Exclusive - [a]List Game Marketing Summit: 'Building Desire'

By [a]list summit

Posted May 9, 2012

Introduction from Chris Younger, Principal/Director of Strategy, and Julian Hollingshead, VP Strategy and Client Service for the Ayzenberg Group. A Morgan Freeman sound-alike provided narration for a brief video about content marketing to lead into the first panel.

The consumer courtship, the interaction you have with your consumers from the moment they first encounter your product or brand. This summit is about building desire, which is about content. This can mean video, or events, or many other things like alternate reality games, sponsorships, or online forums. There are 5 questions to consider when deciding what content to create to build desire: What, why, how, when and where. The summit will explore all of those questions with a variety of experts.

Greenlighting Content: What Should You Create, and Why?

The panel was moderated by Steve Fowler from the Ayzenberg Group, included Brad Hisey, Director of Marketing for Nexon; Ryan Crosby, Sr. Director of Consumer Marketing for Activision/Blizzard; and Mitch Powers, Director of Global Brand Management for THQ.

The importance of a goal for your content was underscored by Ryan Crosby, because that guides the type of content you create and how it's expressed. The story is also at the core of the content, according to Brad Hisey, and needs to be considered throughout the process. How do you get management to sign off on a big expense that's crucial to creating your content? Crosby says you focus on the whole program and put the expense into the context, showing how it will create the intensity of desire that you're looking for.  Mitch Powers said that while a big budget is good, a limited budget can help stimulate creativity as you try to do more with less. Brad Hisey noted that he takes a much more boring approach, looking at his spreadsheet and allocating money precisely between content creation and placement of the content. Discussing dealing with a powerful developer like Bungie, Crosby said that spending time with them is very important to fostering understanding and buy-in for the content you want to create. One of the dangers as a content idea moves through the process is that the idea gets watered down and loses its punch; getting help from management is one way to avoid this. In all cases, learn from mistakes and strive to improve with each new product.

The Content Creators video, featuring Joey Jones, Director and Co-founder of Shadedbox. What's changed in content creation? The tools that are available have become very sophisticated.

Building Desire with Earned and Owned Media: How Do You Engage People?

This panel was moderated by Steve Bastien, Director of Interactive and Transmedia for the Ayzenberg Group. Participants were Laura Naviaux, VP of Global Sales for Sony Online Entertainment; Ryan Schneider, Director of Brand Development for Insomniac Games; Ed Lin, Director of Brand Marketing for Warner Bros.; and Rebecca Markarian, Director of Social and Emerging Media for the Ayzenberg Group.

Content distribution and the pacing of release is a complex question with so many options available. How do you make sure people find content? Ed Lin talked about Mortal Kombat as an example of content they needed to distribute, spending $2 million to create content that they ended up selling, working with Machinima. Laura Naviaux noted that they don't make those sorts of decisions without having all the stakeholders at the table. Ryan Schneider underscored the importance of planning to make sure that execution is good. Pacing of content release was the next issue covered; Laura Naviaux talked about studying metrics to see how content is being received, and using that information to adjust their release schedule. Of course, that is for an MMO where the product operates continuously; Ed Lin noted that for Mortal Kombat they planned out the campaign ahead of time.

Rebecca Markarian said that they are constantly touching their audience and their brands, adjusting continuously depending on what they are seeing. Laura Naviaux pointed out that for Planetside 2 they are planning to put out information much later than for other campaigns. Ed Lin talked about how they debated restarting their Mortal Kombat social presence, which required the courage to give up some 65,0000 fans... and now they have 2.9 million after the restart.

Steve Bastien asked how it's possible to activate the users to help get content distributed. Ed Lin said he hates user-generated content; he prefers to keep control of the process. Community unlocking is one technique used in DC Universe Online, as Laura Naviaux noted, where you get a group of fans to cooperate towards unlocking desired content. Rebecca Markarian agreed that giving fans the chance to "get their name in lights" is a useful technique.

Should development get more say in the distribution of content? Yes, said Ryan Schneider; is that even a question? Ed Lin agreed, noting that often PR is the only team that has a say in where content goes. It's hard work to create great content, Schneider said. Who gets the content first? It depends, said Lin. Their goal is always the top PR location globally to get an exclusive. Coordination between locations is important to maximize impact in a small window of time, noted Naviaux. 

