Amazon’s Weird And Wonderful Marketing For ‘The Grand Tour’ Season 3

The third season of The Grand Tour recently returned to Amazon Prime and to promote it, the company used new strategies on different platforms. Amazon launched The Grand Tour Game, an episodic video game for fans to feel like they’re part of the show, and they concocted a clever hashtag not everyone wholly understood.

The Grand Tour, hosted by James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson, premiered its third season on January 18. It’s a spinoff of the original BBC series Top Gear which the trio presented until 2015. However, this version focuses on more than just the cars but on “three middle-aged men” traveling the world.

The show’s YouTube channel recently shared a promotional clip with May and Richard Hammond brainstorming for a new slogan for the upcoming season—meanwhile, Clarkson is in Sweden driving a Lamborgini around a frozen lake. The banter goes back and forth until hey arrive on “hit” as the correct descriptor. Hammond proceeds to make it “snappier” by working it into a hashtag: #amazonshitcarshow.

The clever marketing work by Amazon’s team got about 15-thousand likes on the initial tweet. Due to the deadpan delivery of the joke, there were mixed reactions. One user replied: “Not sure advertising it as ‘amazon shitcarshow’ was the best move…” The Grand Tour reacted, “??? We’re proud of #TheGrandTour being Amazon’s hit car show.” Other fans loved the play on words. Also, both primary hashtags for the show, #amazonshitcarshow and #thegrandtour, generate a Twitter-specific emoji of the three hosts—adding to the hilarity of it all.

The Grand Tour Game launched its first installment “Detroit Drift City” the same day as the show’s release date. The game and show will release simultaneously every Friday. Amazon Games Studios told Variety the game lets fans “emulate” situations from the show. Players can drive through Detroit, the city featured in the first episode, in a Demon, Exorcist or RTR. As more shows are released, players will have access to more events, tracks and cars. Additionally, there is a multiplayer option.

“This is not a game based in the universe of The Grand Tour, there have been video games based on movies or TV shows.  It’s literally playing the show—other game companies I think would be interested in and probably will end up making something like this as well,” Amazon Game Studios creative director Craig Sullivan said to Variety

It’s not the first time Amazon used gaming to promote The Grand Tour and market two of its properties at the same time. In 2017, Amazon created a livestream event through Twitch, which Amazon acquired in 2014, to promote the show’s second season. The interactive experience featured a battleship-style game board where players could blow up cars.

“We were looking for a way to get young adults to sample The Grand Tour,” Michael Benson, head of marketing at Amazon Prime Video, told AList at the time. “We knew that gamers on Twitch love live gaming, and [hosts] Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May love to execute incredible stunts with vehicles of all kinds on their show. So, we wondered if we could combine live gaming with car stunts on a global scale.”

Inside Kabam’s In-House Rebrand

After 12 years, three offices, dozens of games and $300 million in yearly revenue, game developer Kabam has decided to rebrand. Out goes the “bomb” image and in comes a bold, ombré orange ‘K’ and a new typeface. The project was incredibly intensive for the company.

For the last two years, Kabam’s team has listened to their users’s feedback to incorporate them into the rebranding process. They didn’t want their players just to love the games but also the changes surrounding the entire brand.

It took a year for Kabam to complete the rebrand and according to the company, it’s more than just an updated label—it’s a visual example of how far they’ve come. It’s blood, sweat and tears.

When Kabam was founded over ten years ago, the Motorola RAZR was alive and well, and the thought of playing a video game with other people on your phone was fiction. Kabam was originally conceived by Kevin Chou, Michael Li and Holly Liu under the name Watercooler, to connect sport and entertainment fans on various social media platforms. In 2009, they launched the game Kingdoms of Camelot on Facebook and transformed into a gaming company.

In 2016, the company was acquired by NetMarble, a South Korean game publishing company. It was a rough transition for Kabam, but the challenges made them who they are today. The new logo is a representation of Kabam’s resurgence.

“We wanted a brand, a logo that would capture that multiplicity of emotions and experiences, as opposed to the static logo that is more in line with the old days of the web,” said Tim Fields, CEO of Kabam. Fields has been making games and software professionally since 1995 and his resume includes Microsoft and Capcom.

“It really took us about a year after that acquisition to get back on our feet and figure out who’s who and [what] the world will look like. That kind of thing is transformative to a company,” Fields added.

The rebranding isn’t just representative of Kabam’s technological advances, business changes, but also indicative of the sense of community at the company.

Instead of contracting out the job, the gaming company put together an in-house team that consisted of multiple disciplines to work on the brand project. They wanted to guarantee representation and input from intersectional views and backgrounds within the company.

