#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.

Leave it to the Russians (QR Code Extravaganza!)

Full disclosure… I hate QR codes.

Yes, they serve a purpose, and so far, from what exists in the market, they are “revolutionizing” how brands communicate and “interact” with their customers (this of course is a pleonasm as the only one doing any interaction is the user… not the brand).

But…

They are esthetically unpleasing, sometimes bulky and attention deviating, most of the time extremely badly utilized in where they are presented and ultimately, bothersome.

A QR code, to me, looks (and feels) like a barcode – extremely effective in keeping track of a given product in a production line, but occupying premium advertising space in the cover/package of any well-developed object/content persona.

Barcodes… they are scanned by a laser reader, right? In a conveyer belt, right? Wouldn’t it be cool if we all could scan a QR code in the conveyer belt of daily life? Wait… what am I saying… of course we can.

Let me see:

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 What is that over there in the corner? The lower left-hand corner… Is it… YES!!! I believe it is! A perfectly located and strategically poised QR code (the lower left-hand corner is by far, the worst place you can locate a QR code, but in this advert, since the supposedly readable text is in the left, whomever developed the ad thought people would be easily directed to it).

Let me see if I can scan it:

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Hmm… no… too far… but I really wanted to know what Emperor Qianlong’s concubines are doing… OK… let me walk a few steps to another advert and try again:

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Closer Diogo… don’t be afraid to go closer! It’s nothing but an MTR train line between you and the enormous portal of knowledge that a QR is – and a train coming in 2 minutes. If you fall, it’ll be for the greater good!!!

SUCCESS! I can see the code in the camera! Let me go just a bit closer…

Damn… blurry image.

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 Train comes… I’ve just lost 3 minutes of my life trying to scan a little sequence of squares and dots 3 meters away (and no… the fault wasn’t my phone or my hands… the camera can see some of the mountains in the moon in a clear night and I’m pretty steady with my hands, so I’d think both would be good enough to scan something that’s so close ahead of them).

But I don’t give up. That’s just not my style (hmm we’ll let that slide). On the next train stop, I see this marvel:

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 I scan it and it directs me to a facebook page… Eureka! But… wait… it’s the same facebook page that right next to the code is perfectly advertised by a Facebook logo and the search query a user would make to find the product in the social network.

I start thinking… it’s just me. I must be stupid. Or rather, technologically impaired.

So I continue:

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Yes. Right-hand corner. You see it. I see it. I scan it. Failure… The rim of the ad space glass/metal cover  is obstructing half of the code.

I walk a few steps out in my stop and…

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AAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!

So. Much. AWESOMENESS!!!

But wait!?! Which one should I scan?

The Ultra-Big-Awesome-Eye-Popping one to the left? Or the once again (Cof Cof) strategically located, one to the left?

I’m incompetent… I know… I scan both. Same page. Both of them. Success!

2 out of 5 ads in one night take me to a desired page. A “more information” page. A “trackable page”. An advertising, market strategy, mobile justifiable java enabled page.

I get out of the MTR glad from my evening’s successful advertisement consumer enterprise. Right next to my apartment entrance what do I see (I live in Mongkok so this wasn’t entirely unexpected):

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Another code.

At this stage I’m tired of the previous ordeal. I still try to scan it; too far away; go close to it; too far away; change to the camera not the scanner; take a picture; blow it up and… give up. But I think in the back of my head “I’ll just test it when I get home”.

And then it hits me.

Weren’t QR’s developed so advertisers could track and test out which costumers were willing to search for their products online? The ones that would be as interested to buy or at least learn about the product? The ones who would go to the trouble to take their phone out of their pocket, direct it at the ad, locate the QR, open the app, scan the image, wait for the page load and then get to where they (the advertisers) were trying to get them?

Yes… yes they were… but I’m a lazy consumer. I went to my browser, searched for the product name and I got all the information I needed to find me interested or not in the Vaio. I even got 2 pages that had pretty interesting reviews on the product and a great video advert from Japan, something that I didn’t get when I ultimately tested out the Code – it took me to the official page of the product – a page where the most valuable information I got was the price in HK dollars and some of the specs of the product.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying QR Codes are evil or that they should be completely discarded from any and all physical/digital adverts existing in Hong Kong.

In an ideal world I’d just scan an ad (any ad) and the scanner would take me to the same place as a QR code (this exists, of course, but the technology is still in its early stages of “Augmented Reality Development”).

I’m just saying… If you go through the trouble of setting up a Code link, at least give me, the customer, some valuable information, enticing information, attention grabbing information on my mobile device.

Something that makes it worthwhile to go through the trouble of the situation that some customers might be put through while being “guided” by your market strategies. 

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Confirm that the package where you put your product and your code, don’t have enough gloss to almost make the customer go to a dark alley so they can scan your code (all criticism aside, this code takes you into the Apple Store where you can download a pretty neat app that further augments the experience of eating Skittles and advertising it – pushing it – to your network of Facebook/Twitter friends – by making you a Skittle-faced customer!).

Ohh… and by the way…. When you do put a QR Code on your product, a difficult to find, almost completely impossible to scan Code on it – Make it have fun content behind it.

Like the Skittles thing. But take it further.

I’ll give you an example. Sure… an extreme example, but a fun example nonetheless.

2 Months ago, out of nowhere, the advertising campaign for Branded started appearing in zee interwebs. Branded looks like a weird, weird experience for the movie goer, so they developed a great little advancement to their story &ndas
h; Branded content through QR Code dissemination – 100 QR Codes to be exact, the idea behind it is that the audience by interacting actively in their weird, advertised, universe, they’ll slowly see what the movie might be about (the global distortion of perception, advanced and perpertraited by big Branded companies).

And where can you see them? Their trailers, their posters, their everything!

Give it a try (this is the first trailer of the campaign):

Can’t get any? I’ll help you with one of the pages:

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But wait… there’s more, lots more… if you look hard enough, you’ll find them.

It takes time. It’s a pain to stop the videos. It’s frustrating at times but, you’re watching something new. Something that doesn’t appear if you search it online. New content. A new experience. You’re augmenting the experience of watching the trailer for a film. You’re using a QR Code the right way. The although hard and confusing, satisfactory way.

Here’s more (on the second trailer the codes are even harder to scan):

Once again. Stop the video. Can’t get them?

Here are some of them:

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Like I said… if you do use QR Codes – Make them fun.

Or else…

Leave it to the Russians.