Taco Bell Sees 80 Percent Engagement Rates On Snapchat

That’s right. Eighty percent.

Engagement like that is why Snapchat will be relying heavily on Snapchat along with Facebook and YouTube to promote it’s much-anticipated $1 menu which begins next week.

Just for the sake of comparison, popular comedy mainstay Funny or Die gets just 10 percent click rates on it’s promoted Kik messages and just half a percent on Facebook and Twitter. There’s something particularly magic about Snapchat in the way it requires marketers to make content that followers want to go out of their way to find and the personal messaging feel gives users the sense of being in your brand’s inside circle.

Yesterday it came to light that Snapchat is raising a new round with a valuation of $10 billion from KPCB and now it’s all making sense. You have to have a lot going for you to attract marketers who have zero access to data and insights on your platform.

Still looking to get Snapchat-savvy Take a look at our Snapchat run-down to understand what makes the mobile social platform different here.

Source: AdWeek

Snacks Add Virtual Goods For A Tasty Promotion

There’s been a long association between gaming and snack foods going back decades. When you’re in the fevered excitement of a marathon gaming session, quick snacks and caffeine-powered sodas are a natural thing to reach for. This association hasn’t escaped brand marketers, as in past years we’ve seen fast-food companies working with console makers, and more recently Coca-Cola sponsoring eSports.

The latest promotion promising to tickle a gamer’s taste buds comes from Mountain Dew and Doritos. Mountain Dew and Doritos have put a call out to gamers who can’t wait for Activision’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, bringing back both a gamer favorite — Mountain Dew Game Fuel Citrus Cherry — and a new flavor, Mountain Dew Game Fuel Lemonade.

The global Mountain Dew and Doritos “Fuel Up for Battle” promotion takes advantage of Call of Duty’s new game feature, the brand new “Supply Drops” currency platform. Starting October 6 (Monday, the same day the Mountain Dew products are released) gamers in select markets around the world can collect codes from specially marked packages of Mountain Dew or Doritos. Players can enter the codes online at www.dewanddoritos.com and then customize their Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer gaming experience by accessing exclusive (until Feb. 15, 2015) in-game gear using the “Supply Drops” system.

This could be fans customizing their player with ultra-rare accessories like an exo-skeleton, heavy vest kit, helmets, goggles, boots and more. Further elevating the experience, gamers will also be able to unlock double XP and rapid supply rewards. Every code entered from DEW and Doritos packages unlocks Call of Duty in-game rewards and each code entered will also provide a chance to win an Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft.

“We’re thrilled to bring together with Call of Duty such iconic brands as Mountain Dew and Doritos in a compelling and fun way that benefits both of our respective communities,” said Ashley Maidy, vice president of licensing and partnerships, Activision Publishing, Inc. “So, with the exclusive in-game gear waiting for DEW and Doritos consumers, gamers just need to fuel-up and login.”

“As in-game experiences evolve, the DEW and Doritos brands are constantly looking for ways to bring those cutting-edge ideas to life offline through unique promotions and exclusive opportunities for our fans,” said Greg Lyons, vice president of marketing, Mountain Dew. “As a brand with an endemic gaming heritage, we are excited to be able to offer this massive gaming community unique access to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s next generation ‘Supply Drop’ platform.”

“The Dew and Doritos ‘Fuel Up for Battle’ promotion is a great example of PepsiCo’s strength in delivering an integrated food and beverage marketing campaign,” said Jeff Klein, vice president of marketing, Frito-Lay. “Our unique ability to bring consumers exclusive experiences through our long-standing legacy of partnerships and programs around blockbuster video games, demonstrates why we are Better Together.”

As gamers have come to expect year after year, Mountain Dew is bringing back tried and true gamer-favorite — Mountain Dew Game Fuel Citrus Cherry — and a bold new flavor — Mountain Dew Game Fuel Lemonade — for a limited time only. Both products will hit shelves in the U.S., beginning October 6.

Fans can also participate in the”Fuel Up for Battle” promotion by purchasing any 3.375 oz. specially marked bag of Doritos Nacho Cheese, Doritos Cool Ranch, Doritos Spicy Nacho or Doritos Dinamita Chile Limon flavored chips, beginning October 6.