The Content Creators video, featuring Jace Hall, Executive Producer of “V” television series and longtime video game writer/producer, talked about how content needs to make an emotional connection with the viewers. If you start with "what is the emotion we're trying to elicit in the audience," you'll be very successful, says Hall.

Bringing Brands to YouTube

This panel of YouTube stars was moderated by Seth Hendrix, Head of Original Content for the Ayzenberg Group. The panel consisted of Toby Turner, a.k.a. 'Tobuscus'; Adam Montoya, a.k.a. 'SeaNanners'; and Olga Kay. YouTube has evolved from a "cats and babies" site to a new Hollywood... only 80% "cats and babies." How do consumers find video in the massive amounts pouring onto the site? One way is to partner with YouTube creators who have already built an audience.

How did they get started? Adam Montoya enjoys playing games for a living; Olga Kay ran away from the circus where she was a juggler and got into sketch comedy on YouTube; Toby Turner started out attending school to be a dentist, but got into making videos that looked like commercials, and eventually decided to specialize in "quantity over quality, and it's really paid off."

Adam Montoya believes that as people watch his videos, it becomes a sort of reality televsion and a shared experience, based on the common liking for a game. Toby Turner's Assassin's Creed trailer ended up getting more views than the actual trailer, and he attributes it to putting in a catchy song with a popular theme. Olga Kay has over 60 million views to date, and she keeps it fresh by listening to conversations to figure out what people are talking about.

How do these YouTube stars keep their brands organic when they get hired to work for a brand? Adam Montoya says he tries to keep it  real, and work with brands he likes; if you try to force the peg, it won't play well. Toby Turner notes that if they script it for you, it never works.  But he feels that the real key is making sure the content is funny, whether or not he really uses the brand in question. Olga Kay writes a sketch comedy around a product and tries to connect with the audience as well as the brand, but it's tough when you don't use the brand on an everyday basis.

YouTube differs from TV by giving you instant feedback, and the YouTube stars track that very closely and respond. Your like to dislike ratio is an important indicator, said Toby Turner. Olga Kay has five different YouTube channels and is thinking of starting a sixth channel. It's because she has very different things she's interested in, and the audiences don't overlap that much. Adam Montoya noted that gaming is just out of control right now, and the audiences have grown amazingly since 2009 when he started.

Do they reach out to brands or wait to be approached? Olga Kay does a series of videos about a brand and has the brands approach her on more than one occasion. Toby Turner tried to create a sketch for Good Earth Coffee, but they weren't interested. His literal trailers, on the other hand, have been very successful; his Ubisoft videos last year for E3 got 25 million views.

The Content Creators video, featuring Chris Cowan, Creative Director and Co-founder of Thousand Pounds Action Company and Mike Chaves, Commercial Director. He makes films based on nerd culture, and he thinks the Internet has become a huge stepping stone for artists because of the instant feedback. It's a perfect avenue for trial and error, and opens up opportunities for those who engage and create content. Mike Chaves feels the key is being open and being flexible, and that's how you can create something awesome.

Keynote Speech

The Keynote Speaker was Seamus Blackley, President of Innovative Leisure, and one of the creators of the Xbox, among many other things. As a game developer he's not really sure of what to say to marketers, but his eclectic career has helped him learn about many different things. He'd be terrified to be marketing right now during the vast changes hitting the industry. We're seeing a sea change in the way people see our products, Blackley said; something really magical is happening. Games have changed from being an outside phenomenon to being core to legitimate culture. The Toyota Prius interface is a video game, and Blackley sees it as a cultural victory.

These principles of game design and interaction have become important in places we weren't expecting... like marketing. Consumers expect to be part of the game. They don't want to be communicated to, they want to be communicated with, said Blackley. Minecraft is a tool that enables the audience to have a dialog with the creator, and that's important to its success. People don't want to be told what's cool; they can figure that out for themselves.

Engaging people and making them part of the dialog can be a very important part of the business, and one that can generate a lot of revenue. It's powerful, and new, and hard to predict. You may get it wrong, but that's almost as good as getting right, if you are flexible enough to change what you're doing. It's a time to be experimental and try a lot of things, as long as we don't forget that we're here to entertain the audience. Twice in our history the business has been killed nearly dead when we forget about entertaining the audience. We should remember that there are tremendous opportunities ahead of the industry.

Companies like Zynga and ngmoco have created a whole new class of consumers who now feel they have permission to be gamers, and to say that they are gamers. They've also given them a huge amount of rehashed content, some of which isn't very good. This is awesome if you think you can make quality games. 


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