Beer Brands’ Super Bowl Game Plan? NFTs And Metaverse Bars

Beers and blockchain will be front and center during this year’s Super Bowl. Anheuser-Busch InBev—the official alcohol sponsor of the NFL—is celebrating the launch of Bud Light’s new zero-carb beer, Next, with a foray into the metaverse.

As part of its first NFT collection, Bud Light will sell 12,7222 unique tokens that give purchasers ways to experience all things Next, including the ability to vote on future brand merchandise designs, access to brand and partner events, rewards and other “surprises.”

Each NFT combines a two-part background with an icon that represents beer, culture, gaming, music and entertainment, according to the brewing giant. There are two types of rarities: “N3xt” and “Diamond,” which will be revealed after mint.

Bud Light tokens go on sale for $399 each starting February 6. Anyone 21 and over can buy them directly through Bud Light’s microsite with the cryptocurrency ETH, Bitcoin or with a credit card. Bud Light says there will be a $10,000 cap per person per day for all purchases.

AB InBev has been the NFL’s official alcohol sponsor since 2010, forcing Miller Lite to sit and watch from the sidelines. The metaverse, however, has provided a loophole. This year, Miller Lite will crash the Super Bowl party with a virtual “Meta Lite Bar” patrons can experience via Decentraland. A classic-style tavern—where people can play darts and billiards, snap selfies in a photo booth and play tunes from a vintage jukebox—is also the only place fans can see Miller Lite’s Super Bowl ad that will run adjacent to the event.

As part of a giveaway Miller Lite is hosting inside its blockchain bar, an average of 10 patrons daily will win $500 in real cash to go toward their Super Bowl celebration. The giveaway will run from February 7 at 8 a.m. ET until February 13.

AB InBev will remain NFL’s official alcohol sponsor for an additional five years starting in March 2022. Under a new agreement, it’ll no longer have total alcohol exclusivity but will retain rights to beer and hard seltzers.

Xbox Commemorates 20th Anniversary With Virtual Museum

On November 15, 2021, Microsoft celebrated 20 years of Xbox and Halo with a series of activations including the early launch of the free-to-play Halo Infinite Multiplayer Beta and Season 1, a backward compatibility program that lets you replay thousands of games spanning the franchise’s 20-year history, a six-episode documentary series that takes you back to the company’s scrappy beginnings and more.

The one that topped them all: Xbox’s virtual 3D museum, where gamers can choose their avatar and camera POV to immerse themselves in the franchise’s history of consoles, games and infamous mistakes like Microsoft’s attempt to acquire Nintendo in 2000.

Digital exhibits scattered throughout offer details about the creation and debut dates of each Xbox console and their iterations, including Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One and the more recent Xbox Series X and S.

In your personal Xbox museum, you can reminisce on your previous gameplay as Xbox provides a personalized overview of what and how many games you’ve played and the date of your first Xbox Live login.

Some notable milestones in Xbox’s history: Bill Gates and The Rock unveiled the first Xbox in January 2001, Xbox went global in March 2002 with European and Australian launches and Xbox launched Live in November 2002. In 2012, Microsoft launched Xbox Entertainment Studios and two years later, it purchased Mojang for $2.5 billion.

Users have to log in with their Microsoft account for the full Xbox museum experience but those who don’t have one can still access a basic digital timeline of the franchise’s history.

Active Theory developed the interactive Xbox museum, utilizing visuals that would evoke nostalgia for fans. “This involved looking at how the graphics and visuals of different generations of Xbox over the years, ranging from the evolving UI in the menu screens to iconic games themselves,” Active Theory strategist Eddie Benson told Muse.

This week, Microsoft announced its acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in an all-cash transaction that will make it the world’s third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. The tech giant says it plans to launch Activision Blizzard games into its subscription service Game Pass, which boasts over 25 million subscribers. Upon the deal’s close, slated for the 2023 fiscal year, Microsoft will have 30 internal game development studios.

Understanding The World Of Brand And Music Partnerships With Columbia Records’ Jennifer Frommer

Jennifer Frommer is the Senior Vice President of Creative Content and Brand Partnerships at Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music.