The interesting angle on this promotion is, of course, the virtual goods. Previous snack promotions have tended to be contests, offering the chance to win games or consoles. Of course, most of the snacks in that case don’t deliver anything, because the odds aren’t that great. Offering virtual goods or currency for virtual goods means that every item you purchase has value in the game, not just a chance at value.

Activision is also using the promotion to spur interest in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare prior to the game’s release, of course. Players will be encouraged to collect the snack foods and drinks ahead of the game’s release, stockpiling virtual items. This should act to increase a gamer’s desire to get the game, since they’ll be starting with an advantage.

The release of an advanced promotional campaign seems quite appropriate for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, as the game represents several advances for the Call of Duty franchise. The game narrative begins in the year 2054, when the Atlas Corporation, a private military corporation (PMC), has emerged with the power to rescue humanity after a global attack on its military and infrastructure. This setting means players get new, cutting-edge exoskeleton abilities and an advanced arsenal with new weaponry, vehicles and high-tech gear. Players can join the ranks of a highly-trained, specialized unit committed to restoring order.

The new gear and futuristic setting lends quite a different flavor to Call of Duty, as Activision is looking to boost sales this year as the competition intensifies in the shooter category. Activision’s toughest competition may well come its own product line, as Destiny launches with high expectations in September. The games are very different in the setting and many of the gameplay elements, but both are shooters. Will players be willing to pick up both games, or can they both appeal to large audiences without any overlap occurring

Tinyloot Ready To Pay Mobile Players?

Usually, game players have to pay to unlock content in free-to-play games. However, it appears that Tinyloot has a different strategy with its products, one that could reward players in more ways than one.

The company is looking to pay players a small amount of money for taking part in its game sessions, an idea cooked up by digital game marketing expert Oliver Kern and former IT head at Booz Allen Hamilton Micha von der Meer.

With the Tinyloot platform, players are actually paid for taking part in game sessions, based on the time they spend playing the game. This is a change of pace from the usual way that free-to-play games work, especially when it comes to the involvement of advertisers. “The majority of networks couldn’t care less about the developers and very often do not deliver what they promise,” Kern said. “I have been working in exactly this space and have worked with many of them. Some are good, many not so good for games.”

Through the Tinyloot system, developers and publishers would spend less funds on ads, with the money instead going to players. Those who enjoy playing the games can invest the cash in their game experiences, if they choose. “This would change the value chain in free-to-play mobile games,” said Kern in an email. “We are getting great feedback from players who sometimes can’t believe it’s true.”

The app works for all those involved, as developers can acquire other team members at a low financial rate, while also rewarding players who turn into long-time fans of their games. “This is good for the community of free-to-play mobile-game developers who are struggling with ad networks that take and earn a lot of money without providing real value,” Kern said. “Tinyloot mitigates this risk, and it delivers engaged players at a significantly lower cost if it’s a good game.”

App stores would also benefit from purchases by players. “The price for a mobile user is going up (every month),” said Daniel Hasselberg, chief executive of developer MAG Interactive, which is planning to use the platform in the future. “By the end of 2014, even the majority of the top 300 mobile publishers will not be able to easily afford user acquisition. We are waiting for Tinyloot.”

“Mobile user acquisition is clearly broken. What Tinyloot is seeking to provide will help preserve a commercially interesting space for mobile developers,” said Shaun Rutland, head of Hutch Games.

It’ll be interesting to see if this business model works out. What do you think? Would you be interested in getting paid to play games?

Source: VentureBeat

Madden’s Monstrous Marketing Advantage

The Madden NFL franchise has been a real monster for EA Sports over the years. First started back in the late 80’s on computer and Sega Genesis, it has since grown into one of the biggest sports franchises in the world – and this year’s release, Madden NFL 15, shows no signs of slowing.

The game, which is available today for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, mobile, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, provides a plethora of new options for players, including a revamped player interface that actually brings them closer to the action than ever before, with a more concentrated tackle system (utilizing “cones”), better defensive plays, and more.

In addition, there’s a lot happening off the field with this year’s game as well. Ultimate Team once again makes a return, providing plenty of Fantasy Football fans the opportunity to create their dream team with cards earned throughout the game. In-game packs are also available for purchase, should players feel the need to earn rewards a little quicker than actually earning them.