At one point, Kabam finished a new logo design but came to the realization they need take a step back, and eventually concluded they need scrap it. The team engaged in healthy debates and worked on communicating with each other to make sure they were on the same page. It was vital everyone was happy with the project.

“I don’t know exactly what the final cost was, but I will tell you that it is insignificant to me compared to what we accomplished which is to make sure that everybody here at the company really loves the way they’re represented now,” said Fields. “I wish you could see everybody here in Vancouver wearing their new shirts.”

The rebranding process took an enormous amount of internal resources. Kabam did commission a video announcing the new logo from an outside vendor. The 1:10-second video appeals to consumers’ emotions while playing games and kicks off with blue butterflies forming the new logo with the words “Embrace zen-like calm,” alongside meditative music. The colors gradually change as the video progresses and it finishes by declaring “Unleash your emotions, experience Kabam.”

“We wanted to celebrate all the different emotions that players experience, while they are playing our games. And we also decided to encourage some of those emotions a little bit more. It’s really representative more of our personality: we are passionate, we are fighting and gaming and adventurous. That’s the whole basis of the rebrand,” said Callie Jenkins, Kabam’s senior director of product marketing.

Kabam’s rebranding turned out to be more than just a new logo, it was an essential process for the company itself.

“We have a very strong culture of gaming; we play our games together. Every single day. My mom would say, ‘Tim, you don’t do anything at work but play games.’ I don’t think that’s entirely true, but I do think that that’s one of the things that allows us to keep a small-company-feel that remains very important to us.”

Amazon’s IMDb Announces Free, Ad-Supported Video Channel

Amazon is joining the realm of free, ad-supported (AVOD) streaming services through IMDb. The company announced its launching Freedive, a channel offering viewers in the U.S. the ability to watch a large library of TV shows as well as popular films.

The subscription-free content can be streamed through a laptop, personal computer and on all Amazon Fire TV devices. Previously, IMDb only offered short-form original series, trailers and celebrity interviews—and no IMDb isn’t going away, everything will be integrated into Freedive like The IMDb Show and No Small Parts. 

“Customers already rely on IMDb to discover movies and TV shows and decide what to watch,” said Col Needham, founder and CEO of IMDb, in a press release.

“With the launch of IMDb Freedive, they can now also watch full-length movies and TV shows on IMDb and all Amazon Fire TV devices for free. We will continue to enhance IMDb Freedive based on customer feedback and will soon make it available more widely, including on IMDb’s leading mobile apps.”

The Amazon-owned company will also feature X-Ray, a playoff on what IMDb is popular for, information on cast, crew, trivia and more.

Ad-supported streaming is changing the video subscription-based landscape. The World Advertising Research Center (WARC) expects the service’s ad spend to double to $47 billion by 2023. in 2019, its expected AVOD will receive around $23 billion in brand investment.

During the 2018 holiday season, AVOD competitor Roku launched its first-ever “Stream-a-thon,” to allow their users to stream certain movies and TV shows for free. The Roku Channel offers ad-supported movies, TV, news, sports and other shows. Last May, the company saw more profits with ads and licensing fees than hardware—a first for Roku.

At CES 2019, Plex—a client-server media player system—also announced it would launch an ad-support service. According to TechCrunch, it could come as early as this year.

Freedive is available now at www.imdb.com/freedive. Fire TV customers can see the IMDb Freedive icon in the “Your Apps & Channels” line.

Pepsi, Walmart Debut Ads During Golden Globes; Netflix Rebukes Commercials

The Golden Globes pulled in 18.6 million viewers this year. Pepsi and Walmart, in what seems like a pre-Super Bowl test, premiered new campaigns during the event.

Pepsi’s 60-second spot featuring William H. Macy was met with positive reviews. It’s not a campaign, but more a content series Pepsi will release through 2019. Walmart, on the other hand, launched its “Walmart Grocery Pickup” campaign, featuring famous film automobiles, appropriate for the show which recognizes excellence in film and TV.

Netflix did its own stint, but with a tweet. The streaming service got awards for a few of its shows.  However, Netflix doesn’t submit its audience to ads and they recently made big waves with its hit “Bird Box.”

Pepsi’s Alien Encounter with William H. Macy

The hilarious spot features an Arrival-like alien invasion and the military has hired “the best decoders in the world” in order to communicate with the extraterrestrial creatures. However, a lonely janitor—played by William H. Macy—breaks through with Pepsi. Macy looks at the ship, walks over to it without fear and offers the alien the carbonated drink.

Todd Kaplan, vice president of marketing for colas at Pepsi, told Variety they want to create entertainment and “something people want to look for and lean into.” The ad will only be online for viewers to watch and not be aired on TV again. Kaplan added he wants consumers to “find it on their own.”