In this episode, Jennifer and I discuss how she broke into the music industry, the brand partnerships she’s worked on, which includes products like Beats headphones and musicians like Lil Nas X, Beyonce, Adele, and many others. The brands she’s helped partner with include Tiffany & Co., Jaguar, Taco Bell, Pepsi, Samsung, Microsoft, Google, and many more. Jennifer believes the future of differentiating your brand comes with partnering with the musicians and artists your customers love.

Later in the show, we discuss brand partnerships and collaborations, how they work, what works best for brands, how to work with artists, and how those artists’ collaborations come together. Listen to find out more about the world of marketing and music.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The creative, organic integration of brands and music
  • The advantage of brands partnering with musicians
  • The keys to success for a brand and an artist collaboration

Key Highlights

  • [01:36] Working with Lil Nas X
  • [04:12] Getting to be SVP of Creative Content Brand Partnerships
  • [06:40] Miracle Whip and Lady Gaga
  • [09:34] Lil Nas X and Taco Bell
  • [10:32] The current state of branded partnerships
  • [12:53] What success looks like
  • [20:10] Which brands are executing partnerships well
  • [23:49] The importance of mutual trust
  • [24:44] An experience that defines Jennifer
  • [25:37] Jennifer’s advice for her younger self
  • [26:40] What marketers should be learning more about
  • [27:41] The brands and organizations Jennifer follows
  • [28:31] The biggest threat and opportunity to marketing today

Resources Mentioned:

Follow the podcast:

Connect with the Guest:

Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

TikTok Emphasizes The Power Of Sound

For TikTok, whose logo is is modeled after the shape of a music note, music is everything. Just look at the Billboard top music charts and it’s easy to draw direct lines to songs that have taken off on TikTok.

Trends on the platform largely revolve around trending sounds, which has made careers for artists who have broken through. Now, we are seeing the music industry cater to creating music with viral potential on TikTok, and has now become the preferred channel for marketing new music releases.

“It’s the top of every label’s strategy for getting their artists out there,” says Bryan Cosgrove, Director of Commercial Music and Creative Licensing at TikTok in a blog post. “And what’s driving these campaigns is not high touch from anyone at the organization, but the community. We’ve really let the community power that discovery and power that engagement.”

But this impact isn’t only extending into the music industry, but how brands are leveraging the platform. 

According to TikTok’s own statistics, 50 percent of users say music makes content on TikTok more engaging, uplifting and energizing, with 88 percent of users citing sound as a vital component to the TikTok experience.

It’s been well-known for decades the power that sound has for brand recall. Jingles and sonic logos have long leveraged sound’s impact. 

According to TikTok’s data, brand recall with sound is 8x greater than brand visuals, colors, slogans and logos, showing that now more than ever, it is important for brands to manage their sonic identity.

2021 Clio Awards Recognize Ayzenberg’s Work With Xbox

This week, winners for the 2021 Clio Entertainment Awards were announced after a long wait for the ad world. With 175 jurors from 30 countries, this year’s program had the largest jury pool in its 61-year history. Judges had double the amount of entries to assess due to the pandemic canceling last year’s awards.

Ayzenberg Group’s submitted work for Microsoft Xbox led to numerous Clio awards. Among them, a silver win in the Games Product Innovation category and a silver award in the Games Social Content Campaign category, both for Xbox. Ahead, learn more about the award-winning work and those that made it possible.

Microsoft Xbox

Xbox Mini Fridge – World Premiere

What started as a viral meme turned into a reality as Microsoft responded to the internet’s request to make and sell a mini-fridge replica of the Xbox Series X console. The mini-fridge made its world premiere in a 60-second video, created by Ayzenberg Group, and racked up 1.6 million views within the first 24 hours of posting. The agency won a silver Clio in the Product Innovation category for the key art and video, which includes dramatic scenes of floating microscopic spheres, gameplay of popular Xbox games like Halo and a call to “Xbox and Chill” with a literal Xbox fridge.