This year’s marketing campaign has also proven to be a boon for EA on many fronts with Madden. The company released the game early as part of a limited demo for its EA Access service on the Xbox One, enabling players to get up to six hours of time with the game five days before its release. The advertising angle has also taken a more unique approach this time around, with a more comedic approach rather than just in-game footage, featuring comedian Kevin Hart bombarding his friend Dave Franco with a series of challenges, officially kicking off what he proclaims is “Madden season”.


Five Qs With Vine Star Princess Lauren On Her Latest Brand Deal

by Jessica Klein

Vine creator Princess Lauren (real name: Lauren Giraldo) has regularly managed to do something that most comedians constantly struggle for — being hilarious in a matter of six seconds. The Vine star is only 16, but she’s already gotten the attention of major brand Clean and Clear, meaning she will serve as brand ambassador for their campaign to empower girls, #SeeTheRealMe. The campaign focuses on girls in pursuit of their passions (forget about acne — this is about strong women).

Giraldo speaks both English and Spanish, reaching a total of 2.9 million followers on Vine. This frames her as an attractive partner for brands, and she already boasts sponsors who will pay her just to share their videos with her large audience. We got to ask Giraldo some questions about her involvement in the Clear and Clear campaign and her life on Vine in general. Here’s what she had to say.

How did you get started creating videos on Vine, and how did it escalate from simply creating videos for friends to a career move?

My friends all asked me to start posting Vines, because they thought they would be funny, so I started making more. Before the “Re-Vine” feature, I went on a cruise with 300 followers, and while I was on it, Vine updated the app to allow for “Re-Vines, so when I got home I had 300,000.”

Working with a brand is a new experience for you, correct? How do you feel about aligning yourself with one, and how did you decide to work with Clean and Clear?

This has all happened so fast. It feels rewarding to be recognized for my posts. I am very picky with the brands I choose. Clean and Clear felt right, and I love what they stand for.

Could you describe your role as the brand ambassador for Clean and Clear’s Girl Empowerment campaign, #SeeTheRealMe What does it entail on your end?

We are working on a project by project basis, so I’m not sure what my formal role with them is. The current project we’re working on, #SeeTheRealMe, is in conjunction with the 2014 MTV VMAS. This entailed social media, and I also filmed a commercial and look forward to working with both MTV and Clean and Clear in the future.

How do you identify with the campaign’s message?

I strive to be confident and always show the real me in all of my posts.

Do you think being bilingual plays a large role in your popularity on Vine/your audience reach?

I am very proud to be Latina and speak Spanish and English. In my posts, I normally speak English, but the more languages you speak, the more people you can reach. I love it.

This article was originally posted on VideoInk and is reposted on [a]listdaily via a partnership with the news publication, which is the online video industry’s go-to source for breaking news, features, and industry analysis. Follow VideoInk on Twitter @VideoInkNews, or subscribe via thevideoink.com for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox.

Amazon Officially Acquires Twitch

After spending weeks in the “will they, won’t they” camp with Google in regards to a buyout, it appears streaming channel Twitch.tv has taken a different route, as retailer site Amazon has officially picked up the service through an acquisition valued at around $970 million.

The deal provides a huge new audience for the site, with more than 15 billion minutes of content streamed through Twitch in its three year life span, as well as one million broadcasters, including devoted gamers, companies, pro players and other outlets.

“Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month – from The International, to breaking the world record for Mario, to gaming conferences like E3. And, amazingly, Twitch is only three years old,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “Like Twitch, we obsess over customers and like to think differently, and we look forward to learning from them and helping them move even faster to build new services for the gaming community.”

“Amazon and Twitch optimize for our customers first and are both believers in the future of gaming,” said Twitch CEO Emmett Shear. “Being part of Amazon will let us do even more for our community. We will be able to create tools and services faster than we could have independently. This change will mean great things for our community, and will let us bring Twitch to even more people around the world.”

Shear also posted a “thank you” letter to Twitch subscribers, explaining the acquisition. “We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster. We’re keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon’s support we’ll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch,” he said.

There’s no word yet on how services will be affected based around Amazon’s Prime service, if at all, but this is no doubt a huge acquisition for the team, and a step forward for its streaming services, which will no doubt go hand-in-hand with the company’s already popular Instant Video brand.

What do you think Is this a good move for the team at Twitch, and a smart pick-up by Amazon

Source: Polygon

Firefox Marketplace Reaches 5,000 Apps

Mozilla’s Firefox has been in the works to create a strong app store for quite some time now, a process that is vital to the success of the company’s OS and phones. However, according to VentureBeat.com, Firefox’s editorial and campaign manager Scott DeVaney has released news that the Firefox Marketplace has now reached 5,000 apps.

