By Meelad Sadat
Recently the[a]listdaily had a chance to talk to longtime TV producer Olly Quinn on what it takes to get broadcast coverage for games. Olly is US West Coast producer for Playr, a videogame news program that airs in the UK and is syndicated globally. What makes Olly a great resource for broadcast PR insight is that his background includes covering traditional entertainment. As he puts it, having worked on programming that wasn’t just focused on games made him familiar with how other media provide access and material to use.
The topic of conversation with Olly quickly moved from the current template for broadcast game PR placing trailers or convincing that game outlet to send a video crew to an event to what it takes to reach out to a mainstream media-minded producer. It turns out that while the game industry has become greatly adept at orchestrating events and devising clever ways to control information dissemination, game marketing and PR teams might be missing a couple easy components. Olly points to Hollywood, saying while they don t have a broadcast PR model that can port directly over to games they do provide some proven best practices to follow. The essentials in his mind are how Hollywood organizes junkets and pre-packages usable assets as video news releases. When it comes to taking an entertainment product and packaging it for promotion far and wide, no one has honed a more precise template than Hollywood. And just like we’d expect from Hollywood, it’s structured, it’s formulaic, and it works.
Olly also talked about what it takes to get coverage for game ad campaigns and TV creative. It s an area that he and Playr do consider if the material is compelling enough, and of-course if the assets are packaged properly.
First off, what do you have to say to game marketing and PR people about pitching a more mainstream minded producer or a TV magazine oriented show?
About games PR s attitude towards mainstream media. I think it s either scared because it’s scared of the rejection. Or it just has a feeling of being defeatist. Why engage them because most of the time they ll tell us they re not interested.
Of-course IGN, of-course Gamespot, of-course GameTrailers will come to your event with a crew. That’s their MO. What about the other media that don’t come to game events that need to be persuaded? If they get told come to our game event and we’ve got a crew that will film the interview for you, they’ll say great because they only have to send a presenter, a producer and that is it. We don’t have to send a crew of maybe six, seven people. They’ll react positively to it. They ll say alright, this company’s on board. This company is acting the same way a TV company would to promote a series. Or a movie company would.
Should these games PR people be looking to how the film industry orchestrates their junkets and broadcast campaigns in other words, is Hollywood the model?
It’s not a model. But it s surprising how often their techniques and their approaches for publicity don t get brought on board. It’s seen as like, games are so new, why should we take stuff on board from film media. The standard thing that films do is, when they have a junket, they run that brilliantly. They also organize their own crews, so that nobody is having to come there with kits, set it up and then take it down afterwards. They’ve paid for their video crews to be there are there and thus exercise a military like degree of time management. You come into the room, you meet the star, and you’ll get your five or six minutes with this person, and soon as you re done they’ll politely push you out of the room, give you the tapes of you doing the interview and you re off to the next one. It’s so rare that I’ve ever seen that done by publishers of videogames to actually allow that to happen.
Since you are back in the thick of things in terms of focusing on game coverage again, what sort of content gets on Playr?
The show is distinct from stuff that s focused on a presenter being the conduit in that all of the show is voiceover led. It’s very easy to make a show for an international market when you don t have to localize a presenter and can just do new VO. It is magazine format, which means essentially every item is a segment itself. In addition to doing preview coverage of games, interviewing developers and doing reviews, there s a lot of feature coverage in there as well.
Standard stuff then. So the pitch obviously has to have a hook, but from an asset perspective what helps the package?
The criteria is that if people come to us with stuff that they’ve already shot, and it s at a competent and technical level, and it s something that we can easily put together a segment from essentially a video news release or VNR we will do that. So if you’ve already gone out and shot the behind-the-scenes of a commercial, and I mean raw B-roll, we can do something with that. If you send us a featurette, most people have already seen it, and by the time we put it on our show it s already old hat. It loses its currency because it s on the internet and people have seen it, as opposed to something that needs to be produced. By giving us a true VNR we actually get the ability to do our own unique cut. I do believe that most marketing and PR people in the industry don’t have an understanding of what a proper video news reel is. It’s crucial to understand their value, and it’s also crucial to appreciate how they can be used by media outlets. This is exactly how the other more traditional media gets the coverage which it does, which is quite frankly, by comparison to the game industry, colossal.
What do you think is sometimes lacking in broadcast asset packages that game publishers put together?
Certainly in the past, and a particularly huge problem at E3, is when videogame companies would just provide a trailer as opposed to B-roll, which you can actually work with. Some people expect you to cut an interview only using a trailer as illustrative purposes, which his just a nightmare because a trailer is precut and audio mixed. B-roll is key. Give people variety variety and depth. Movie companies can sometimes do a VNR on a movie that s over 60 minutes long in material. That s not seen as overkill, that s seen as covering all the bases.