Walmart Promotes Their Grocery Pickup With ‘Famous Cars’

The “Walmart Grocery Pickup” campaign kicked off during Golden Globes. It’s the company’s inaugural cross-platform national marketing campaign for the service. In their press release, the company said they chose these “famous cars” because it would be “instantly recognizable to our customers.” The cars were also picked to indicate how simple and easy the service is and most importantly it’s for all walks of life and all types of vehicles.

The 60-second spot features the Ghostbusters car, Ecto-1, the Dumb and Dumber dog van, Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine and several other iconic rides. It demonstrates various Walmart employees delivering the goods to the vehicles. The main platform for the campaign will be TV, but the “famous cars” content will be seen on social media, radio and Walmart stores.

Netflix’s Snide Golden Globes Tweet

The streaming service tweeted “Shoutout to everyone who is watching commercials for the first time in several months.” The tweet got approximately 64,000 likes and about 5,000 retweets. One tweet user responded by saying “Skipped the Golden Globes and just watched #BirdBox instead.” Certainly relevant, after the movie got about 45 million subscriber accounts to watch it during its first week.

Netflix wasn’t ignored at the Golden Globes. They won five awards, two for The Kominsky Method, The Bodyguard got one for best performance by an actor and Roma got one for best director of a motion picture.

Bumble’s Super Bowl Campaign Stars Serena Williams; Produced Entirely By Women

Tennis champion Serena Williams will star in Bumble’s year-long marketing campaign “The Ball is in Her Court.” The campaign will debut during the 2019 Super Bowl on February 3 and will appear across multiple platforms. It was also produced entirely by women.

A 30-second video preview with Bumble CEO and founder Whitney Wolfe Herd and Serena Williams has been released. The two women are sitting in a tennis court discussing the campaign—aimed at female empowerment. It will also promote the social networking app’s newer, platonic features, Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz.

“When the ball is in your court, we have the opportunity to take the first step,” said Williams in the spot. “Is it in life, is it in relationships, is it in career, it’s in your court and it’s for you to make that decision.”

Williams isn’t only the face of the campaign. The new Bumble advisor also used her creativity to help the all-female team develop it. In a highly male-centric sport like football, debuting it on Super Bowl Sunday is a notable step especially after 2018’s #MeToo movement.

Founded in 2014, Bumble requires female users to initially message—or make the first move—when matched with a male user. In the last four years, the app has boomed and branched out, now allowing users to search for platonic friends through Bumble BFF and business relationships through Bumble Bizz.

The company has also experimented with getting users to connect in person.

In November, Bumble partnered with Moxy Hotels to create “Bumblespots,” staging an event where users could meet up. The event launched in New York City and appeared in other cities like Chicago, Denver and Seattle. The experiential partnership was designed to highlight Bumble’s friendship features and business networking.

The event offered a consultation with Bumble’s profile doctors who gave users advice on filling out their profiles. Attendees could also show the app at the bar to get food discounts and a customer drink menu.

Last summer, Bumble and HBO invited a few select people to watch movies and mingle in a New York brownstone, encouraging them to spend a night in. The Bumble Date and BFF app users could sign up, but only 65 people could attend each night. The event had 10 screening rooms on different floors and branded areas to take pictures with the hashtag #StayHometotheMoves.

Currently, Bumble has about 47 million app users worldwide.

Google Leverages ‘Home Alone’ Nostalgia For Voice Assistant Marketing

Google is capitalizing on a holiday classic to demonstrate its virtual assistant. “Home Alone Again” stars Macaulay Culkin as an adult Kevin McAllister who still has a few tricks up his sleeve—and one of them is Google Assistant.

A new holiday campaign for Google’s connected products launched on Wednesday with a parody of the 1990 film Home Alone. Now 38 years old, McAllister wakes to find himself once again alone in the house but this time, he has Google Assistant to help out. He recreates key scenes from the original film—jumping on the bed, using aftershave, ordering pizza and staging a fake party to discourage burglars. Each of the scenarios now includes a Google device that helps make the process easier, from setting reminders to wash the sheets and order aftershave to reading one’s schedule and turning on home automation.

The campaign runs through January 3 and will be distributed across broadcast, digital, social, and movie theatres. In the meantime, Google Assistant users can access Home Alone Easter eggs by asking the following questions:

  • Hey Google, how much do I owe you?
  • Hey Google, did I forget something?
  • Hey Google, the Wet Bandits are here.
  • Hey Google, it’s me Snakes. I got the stuff.
  • Hey Google, I’m the man of the house.