This being the case, Mozilla is still encountering some of the same problems other premature app stores do–they need a way to promote the really good apps, and conceal the less-desirable ones. Part of the answer to this problem, via DeVaney, lies in audience curation of apps.

DeVaney spoke about what this method of app curation might look like to a user. According to the conversation, he said it will be a separate space at the app store that has a slightly different look and feel than the home page of the Firefox Marketplace.

“It would be giving people a playground, and letting them rate and review apps, letting people vote the best app reviews up to the top,” he told VentureBeat. “It’s creating a space that’s a little less polished than the homepage [of the app store].”

DeVaney is no stranger to curation. Before Mozilla, DeVaney managed a team at Apple charged with creating the promotional language around iTunes, App Store, and iBookstore content.

Some of the approaches Firefox is taking to achieve this necessary curation include apps based on geographic location of its users, as well as lists of “best apps” by people who have a special interest in a certain class of apps, such as productivity apps or games.

The company’s ideology behind this is that the best people to promote apps are not the people who make them, but rather the people who have used them.

“We’re really trying to democratize app discovery,” DeVaney said at a retreat for app developers last Friday, via VentureBeat.

While some app stores look to solely use algorithms and automation to identify good apps, DeVaney believes number crunching is a limited approach. “Analysis only takes you so far in predicting the next hit,” said DeVaney.

“I could have a staff of 100, but I still wouldn’t know what people in a little village in Nairobi are going to want, or what the people in the village 100 miles away will want,” he continued.

DeVaney is set to reveal the new crowd curation features in Mozilla’s app store “very soon.”


Source: VentureBeat

The Rise Of Native Ads And The Importance Of Being Human

The announcement of that some of the brightest VCs in Silicon Valley at Andreessen Horowitz are investing $50 million in BuzzFeed has stunned many. Why? Because the company is regularly dismissed by others for its lightweight “click bate” type of content it is widely known for. But Chris Dixon at Andreessen Horowitz, who is also joining Buzzfeed’s board, explains the rationale behind the investment on his blog:

“Many of today’s great media companies were built on top of emerging technologies. Examples include Time Inc. which was built on color printing, CBS which was built on radio, and Viacom which was built on cable TV. We’re presently in the midst of a major technological shift in which, increasingly, news and entertainment are being distributed on social networks and consumed on mobile devices. We believe BuzzFeed will emerge from this period as a preeminent media company.”

This is a big statement and it puts Buzzfeed in a different light. Dixon doesn’t see them as a traditional publishing company, but an innovative tech company.

“The most interesting tech companies aren’t trying to sell software to other companies. They are trying to reshape industries from top to bottom. BuzzFeed has technology at its core. Its 100+ person tech team has created world-class systems for analytics, advertising, and content management. Engineers are 1st class citizens. Everything is built for mobile devices from the outset. Internet native formats like lists, tweets, pins, animated GIFs, etc. are treated as equals to older formats like photos, videos, and long form essays. BuzzFeed takes the internet and computer science seriously.”

Buzzfeed’s business model, which can be discerned by anyone who visited the site, is native ads. It’s what’s working for Facebook and it works for Buzzfeed because it works on mobile.

But what a “native ad” represents is still up for debate, but Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, explains it well in a recent LinkedIn post:

1. As the traditional advertising business model continues to evolve, more publishers than ever before are opening up native opportunities on their digital properties. In essence, media companies see native as a replacement for the banner ad. Native has been working so well from a revenue standpoint that some publishers, like Buzzfeed, generate a majority of their online revenue from branded content.

2. Brands are starting to understand that consumers have every right to (and will) ignore their traditional marketing practices. To combat this, brand marketers are beginning to develop content that their customers and prospects actually care about, in the hopes of getting attention and possibly some positive behavior change down the road. Native advertising is a valuable “paid” way to distribute that original content.

However, there are many things that need to happen on both the publisher and advertiser-side to make native ads the “killer app” on mobile that it has the potential to be. Pulizzi  proposes the following fixes:

  1. Fix the editorial process so that native ads have to be created or approved by the editorial staff.
  2. Fix the media business model to diversify revenue streams and be less reliant on ads.
  3. Brands should develop rent-to-own strategies to drive traffic to their own owned-media platform.