  • Director, Xbox Global Marketing Craig McNary, Microsoft Xbox
  • Chief Creative Officer Gary Goodman, Ayzenberg
  • VP, Executive Creative Director Joey Jones, Ayzenberg
  • Creative Director Allen Bey, Ayzenberg
  • Executive Producer Jonathan Clark, Ayzenberg
  • Creative Producer Karisa Callahan, Ayzenberg
  • Sr Design Director Aaron Frebowitz, Ayzenberg
  • Sr Art Director Kingsley Harden, Ayzenberg

Microsoft Xbox

Xbox Takes Over Social

Ayzenberg also won a silver Clio in the Games Social Content Campaign category for the video and key art it created for Microsoft’s “Xbox Takes Over Social” campaign. The video shares how Xbox overhauled its voice and tone on social media to transform itself from a corporate brand to an ambassador of genuine gaming fandom. The video explains how Xbox extended its attitudinal shift and cultural scope to encompass more than just gaming, including embracing difficult conversations around social issues all while making its gaming updates entertaining. Modifying its presence on social media and in the gaming community-led Xbox to earn 4.1 billion impressions, 6.8 million new followers, 107 million engagements and $137 million in total earned media value—breaking every social media record it ever held.


  • Sr Marketing Manager Devin Moore, Microsoft Xbox
  • Sr Marketing Manager Kate Fisher, Microsoft Xbox
  • Social Media Manager Bardi Moradi, Microsoft Xbox
  • Account Director Shawn Hartwig, Ayzenberg
  • Associate Project Manager Bryant Vu, Ayzenberg
  • Art Director Vu Nguyen, Ayzenberg

Microsoft Xbox

Series S Reveal Video

Ayzenberg won a bronze Clio in the Games/Electronics category for the trailer and key art it created around Microsoft’s new Xbox Series S console launch. The computer-generated video begins with droplets of black fluid suspended in space before they assemble into a part of the console. White droplets follow suit as hip-hop music plays and the Xbox logo emerges from the white liquid. The fully constructed console stands before the viewer as facts and specs appear beside it. 


  • Director, Xbox Global Marketing, Craig McNary, Microsoft Xbox
  • Sr Manager, Xbox Global Marketing, Josh Munsee, Microsoft Xbox
  • Chief Creative Officer, Gary Goodman, Ayzenberg
  • Creative Director, Allen Bey, Ayzenberg
  • Sr Producer Rebecca Breithaupt, Ayzenberg
  • Account Supervisor Chy Lin, Ayzenberg

Microsoft Xbox

Xbox Design Lab Relaunch

Ayzenberg won a second bronze Clio in the Games/Electronics category for the video and key art it produced for Microsoft’s “Xbox Design Lab Relaunch,” which announced Microsoft’s reopening of its Xbox Design Lab where gamers can customize their Xbox Series X or S controller with a variety of expressions. The 55-second spot shows the process a fan would go through to customize their controller online.


  • Sr Manager, Xbox Global Marketing Josh Munsee, Microsoft Xbox
  • Integrated Marketing Manager Courtney Luk, Microsoft Xbox
  • Chief Creative Officer Gary Goodman, Ayzenberg
  • Creative Director Allen Bey, Ayzenberg
  • Executive Producer Jonathan Clark, Ayzenberg
  • Account Supervisor Chy Lin, Ayzenberg

TikTok Is Named VidCon 2022 Title Sponsor

VidCon is set to return in June 2022 with TikTok as title sponsor after a two-year hiatus induced by the COVID pandemic. The four-day event will take place at the Anaheim Convention Center and will feature a roster of popular creators including Molly Burke, Walter Geoffrey the Frenchie, Hannah Meloche, Alyssa McKay, Brent Rivera and more.

If the June 22-25, 2022 event goes according to plan, TikTok, as title sponsor, will present the keynote address, bring its native talent and resident executives to participate in all three of VidCon’s tracks (i.e., for fans, creators and industry execs), and sponsor some of the expo hall stages.

TikTok was set to title sponsor VidCon US 2021, nabbing the position from YouTube after it held the role of lead sponsor since 2013. The upcoming event is TikTok’s chance to shine.

“At TikTok we’re thrilled to expand upon our partnership with VidCon, where helping creators learn, collaborate and elevate is at the core of our shared mission,” said Bryan Thoensen, head of content partnerships at TikTok.

VidCon, owned by ViacomCBS, has released the first set of creators who will be attending IRL. The list includes: Alan Chikin Chow, Alex Ojeda, Alyssa McKay, Amanda Rach Lee, Benjamin De Almeida (aka Benoftheweek), Brent Rivera, CaptainPuffy, Courtney Quinn (aka Color Me Courtney), Crissa Jackson, DangMattSmith, Devon Rodriguez, Elliana, Gigi Gorgeous, Hannah Meloche, Hannahxxrose, Jasminexgonzalez, Jonny Morales, Julian Bass, Kira Kosarin, MeganPlays, The Merrell Twins, Molly Burke, Nadia Caterina Munno (aka The Pasta Queen), Nia Sioux, the Onyx Family, SeanDoesMagic, SkincareByHyram, Sir Carter, Tubbo, Walter the Frenchie and Wasil Daoud. 

After celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, VidCon will return to Anaheim with both a digital and in-person ticketing option for the first time. The move is part of its 2020 brand refresh that debuted a new logo and worldwide release of VidCon Now, its digital programming arm that features free creator-made content each week.

A List Games To Create Live Service Games Within The Ayzenberg Group

A List Games, the game publisher backed by Ayzenberg Group, has announced its plans to start creating evergreen, live service video game franchises and offer developers full-service publishing efforts, funding, mentoring and AAA marketing.

A List’s core team was formed following two decades of experience helping the biggest industry names bring dozens of hit titles to market including Bethesda Softworks, ArenaNet, Blizzard and Electronic Arts. From performance marketing and influencer relations to social media and localization, A List Games offers publishing resources to smaller live service games that are otherwise unobtainable.

“We publish live service games because we love building and inspiring communities. By making sure the community comes first, we can focus when, where and how we use Ayzenberg’s creative might to drive player engagement and retention, strengthening the relationships between players and game developers,” said A List Games senior vice president Steve Fowler.

Fowler, who’s also the founder of AListDaily, has been in the video game industry for over 23 years working on the marketing and publishing side.

Hell is Others and Kingshunt, A List Games’ first two multiplayer games, are tentatively scheduled to launch on PC for Steam in 2022. Hell is Others is a top-down shooter requiring players to survive, harvest and farm in a noirish, Lovecraftian world featuring a blood-fueled economy. Kingshunt is a third-person multiplayer online battle arena where players can summon fierce minions and place powerful towers.

“A List understands gaming audiences, game developers and the need to grow a game in an authentic manner. Their marketing prowess and mentorship give us the confidence that Hell is Others can be a great success,” Strelka chief executive Pietro De Grandi said in a press release.

A List Games’ ultimate goal is to grow communities, raise awareness, create and execute launch campaigns to help partners’ games rise above the crowded market.  The new live service game publisher will leverage Ayzenberg’s 250-person team, which creates for clients such as Amazon Game Studios, Blizzard, CCP, Nexon, Proletariat, Riot and Xbox.

“A List offered us much-needed experience in marketing, community building and using data to improve our game. Their commitment to helping us deliver on our creative vision and help us grow a real community around Kingshunt has been fantastic,” Teemu Jykinen, president and studio head of Vaki Games said.

Interested developers who think their game would benefit from A List Games publishing can learn more on the A List Games website or follow the company on LinkedIn.

TikTok Sensation Khaby Lame Helps Xbox Launch “Simply Next Gen” Campaign With Ayzenberg And ION

Don’t sell to Gen Z, entertain them. Few brands take this advice to heart as much as Xbox. This time, the internet culture connoisseurs at Xbox, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary, have partnered with Ayzenberg and Khabane “Khaby” Lame – one of the world’s most popular TikTok creators, with 120.7 million followers – on a campaign to encourage holiday sales of its Xbox Series S console. 

Launching today, “Simply Next Gen” comes to life via a video in which Senegalese-born Lame—who became a viral sensation for his underproduced, deadpan TikTok reaction videos about finding easier ways to do burdensome things—is shown watching a clip of a tree knocking down an outdoor fort moments after its builder secured its foundation.

A simpler way to build (or demolish) forts as Khaby demonstrates? Simple—turn on your Xbox Series S with the touch of a button and play Fortnite. The campaign will launch on Khaby’s TikTok and will be supported across Xbox’s owned and operated channels.


Simple as that. The Xbox Series S is Simply Next Gen @Khabane lame #gaming #simplynextgen

♬ original sound – Xbox

Ayzenberg and Xbox’s decision to partner with Khaby marks a growing trend among brands utilizing influencers to reach a targeted audience. In this case, the “Simply Next Gen” target audience isn’t the typical gaming audience that game influencers tend to reach.