Do not feel that less is more when it comes to giving video media the materials to work with. Cutting a piece to a certain length is a decision for an editorial person at an outlet. For a VNR you should not be making that call.
The problem with B-roll is that it’s supposed to be continuous segments of the game. That can actually prove to be a more time-consuming piece of content to collect, evaluate and approve than cutting bits and pieces. What have you seen as good practices by publishers with how they provide B-roll?
With the more progressive publishers, sometimes the stipulation is that when we re supplied with B-roll is that we cannot post it as a straight compile of gameplay clips. They say you must take some effort to cut this into the segment you just shot [it] prevents sites to use up all the content by just throwing it up and making it instantly old. That s always useful.
You said Playr does consider covering ad-marketing efforts for games. What would make a compelling segment in that regard?
We’re still making a show for the gamer as opposed to the industry person so we wouldn’t be that interested in talking to someone discussing a campaign, from a trade perspective. We would be interested to talk to the director, stunt performers, specialists in the commercial and also the people involved in the creative process of putting together a TV spot. A TV commercial is at least something that s tele -visual, so purely on those grounds is the reasons we d want to cover it. Obviously there are a lot of TV commercials that we wouldn’t want to cover. Over the year s a lot of TV commercials about games have kind of ignored the game. Or they’ve done something that s somebody s crazy idea, created at great expensive in live action but they only get around to showing actual game graphics in the last five or so seconds. But if you’ve got something that’s really well done and actually tied into the universe of the game, then absolutely we’d want to do something on it.
Can you give examples of marketing campaigns that you would consider for coverage?
KillZone 2 is most certainly a good example. They had an advert which was basically a bullet flying through the battlefield in slo-mo. They did non TV-spot versions with commentaries. Not just the just team members from the Sony studio in Holland, they also included members of the visual FX house Zoic Studios, who collaborated in the creative of the TV spot. What they did off the back of that advert was put out a series videos that explained and went into detail on different aspect, but ALSO made available an interactive version for people with PlayStation 3s. One where they could actually in real-time, examine the scene. I felt that was a really progressive move on their part.
Did they approach you to get coverage?
You know they didn’t. In terms of approaching broadcast media, what they didn’t do was shoot interviews as raw material about those people involved in the spot and supply that with the videos or the demo. That’s like going so far, but in terms of the crucial aspect of getting coverage by the traditional, mainstream, non-gaming TV media, they didn’t address that.
What would have been the perfect package from them, or really from anyone trying to build a PR pitch around a creative campaign like that?
For a commercial the perfect VNR would include a [split] audio version of the commercial itself, which means you can extract the VO, you can extract the music, you can extract the sound FX. It would include a bunch of B-roll of the commercial being shot at least 10 minutes of B-roll, just of on-set stuff. A bit of time lapse is always nice. It would also include something like 15 minutes of interviews of people involved in the process and I understand that would also need to include some people from the marketing department of that particular publisher, plus the dev team ideally. It would include some creatives on the ad agency side, and maybe some people who worked on the special FX if that was the particular focus. It would also include a bunch of raw shots to show you if a certain shot was achieved how that was done. It might also include the animatic of how the commercial was pre-vis ed. It might include a rostrum of storyboards. It’s fine to include a featurette of how the commercial was made because sometimes that s a good shorthand for letting people understand how the commercial was put together. But don t make that the only thing. And don’t just include the game’s trailer on that reel. Please try to include at least six or eight really strong raw game play clips of that game in action.
There s the VNR plug from you again. Assuming publishers already have their scheduled video content such as trailers lined up, and they know they’ll have to provide content on demand such as B-roll along the way, give the final argument on why they should tack on the effort in putting together an evergreen VNR as part of the package.
I don’t wish to make it sound like the television media is lazy.cBroadcast media can be very creative if we’re given a VNR to work with. Of-course we can expand on that material. We can go back and additional use some archive material or shoot some supplemental interviews, but a good VNR will gives us some meat to work with. We’re a chef and basically you’ve given us some core ingredients, and we can work with that and make our own thing. Whereas a featurette is a pre-made meal, and that’s honestly no good to us.
You never know how a VNR is going to be used. You might actually get someone who wants to do an entire show around it, as crazy as that sounds. People have space to fill. People are always looking for a more convenient option of how to create content, particularly in the TV realm. It could massively help extend your segment. Less is more is a choice to be made by the people creating the editorial at the outlet. And please remember to always give people a log sheet to let them know how much material they’re going to get ahead of time. Plus if you’re sending or having them download a huge high res file, send them either just the audio of the interviews or a very low res version for them to look over; while the larger transfer is occurring. The time sensitive mainstream outlets will love you for it.