Andreessen Horowitz investment of $50 million in BuzzFeed is a bold bet on that the future of media is spelled t-e-c-h, but that doesn’t mean that newsrooms and publishing houses will be filled with robots anytime soon.

I recently visited Buzzfeed’s new Hollywood campus and was amazed to see how many people worked there and how creative they all were. Not at all the assembly-line you would expect. It’s all about rebuilding the media business model where the user/reader/viewer is in focus, not an single know-it-all editor, and then have editorial, business and tech all work together to find the best possible solution to engage that audience.

Listen, then talk. Traditional publishing has never been very good at that. Companies like Buzzfeed is building a new user-focused model that I would argue is more “human” because it uses technology from the start to be better at listening and then creating content, sponsored or not, that is specifically created for social media and mobile devices from the bottom up.

It’s a new way of thinking for publishers and advertisers alike, but the sooner we can accept and embrace this new model and fix our internal processes, the better off we’ll all be.

Top 25 Apps Revolve Around Millennials

When it comes to the popularity of certain apps, millennials certainly have no problem dealing the cards – or being social, for that matter.

A new report from comScore indicates that a number of social apps are amongst the most popular used for those 18 and over, starting with Facebook at 115.4 million, followed by YouTube with 83.4 million and Google Play with 72.2 million. That’s visitors clocked for the month of June 2014, according to a report.

Other companies had no problem making the list as well, including Pandora with 69 million, Google Maps with 64.5 million, Gmail with 60.3 million and Instagram with 46.6 million.

Surprisingly lower on the list are Twitter with 34.7 million, Netflix with 27.6 million, Snapchat with 26.5 million and Skype with 18.8 million. Still, those numbers aren’t too shabby, especially when being used by millennials in a certain age group.

Apps aren’t the only thing that are quite popular with the group. Games continue to be a part of their social activity as well, whether they’re dealing cards in a classic game of Solitaire or playing along with their colleagues in a seasoned game of Words With Friends. While no games actually made it into the top 25 list overall, they’re still clocking in a strong audience, with certain titles reaching 10 million unique visitors.

Out of all the apps featured, Netflix seems to be the top one requiring a subscription, as its 28 million unique visitors actually represent more than 75 percent of its U.S. streaming subscriber base. That’s including trial members.

The full list can be found here, and the statistics are certainly startling – and show that millennials aren’t going anywhere when it comes to social use. Other age groups count as well, but this appears to be the strongest audience out of those polled.

Source: QZ.com, The Atlantic

Five Super Powerful Lessons ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Is Teaching Hollywood

With big smiles and open wallets, people around the world are going back to see Guardians of the Galaxy again and again. This past weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, the film retook first place at the box office, grossing $252 million domestically, and closing in on half a billion dollars worldwide after three weeks in release. That makes it the #1 movie of the summer {link no longer active}, and Guardians is shockingly on track to become the #1 superhero movie of the year, beating out Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Futurepast, and even Disney Marvel’s own Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

So how in the world did this happen, and what is Hollywood learning from a global blockbuster that stars a sitcom second banana, a pro wrestler, a walking tree and a talking raccoon

To be sure, Guardians of the Galaxy had its doubters. Motley Fool, ubiquitous on Yahoo’s front page, predicted the film would be a total flop. The main characters were known only to a handful of fanboys. Director James Gunn hadn’t made a movie that grossed more than $10 million {link no longer active} domestically.

Besides dubbing the whole project “magic,” and dubbing Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige as the new James Lasseter (founder of Pixar), here are the takeaways for Hollywood regarding Guardians’ remarkable success:

1. It Pays to Go to the Library

We can trace the roots to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie to the Marvel Screenwriters Program, started by Marvel Studios to cultivate writers and incubate properties from the vast library of Marvel Comics characters. An array of second and third tier titles were offered to participants, and Nicole Perlman {link no longer active} (who had touched up the Thor script) chose the obscure Guardians of the Galaxy. Although much has been made of James Gunn’s rewrite, the point is that without Marvel’s foresight in letting Perlman dig deep into its stacks, Gunn would have had no Groot.