According to Ayzenberg chief creative officer Gary Goodman, the main goal of “Simply Next Gen” is to connect with those who may be new to console gaming and are generally considered casual gamers. Ayzenberg believes that the Xbox Series S is the lowest barrier to entry for those who want to experience true “Next Gen Gaming.”

Five years ago, Khaby wouldn’t have been a part of the campaign equation. Goodman says instead, the agency would be looking at a more traditional entertainment celebrity from film, TV, music, or sports to appeal to this wider audience.

A campaign of that nature would’ve had to have been amplified with a pretty hefty media buy, so much of which would’ve been a shotgun approach to hopefully find the right audience. With Xbox’s “Simply Next Gen” campaign, Ayzenberg sought to communicate to an audience that already knows and values Khaby’s core message.

“As Xbox’s Social Media AOR, we have spent the last eight-plus years honing our integration of Creative, Strategy and Audience so that we are able to bring really targeted ideas like this to our client that we both know how to execute and that we know will perform,” said Goodman.

Though influencers have commanded a larger portion of brands’ marketing budgets in recent years, at this point it’s second nature for Xbox to capitalize on moments like those that Lame is so skilled at creating. For Xbox, being authentic in who they are and how they communicate to their vast, diverse audience is a huge priority, one that requires an influencer whose core message and authenticity align with what a brand is trying to say.

“What’s so exciting about working with influencers is that they have built their own audiences out of the very same tenets – they are being themselves every day and the world tunes in to watch and support them,” Goodman told AList.

Goodman’s hope for the campaign is to see the Xbox community and many others create content that follows Lame’s “Simply Next Gen formula” of doing hard things the simpler way using Xbox Series S as well as to inspire people to be turned on to the joys of gaming on the console.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the final creative for this campaign. It was a perfect alignment of both our video creative and social creative teams to bring the right idea, with the right message and the right influencer. Our client Josh Munsee instantly fell in love with this approach and was able to champion it throughout the org. And when things just fall into place like that, and everyone is aligned…you know you’ve got a winner,” added Goodman.

Xbox “Simply Next Gen” Credits:

  • Josh Munsee, Sr. Manager, Xbox Global Marketing
  • Gary Goodman, Ayzenberg Chief Creative Officer
  • Allen Bey,  Ayzenberg Creative Director/Editor
  • Taylor Rhoads, Ayzenberg Creative Director
  • Drew Shafer, Ayzenberg Associate Creative Director
  • Chy Lin, Ayzenberg Account Director
  • Jonathan Clark, Ayzenberg Producer

Mobile Gamers And Fast Food

During the height of the pandemic, several Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) closed or reduced operations and started offering takeout and delivery. Though consumers cooked at home more and spent less on restaurants, including QSRs, the QSR market has rebounded quickly compared to other casual dining restaurants and is well-positioned to succeed in our post-pandemic environment, according to AdColony’s Mobile Trends in QSR report.

Consumers are still cautious of densely populated public spaces, meaning food delivery, prepared food and groceries will continue to outpace in-restaurant dining despite the roll-out of vaccines and safety measures. Despite this, demand for takeout is actually increasing. QSRs can take advantage of this phenomenon now and post-pandemic given their emphasis on hygiene standards and how they’ve utilized technology (i.e., QR codes, online and mobile apps) to make delivery and takeaway seamless.

According to a Buyer’s Edge Platform survey, 36 percent of consumers are hopeful that the tech solutions currently in place, such as contactless ordering and payment, continue post-pandemic. Consumer sentiment has changed in other ways as well, which AdColony breaks down into three new consumer trends in QSR. First, consumers are spending more. The average check size at Starbucks, for example, grew 25 percent in mid-2020 and continues to climb today. Second, consumers are stocking up. Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Domino’s have all observed larger, family-sized or bulk orders. And third, consumers, families in particular, are eating more fast food than they did pre-pandemic.

For its latest report, AdColony studied the food and drink habits of mobile gamers, a cohort that’s growing rapidly in the US. There was a 12 percent increase in the number of people playing mobile games in early 2021, with 80 percent of all mobile users in the US reporting playing mobile games at least once per month and more than 50 percent saying they played weekly or more frequently than that in 2020.