Google Assistant’s creative team paid special attention to the original film down to framing the shots, decorating the sets and shoot sequences. Google displays side-by-side shot comparisons and a look behind the scenes here.

Nearly 30 years after its release, the movie continues to capture audience attention and creates nostalgia for multiple generations. In fact, Google reports that consumers search for Home Alone every year. Interest in the title spiked 1900 percent in a month last December, with the highest traffic occurring Christmas Day.

Nostalgia gives consumers a sense of security in that it’s a brand or product they already know and love. As we continue to enter an “Emotional Economy,” tugging at the consumers’ heartstrings will become more of a priority for marketing leaders in the future.

Mobile Devs More Optimistic About In-Game Ads Than Two Years Ago

Mobile game developers are still torn on whether advertisements are a monetization opportunity or necessary evil. According to deltaDNA’s annual ad survey, developers are more confident overall in their marketing strategies but struggle to balance ad revenue with player experience.

DeltaDNA has published the results of its annual in-game advertising survey. The study, which surveyed 336 developers in the mobile free-to-play (F2P) market, examines how ad strategies have evolved over the last several years.

Respondents were split nearly 50/50 between those developing casual titles (55 percent) versus core games (45 percent).

Casual games tend to host more advertising than core titles at 95 percent and 76 percent, respectively. Developers of casual titles are more aggressive with advertising strategies, the survey found. Ads are shown to players during the first session, although a majority of respondents claim to show only one ad per session thereafter.

Rewarded videos, which grant players in-game bonuses for watching an ad, account for the highest usage rate among respondents at 65 percent. Interstitial and banner ads round out the top three, although banner ads are on the decline, deltaDNA notes. Playable ads serve as miniature game demos and are favored by 21 percent of respondents compared to 12 percent in 2017.

When choosing an ad strategy, the biggest concern among both casual and core developers was player churn, followed by lower levels of player enjoyment. Core game developers were particularly concerned about the impact of ads on in-app purchases (IAP), while casual titles were worried about app store ratings.

Regardless of concerns, in-game advertising plays a major role in developer income and even higher than last year. In 2017, only 10 percent of casual games earned more than 80 percent of their revenue from ads, but this year, that number jumps to 16 percent. Likewise, half of core games made more than 20 percent of total revenue from advertising but that number jumps to 70 percent in 2018.

A majority of ads are sourced from multiple networks, the survey found, with 59 percent citing between two and five. Over the last three similar surveys, this number has dropped 10 percent overall. In fact, more respondents used a large number of ad networks last year and now 27 percent turn to a single source.

Developers have become more confident in their advertising strategies. A majority of respondents view these strategies as “balanced,” followed by “experimental.” The number of developers who consider themselves as “confident” has grown by 55 percent.

In 2016, deltaDNA asked developers if they viewed advertising as a “necessary evil.” Just over half said yes at the time, compared to 36 percent today.

PUBG Taps Hollywood Filmmakers For Live-Action PS4 Campaign

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has landed on PlayStation 4 alongside a live-action trailer called “Pan-demonium.” Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong: Skull Island), the action-packed short film illustrates the chaos PUBG is known for, as well as Hollywood’s intimate ties to the video game industry.

The campaign includes :60, :30 and :15 versions of the film, which will air on television around the world. A longer version will also play on the official PUBG website.

“Pan-demonium” stars Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton) as a PUBG player that has been dropped into a hostile environment. He must act fast, select a weapon and survive because everyone is gunning for him—literally. In a comedic twist, the man chooses a frying pan and does surprisingly well with it. Alliances are soon formed and the man is ultimately saved by a friend (Jurassic World‘s Nick Robinson) who fights from a safe distance.

For the uninitiated, PUBG started a battle royale craze in the same way that DOOM spawned first-person shooters. Players are dropped onto a shrinking playing field where they must use cover, scrounge weapons and fight one another for dominance. In short, the last one standing wins.

“When approaching this campaign, I wanted to capture and translate the individual moments of emotion the gameplay elicits from a player when experiencing PUBG,” Vogt-Roberts said. “I wanted gamers and fans of the title to watch this piece and feel that the filmmaker and team behind this spot understood the authentic fun that has made PUBG a piece of the zeitgeist.”

Vogt-Roberts directed a live-action spot for Destiny 2 and is currently directing the film adaption of Metal Gear Solid, so it’s pretty safe to say that he understands gaming. Regardless, he doesn’t assume all viewers will be familiar with PUBG.

“I wanted to find a way to bottle that magic and the excitement, kinetic rush, and idiosyncrasies of PUBG for its fans, while also making it accessible to new viewers, whether they’ve played PUBG before or not,” he added.