We’re seeing this elsewhere, as studios finally come to grips with the fact that comic books and other fictional universes have tons to offer, particularly if writers and producers apply some audiovisual imagination. While the CW’s Smallville TV series borrowed from Superman’s rogues gallery in name only, the more recent Arrow has been bold in its depiction of such costumed villains as Deathstroke, Merlyn, and the Suicide Squad. Now Fox’s Gotham, ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, and NBC’s Constantine will be tapping dozens of characters that would electrify comics geeks, but are hardly known to the unwashed masses.

Wildly ahead of the curve, Marvel cut a deal for Netflix to finance an entire farm team of secondary and tertiary characters such as Power Man, Iron Fist, and the Defenders in a series of maxi-series. The studio has made no bones about the fact that, as opposed to the Warner Bros./DC television characters, these heroes can then show up in Agents of SHIELD or even the feature films.

After Marvel’s success, the majors are catching on as well. More than a dozen obscure mutants showed us a good time in Fox’s X-Men: Days of Futurepast. Cyborg and Aquaman will make their live action premieres in Batman v. Superman. Sony will be plumbing the depths of its contractual corner of the Marvel Universe by turning a number of Spider-Man villains {link no longer active} into anti-heroes and giving them their own film series.

2. It’s Not Just a Brand, It’s a Story World

Much has been made of the “Marvel brand’ and how it has become trustworthy entertainment, like Pixar. That’s true, but there is something more at play. Although at first blush Guardians of the Galaxy seems to have little to do with the adventures of Iron Man, Captain America and the Avengers, even less acquainted audience members quickly realize that we are in the same story world as those more familiar properties; we are squarely in the Marvel Universe {link no longer active}. The film’s tone, humor and themes are in keeping with the rest of the series; Thanos, an uber-villain glimpsed in Avengers, plays a larger role here; the MacGuffin is another of those pesky Infinity Stones that everybody seems to be after in many of the films.

From this perspective, Marvel Studios is pioneering a 21st century franchise production philosophy, where the “transmedia story world” (a persistent fictional universe that extends across an array of media platforms, with each piece a self-contained addition to a greater mythology) rules over the whims of talent or the politics of corporate suits. Why do it this way when it would be so much easier to let different directors, studios, and licensees do whatever they pleased with each character and storyline The proof is in the results:

Story worlds connect with fans because they simulate reality in terms of consistency, depth, and scope. We are implicitly told that there is a design sensibility to this world that the creators aren’t simply making it up as they go along. Story worlds appeal to our collectors’ mentality: the more we buy into them, the more complete the puzzle becomes, even though we know the picture will never be fully complete. That intrinsic interactivity is quite simply fun, and our natural inclination is to become loyal to it, and lead our friends to it.

Christopher Nolan’s vision of Batman was compelling, but by its nature it was exclusive and self-limiting. Interestingly, Warner Bros. has veered away from this auteurist approach, and as of Zack Snyder’s Superman v. Batman, is now emulating the Marvel Cinematic Universe, pulling in members of the Justice League to start building a DC movie story world in earnest.

Universal is finally pulling its act together and uniting their library of classic monsters (The Mummy, Van Helsing, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, etc.) into a single cinematic universe under the aegis of Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan. The studio is doubling down with Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, again acknowledging that the new reboot will tap into the breadth of her entire novel series, rather than simply adapting them one at a time with different casts and disparate visionaries at the helm.

Also, this year, the granddaddy of transmedia story worlds, Star Wars, has announced that all content moving forward “counts” and will be a part of a massive “interconnected long-form narrative.” Creator George Lucas had always made it clear that only his six films were the official story of Star Wars, and all of the thousands of comic books, hundreds of novels, and dozens of video games were not canonical. In a striking reversal, new Star Wars overseer Kathleen Kennedy has formed a mysterious story team deep within Lucasfilm, who will form a kind of narrative hub for the franchise, carefully coordinating between Disney, and a raft of licensees to make certain that if a Wookiee sneezes in a comic book, he gets a Gesundheit in a video game.

But it’s not just about appealing to the geeks, who have clearly inherited the media, if not the Earth. Story worlds make financial sense. Although movies may retain the prestige crown, we now live in a world where any content is accessible through a wide array of media platforms. More kids are being introduced to Harry Potter through the Lego video games than through the Scholastic books. It simply pays for the world we find first to be a vital part of the official world of the franchise, not simply a knock-off to make a buck off licensing. If any date can be the start of a long-term relationship, it behooves the storyteller to dress up a bit, and put their best foot forward.