AdColony and GWI conducted a survey of 1,044 mobile gamers and found that 35 percent are eating fast food at least once per week, 22 percent more than once per week and 16 percent at least once every two weeks. Despite the stereotypical image of a mobile-gaming fast-food consumer, 46 percent of those who eat it more than once per week and 53 percent of those who consume it at least once per week are female.

Mobile gamers who consume fast food at least once per week demonstrated disparate preferences in regard to the types of games they play, other forms of entertainment and their online interactions with brands, AdColony found.

Among this cohort, 27 percent use an app that tracks calories; and they’re more likely than mobile gamers who do not eat fast food at least once per week to play word, strategy, casino, arcade and action games. They’re also more likely to visit a movie theater and purchase online content to keep forever.

Mobile gamers who consume fast food at least once per week are more likely than other mobile gamers to visit a brand’s website, use a search engine to research a product or brand from an ad, read reviews about the product or brand from an ad and download the brand’s app. The only similarity that this cohort shares with other mobile gamers is the percentage of them who click on an ad (34 percent).

Over 33 percent of mobile gamers dine out at least once per week while 52 percent do so at least once per month. Among mobile gamers who eat fast food or at restaurants at least monthly, drive-thrus at McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s are the most popular, while dining in is the preferred option only at Five Guys.

Sixty-five percent of mobile gamers reported ordering takeaway food on apps and websites and 54 percent reported using drive-thrus more than they did before April 2020. As for delivery via apps and websites, the top brands are in pizza delivery with Domino’s being the most popular, followed by Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. Roughly half of mobile gamers who increased their frequency of curbside pickup behavior during the pandemic did so more often with Subway (45 percent), Domino’s (32 percent) and Starbucks (32 percent).

AdColony predicts that many of these behaviors will remain through and after the pandemic. Positive user experience and the convenience of apps may even increase some of these trends in the future. Brands seeking to capture some of this growth must showcase the convenience of their curbside pickup app offerings for saving time waiting in lines and having to order on the spot and then waiting for the food to be prepared.

As for general brand awareness, mobile games offer the chance to reach potential customers with new menu items or promotions before they’re even at the drive-thru or open the app to order. Because mobile gamers are proven fast food consumers and use online and app ordering services regularly, in-app advertising can help propel a brand or product to the forefront of their minds efficiently and seamlessly.

Q&A: Ayzenberg EVP/ECD, Clio Awards Jury Chair Scott Cookson

The pandemic canceled the 2020 Clio Awards which means 2021 jurors have double the amount of work to vote on: this year’s entries and last. As they assess remotely, we spoke with Games Jury Chair for the Clio Entertainment Awards and Ayzenberg executive vice president and executive creative director, Scott Cookson. Cookson has been on many juries over the years but this marks his first stint as jury chair. Ahead, the games marketing veteran shares what entertainment marketers should consider when entering, what sets great work apart from award-winning work and how submissions are shaping up so far. 

As jury chair of the Clio Awards this year, what advice do you have for entertainment marketers looking to enter?

One very important thing to remember about the Clio is that they are awards for creativity. So regardless of how successful or unsuccessful the marketing initiative was, it’s not really relevant to what we’re evaluating.

We’re not looking for the scope, the reach or the success of the campaign. We’re looking for how creative and innovative the ideas were. It really is a celebration of creativity and the people who do that work. So if anyone feels like they’ve done something unique and distinctive and memorable, then I would say absolutely enter the work into the Clios.

We get many people who do case studies and talk about how effective the campaign was, which as a marketer, is ultimately our objective and our job; to sell our clients’ products or services. But that’s not how we judge things in the Clios. Again, we judge solely on originality and creativity.

Other than creativity, what other criteria are considered when judging the creative?

I’ve actually been voting today, so the voting has already started and we’re about halfway through the process right now. There’s some really good stuff. We’re also going through last year given that it was canceled. It’s a lot of work going through two years’ worth of entries.

What they’re looking for is originality and innovation. They don’t actually tell us how to judge. They leave much of the power in our hands to decide what we think creative is, what we think good work is. They don’t give us much guidance other than to focus on the creativity and not on effectiveness, reach or budget. 

The other interesting thing that a lot of people forget or don’t know is that it’s not like there’s always one gold, one silver and one bronze. Some years there may be no awards given in a particular category because we don’t think anything meets the standard, or we can award 15 golds. 

