He’s just using the same techniques everyone does”… “That’s already stuff from the film, not developed for different media”.

True on all counts.

But you must remember… change takes time… and these small videos show exactly that.

Something is changing.

It might not be a “true” Transmedia campaign but, it certainly is different.

And interesting to watch.

Don’t believe me?

The Official Trailer has, to date, 444,605 views.

Was there a fight – 780,900 views.

Hopelessly Inquisitive – 31,000 views.

She Wrote me a Letter – 111,489 views.

I lost my ship – 306 (still under youtube’s calculation period).

The 4 clips would have eventually come out. Probably on DVD/Bluray and then posted online.

Then… why not benefit from them?

They have together around 1 million views.

That might not be a transmedia campaign or product, but its getting there.

It’s changing the norm.

Let’s hope more directors, producers, studios, think of ways they can innovate in how they present their films and then, maybe, for his next film, Paul Thomas Anderson might go all out and present us with a complete transmedia film.

Here’s hoping.