3. Post-Millennials Are Vibing with Vulnerability

As the world seems to have grown harsher, there is a new closeness between Millennials (those born roughly after 1982) and their Gen-Z (or Pluralist) kids. Combine this with a greater sensitivity toward gender issues and “outsiders” in general, and you have a mass audience of — tweens and teens who are less interested in godlike beings (such as the heroes in the recent Superman and Green Lantern films), and more taken with heroes grappling with personal vulnerabilities, like we’re seeing in the Marvel films.

Director Gunn takes care to give us quick but touching back stories for most of the major characters in Guardians of the Galaxy. The result is that some soul slips into the bombast, and we relate to a band of loveable, strangely innocent weirdos. Interestingly, Universal is circling current vulnerability king Josh Boone, director of The Fault in Our Stars, to helm the first of their Vampire Chronicles.

The Fault in Our Stars

4. Talent Must Serve the Story World, Not the Other Way Around

Some have criticized {link no longer active} Marvel’s rapidly expanding universe of imposing a “house style” on filmmakers, stifling creativity and making the interconnected films and television shows hard to follow. Director Edgar Wright left Marvel’s Ant-Man ostensibly over creative differences stemming from the fact that he’d begun development on the project long before the move canon had matured, but was now being cajoled into bending his script to serve it. This could have meant adding characters from elsewhere in the canon, referencing the overall continuity outside of the story at hand, or even altering the plot to accommodate the superstructure of Marvel’s decade-long master plan.

We return to the distinction between a more traditional auteur-driven approach, and that of talent being brought in to create a new chapter in an ever-expanding but still integral story world. Marvel’s Kevin Feige brought an innate sense of reverence to the source material to the production process, dating all the way back to the launch of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. After all, when a writer or artist is brought in to script or draw an issue of a Marvel comic book, there were certain rules of style and continuity that had to be respected. Keep defying those and the entire universe starts to unravel. Why not observe the same approach with the movies? Keeping track of the canon is half the fun — as fans of soap operas and sports leagues would certainly attest. But does this kill creativity?

Directors such as Gunn, Joss Whedon (Avengers), and Anthony & Joe Russo (Captain America 2) don’t seem to think so. The Russos, in fact got to unfold a fairly subversive storyline with Winter Soldier, commenting sharply on America’s surveillance state. Gunn’s Guardians is fraught with themes and quirks that speak to his obsessions. Its psychedelic palette and surreal images hearken to the director’s love of 1970s pop culture, particularly prog-rock album covers, the airbrush painted sides of Chevy vans, and yes, Marvel Comics. But Gunn also understood walking into this situation that these toys are not his, and although his contribution to the sandbox counts big-time, he still has to play well with others. Like the best Frank Miller or Alan Moore scripted comic books, Gunn has proven that you can join a vast work in progress, yet still make your distinct voice heard over the din.

5. Keep it Warm

Finally, Guardians of the Galaxy hammers home the fact that warmth, cleverness and imagination will win out over uninvolving operatic spectacle any day. Godzilla became a low-key monster march the moment Bryan Cranston dropped from the movie. Lal-El’s aloofness in Man of Steel, capped by the decimation of Metropolis, left audiences slightly chilled. The first five minutes of Guardians, on the other hand, set millions of eyes glistening with tears, and our default response to the fundamental good-heartedness of its motley crew of outlaw heroes is to smile.

Warner Bros. was smart to cast a warmer Ben Affleck as Batman to Henry Cavill’s flinty Supes for the upcoming sequel. There is recent evidence that Superman’s costume will become less muted and more colorful {link no longer active}. Marvel may even take a cue from itself and infuse some of their Agents of SHIELD with a stronger sense of camaraderie, and humanizing emotional complexity in the show’s second season.

Breakthroughs don’t appear out of thin air, and it’s probably true that Guardians of the Galaxy would not have been nearly as successful five years ago as it is today, but it’s not just about the Marvel brand. Any number of studios can cobble together transmedia story worlds, but the true takeaway out of these five lessons is that audiences are tiring of spectacle without drama, confrontations without imagination, and super powers without heart. And a wiggling tree dude with Vin Diesel’s voice never hurts…


Jeff Gomez is CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a New York based production company that consults with Hollywood studios on some of their most popular entertainment franchises. Follow him @Jeff_Gomez.