So everything is judged on its own merits. It’s not as much of a competition against the other entries as you’d imagine. So, for example, there can be two trailers in a category and we give them both golds or we give them both silvers or we give one gold and one bronze, or one gets a shortlist and one gets nothing. It’s whatever we think the work deserves based on its own creative execution.

Based on the work you’ve voted on so far, have you noticed a common theme?

The big one is no surprise – no live events and a shift to virtual events. And of course, that makes sense given the pandemic. But creatively, I’m not sure I can say there’s a trend I can identify. Although that said, I think I’ve seen more music-related partnerships than I have in past years.

I’m sure people have tactically decided that they weren’t going to do real-world experiential advertising like IRL events. So there isn’t very much of that type of work. Nevertheless, there are likely more digital and live streaming events—things that are safe and remote.

It’s worth noting here that in the entertainment industry, there can easily be a formulaic approach to things. We’ve all seen trailers and can argue that they seem to feel very similar to one another. We’ve all seen a lot of different key art posters for movies or games. They all seem to share certain commonalities that we are all kind of used to, right? So the work that really kind of breaks or plays with those norms and expectations, and who tries to rise above that baseline; they try and do something different. For me personally, the creative that tends to rank higher is the work that stands out and gets noticed and takes your breath away or is more memorable. 

What role, if any, do you think nostalgia plays in breaking from those norms and nailing the creativity of the work? 

I think it’s going to be situational and it’s going to really depend on the IP. When I look back at, for example, a movie like Han Solo for Star Wars, Star Wars has an incredible amount of nostalgia infused into it. When they did their key art, it really had a nostalgic feel to it that worked really well for them. But when you take a step back, that actually makes sense for Star Wars—you want that kind of nostalgic feeling when it comes to a franchise with older fans. They want those older fans to feel like they’re getting what they remember from when they were kids and they want the kids to have that same experience. It all kind of makes sense.

On the other hand, there are certain games or entertainment properties that don’t need or want a nostalgic play. For example, it might be a brand new IP that doesn’t tie to anything nostalgic whatsoever. So, to answer your question, it does depend really on the IP. I think you have to strategize based on your IP and who it appeals to. Only then can you determine how best to target that specific audience, and nostalgia can be one of those arrows you pull out, but it might not always be the right one depending on what you’re working on.

Culturally, we know that nostalgia is something Gen Z finds appealing and I think it works for plenty of other audiences as well. You can see that manifested in annual gaming titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War or new IPs like Deathloop. And of course, when you market those titles, you’re going to lean into that nostalgia, and that’s going to be a driving creative influence, especially on things like music, design or motion graphics. I feel like nostalgia is a topic I hear come up often in strategy discussions over the last year or so in relation to Gen Z, but every generation has its own relationship to nostalgia.

Is there a piece of work you’ve seen this or last year that just blew you away? 

Yes, definitely. I can’t talk about it too much, so I won’t say the title. But there is a game whose assets I find incredibly compelling and that checks all those boxes I was discussing earlier where it breaks the mold in terms of creativity and innovation. It’s not your typical trailer and it’s very unexpected. 

Frequently when evaluating work and determining how to grade it relative to others, I ask myself whether this is something that I wish I would have made. And if so, would I be proud of it? Would I be showing it to all my friends? Would I be putting it into my portfolio? Am I jealous that I didn’t get to work on it? And this one piece of work definitely checks all of those boxes and has been entered in a lot of things. I think it will do very well. 

We get a wide mixture of work—some that while not horrible, are lacking something special, or just too common. And then there are works that leave you with an emotion or that take your breath away or that you can’t stop thinking about and you wish you would have done what they did. Those are the ones that really rise above the rest and become the Grand Clios, which is actually the ultimate prize in all of this. 

Is there an area you believe that marketers fall short in creating good creative? 

Whether it’s lack of time, budget, talent, initiative or bravery, it’s easy in entertainment to play by the rules and follow the cookie-cutter approach to doing just about anything from key art to trailers. The work that really rises above, though, is the work that doesn’t do that. It doesn’t follow the easy way out. It’s the one that really takes time to think about doing something special, risky, unique and memorable. Marketers must remember that these factors are critical to producing work that becomes special and noticeable. And while they don’t have to check off all of them, they usually have to have at least some of them to create a work that stands above the rest. 