Live-action video game trailers have been around for decades, but have become much more sophisticated in recent years. They also feature A-list Hollywood talent both in front of and behind the camera.

“Pan-demonium,” for example, features the cinematography by Chung-Hoon Chung (IT) and the stunt direction of Robert Alonzo (Deadpool). The campaign was produced by RSA Films—Sir Ridley Scott’s creative group behind campaigns like The Macallan’s Make the Call and Blade Runner 2049: Nexus Dawn, a prequel to the 2017 film.

AM/FM Still Important To Marketers But Be Quick About It, Says Pandora

The car radio is still a major source of audio consumption, but it is not immune to a growing intolerance for commercials—in fact, AM/FM is more vulnerable. According to a new study by Pandora, Edison Research and Omni Media Group, marketers will need to be creative and keep messages brief if they want to engage commuters.

The Commuter Code” examines the habits of 1,100 consumers that spend at least 20 minutes in each direction of their commutes. In addition to survey questions, GoPro cameras were installed in 109 cars to observe these habits first-hand.

A majority of AM/FM listeners switch channels as soon as they hear an ad, according to the findings. In fact, the GoPro camera observed that commuters switched three-times as often while listening to AM/FM than any other source of audio in the car.

The study attributes this to a number of factors. For one, radio presets simply make it easy to switch channels away from a commercial or undesired song. Secondly, radio music is impersonal and ads are played back-to-back.

Pandora recommends that marketers consider pod placement whenever possible and consider this fast-switching environment when developing creative for car listeners. “Shorter-length, quick-engagement ads are keys to getting heard,” they advise.

Of course, Pandora stands to benefit quite a bit from traditional AM/FM advertisers switching to digital options. According to a Statista study in March, Pandora has the third most users for a music streaming service, at 36.8 million.

Nearly a third (29 percent) of all audio is consumed in the car, Pandora asserts, but sources have evolved toward digital—connecting one’s phone or cars with built-in connectivity. In fact, 71 percent of commuters say it is “important” for their next vehicle to have an in-dash system that can receive information and entertainment over the internet. Just over half (56 percent) have connected their phones to the car to listen.

Despite the drawbacks, AM/FM remains a draw for 68 percent of commuters that agreed to have a GoPro in their vehicle for this study. The camera observed that 38 percent of the in-car time was spent listening was to speech-based content and 26 percent to streaming audio or podcasts.

As with any study, commuter listening habits tend to differ with age and gender. Women, commuters between the ages of 18-34 and those with longer commutes tend to switch audio sources more frequently. Men, those at least 55 years old and those with the shortest commutes tend to stick with one source on the drive.

Regardless of where they listen, AM/FM radio isn’t going off the air just yet. According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report 2017, Gen Z spent over 35 hours per month listening to AM/FM radio and 88 percent of Gen Zers do each week. In fact, the report finds that AM/FM radio reaches 88 percent of Generation Z in the US each week and 93 percent of millennials.

NatGeo, WeWork Promote New Series With ’90s-Themed Workspaces

NatGeo has partnered with WeWork to promote its new series, Valley of the Boom with a series of location takeovers. As the show delves into the dot-com bubble, select WeWork locations have been made to look like 1990s-era offices, right down to the blocky desktop computers.

Monday visitors to WeWork locations in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles might feel as if they’ve been transported to a different time. These offices have been turned into “Valley of the Boom Internet Cafés” designed to inspire a sense of nostalgia and immerse consumers into the 1990s dot-com gold rush.

The branded installation includes authentic desktop computers from the period, loaded with games like Oregon Trail, Tetris and Doom. Visitors are encouraged to share photos of the experiential marketing activation using the hashtag #ValleyOfTheBoom—in fact, they will be rewarded. Sharing the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram will prompt an onsite vending machine to dispense 90s-era candy, toys and trading cards.

Each Valley of the Boom Internet Café will also offer on-site professional services that include LinkedIn expert consultations, professional headshots and career development opportunities.

Valley of the Boom debuts this winter on NatGeo. The series describes the rise and fall of the dot-com bubble with players like Netscape, The Globe and Pixelon, told through stylized recreations and interviews with the people who were there. Valley of the Boom features a myriad of respected actors including Bradley Whitford (Get Out), John Karna (Lady Bird) and Lamorne Morris (New Girl).

In January, WeWork will host screenings of the first two episodes, followed by discussions with experts and talent from the series.

WeWork has entered into a number of brand partnerships lately, including American Express. Beginning in February, Business Platinum Card Members will receive information about Platinum Global Access from WeWork, which includes one year of complimentary access to WeWork locations around the world.