On the games jury, we vote on a huge range of work. I’m not a hundred percent positive, but in some of the other categories like in theatrical, they organize by discipline. But the games jury is voting on trailers, brand partnerships, PR, digital and social campaigns. And certainly, not everyone is an expert in all of these things. We all come from different worlds—some from the agency side, some from the client-side. Others may be vice presidents of marketing and touch on everything a little bit. Some people come from a digital agency or specialize in social only. So it’s really interesting to be exposed to that incredible range of work. 

I’ve been on the jury a few times. This is my first time as jury chair, but I’ve been on the jury many times, over my career, going back to when it was the Key Art Award. When the jury finally convenes at the end to discuss the awards, that’s really the fun part. We have these great conversations about the work and debates about what should get what. Typically we’re in a theater watching the works for an entire day. This year will be a little different obviously, with everyone working remotely, and so they’ve created a platform that’ll replicate that in-person feeling we’re used to. We’ll be reviewing hundreds of entries given that this year’s Clio includes 2020’s entries as well. 

Can you share a little about the Clio awards Ayzenberg has won?

I’ve been with the company for two and a half, three years, and since that time there have been two Clios. So when I came, there was a Clio and then there was COVID and now there’s another Clio coming. In that first one, I believe we won five or six Clios—one of them was for one of my favorite trailers that we’ve done, a CG trailer for Deathloop.

And I believe that won silver for best CG trailer, and I think it won for copywriting and (…) for music. There were some other things that won Clios that year as well. I think another piece we did for Assassin’s Creed won. And then there was some social that won as well. So there were a number of Clios that the agency won.

We have a lot of work entered this year as well, probably 10 to 20 entries. Because all jurors must abstain from voting on work from the company in which you work, I won’t be able to vote on any of Ayzenberg’s entries. 

In the first round of judging, it’s essentially the weed-out stage where everyone gets a third of the work and we decide whether it’s in or out. So I haven’t even seen everything yet. I’ve only seen 30% of the entries. We now take all the work that’s in and judge it.

As EVP and ECD, where do you find inspiration?

At this point, I try to find inspiration from the people I work with. I’m really focused on building and managing teams and inspiring creatives to be the best they can be, doing great work and putting them in a position to succeed. I am amazed at the talent that I’m surrounded by and how incredible all these people are, and how passionate they are about the space and their work.

I’m really trying my best to let them realize their creative vision. 

In a way, I started as an editor and that’s a talent that I learned a long time ago, because a lot of times as an editor, you’re sort of inheriting this vision of a writer or a director who maybe wrote a script or shot a movie and they have a passion or a vision that they’re trying to achieve. And as the editor, you’re coming in fresh and helping them shape what they want to do to realize their goals. In a lot of ways, I feel like that’s what I’m doing with all the teams I work with here. In a way, even though it’s not a common path to be an editor that becomes a creative director that then becomes an ECD, for me, it worked out well that way. That path has taught me many skills about how to work with people and how to craft creative and inspire people to get to where they want to go.

What does putting your team in a position to succeed entail? 

It’s not a one-size-fits-all sort of a thing. Nevertheless, I try to manage from a position of accepting that the work and the ideas are not mine, they’re theirs. I try to not have a sense of ownership over it. I also think about what they’re trying to achieve and what they’re trying to say. And then with that perspective, I critique the work in a way that helps them to see the possibilities or the limitations of where they’re at in that particular moment. So it’s really about trying to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they’re trying to do and also knowing what the client’s objectives are and then bridging that gap and getting to a place where those things meet in the most successful way possible.

How have games shaped your trajectory?

I’ve been working in games marketing for almost 20 years. I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and I was working as a trailer editor. I started working in games at that time and joined a company called Ant Farm in 2004. Ant Farm became a leader and innovator in the game trailer space and gameplay capture space, and making trailers that had emotion and told a story, were more narrative-based and not just a sizzle reel of clips to an EDM cue.

One of the first trailers I cut was for a game that was just coming out at the time called Call of Duty and they became a big client of Ant Farm. And we worked with them for over 15 years and did a lot of other huge games as well. I launched Destiny, worked on a lot of Assassin’s Creed games, Far Cry—so a lot of huge IPs over the years. When Ant Farm closed in 2018, I brought the games team from Ant Farm over to Ayzenberg. We’ve been part of this family ever since.