Sundance Film Festival Activations Highlight Inclusion, Change And Escape

In addition to the usual glitz from the star-studded event, brands running activations at this year’s Sundance Film Festival are focusing on supporting women and longstanding social issues.

Events Putting Women In Focus

This is a pivotal time for women in the entertainment industry, who are banding together against sexual misconduct and gender discrimination. Inclusion, solidarity and change are driving conversations at Sundance, and several activations have female empowerment as a main theme:

  • #HereWeAre Brunch, specifically brought women and men together to celebrate women and underrepresented filmmakers, storytellers, artists and advocates. The invite-only event was hosted by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY and Twitter. 
  • ICM Politics and YouTube partnered to celebrate female filmmakers the night before the Respect Rally, which returned to Sundance for a second year in the spirit of the National Women’s Marches.
  • The Safe Movement launched its first Safe Space activation—a private lounge with panel discussions, luncheons, private cocktail parties and an exclusive After Hours Lounge featuring DJs and intimate performances so that attendees can discuss issues affecting women. Events were presented by Global Citizen, Teen Vogue,’s foundation, the CNN Freedom Project, Interscope Records, Electronic Music Awards, The Respect Rally, the Alliance for Women Directors and “YES Means TEST” by the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).

Spotlighting LGBTQ And Social Justice

GLAAD and The LOVELOUD partnered with HBO and LiveNation to host The LoveLounge in recognition of artists and filmmakers who are “accelerating equality and acceptance for LGBTQ people everywhere.” The event coincided with the premiere of HBO’s documentary Believer, which also discusses artists and filmmakers of LGBTQ-inclusive films.

KIA Supper Suite hosted three days of premier events, including presenting Nancy starring Steve Buscemi, Ann Dowd, John Leguizamo and Andrea Riseborough; Creative Coalition’s Spotlight Awards Dinner Gala; and A Dinner for Change Celebrating: Masters of the Sun, an event hosted by, Black Eyed Peas and Rosario Dawson to shed light on social injustice.

A Look At The Lounges

Shifting away from activations with any political relevance: this marks the first year Lyft is being featured as the official ride sharing partner for the Sundance Film Festival. The Lyft Lounge features snacks, hot drinks, phone charging stations and conversations between film showings. The brand is also offering The Driver’s Hub, offering ride share drivers virtual reality and catering by Impossible Foods.

Other lounge highlights:

  • AT&T’s DIRECTV lodge is presenting pop-up dining experiences from Los Angeles restaurant Craig’s, along with viewing parties and celebrity hosts.
  • Music Lodge returns to Sundance for its 14th year to entertain stars as a hospitality suite. Outdoor sports brand Spyder is hosting a hot chocolate bar there while gifting its ski apparel.
  • Rock & Reilly’s Daytime Lounge—presented by J.Crew, Nylon and Roku—features brand activations such as the “Denim by You” customization bar, where guests can curate J.Crew denim looks. Roku is giving away media streaming devices and hot drinks in the “Hygge Lounge,” and visitors can have their hair, nails and makeup done by beGlammed.

Activations With An Element Of Action

For those not just lounging:

  • TAO Group marked its tenth year at the event with three days of pop-up events, featuring DJs Mel DeBarge, the Deux Twins, Vice and DJ Politik; Tequila brand Don Julio returned to serve Don Julio 1942 for the third year in a row.
  • California-based “semi-private” airline, JetSuiteX, has an on-site check-in counter that prints ticket vouchers good for Burbank, San Jose, Oakland, Las Vegas and Mammoth while a flight attendant serves coffee, wine and Essentia Water to guests from a drink trolley. 
  • SundanceTV’s highest rated show, Hap and Leonard, is promoting its third season premiere with an escape room experience at the SundanceTV HQ. The space transports participants to 1989 Grovetown, Texas, where Hap and Leonard were mysteriously “swallowed up” on a mission to rescue their friend. Attendees are challenged with finding clues to their whereabouts—before they end up vanishing in Grovetown, too.

‘Jumanji’ Marketing Leverages Success Of Escape Rooms

The concept of Jumanji is that you don’t play the game, it plays you—drawing unwitting players into real-life adventures that require skill and teamwork to survive. It just so happens that escape rooms and scavenger hunts offer a similar premise—so marketing for the film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle invites fans to do the same with escape rooms, scavenger hunts and virtual reality.

In partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment, a Jumanji escape room has been added to 60out Escape Rooms in Los Angeles. Groups of four to eight people “sneak” into their friend’s room, but he isn’t there. Participants then solve a series of puzzles before being immersed in a jungle environment from the Jumanji game. There, each person embodies a role and must use his or her unique strengths to “survive” within the given time limit. Other rooms based on the franchise are planned to roll out across the US.

“The Jumanji films have always been about puzzle-solving and using your wits to survive,” Jamie Stevens, executive vice president of global licensing at Sony Pictures Consumer Products told Forbes. “In that way, the franchise is a perfect mix for escape rooms.”

Popular in Europe, the US market for escape rooms has grown a staggering 8,800 percent in the past three years. Jumanji marks the first time Sony Pictures Entertainment has partnered for an escape room of its own.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is also the first film to get its own 360-degree VR experience with Facebook. The experience is an interactive scavenger hunt for six items that will lift a curse. Inside a tree house, users must look in all directions across three areas to find each item. Doing so unlocks rewards such as clips from the movie, trailers and behind-the-scenes videos. Users can also explore each character’s profile, including special skills and weaknesses.

The team at Facebook Creative worked closely with Sony to review the script early on and develop interactive ideas.

“We captured the treehouse on set—a key element of the narrative and a location that bridges both the first Jumanji film and this next part of the story—in 360-degree video, giving us an authentic experience from the film that we could share with audiences in never-before-seen ways,” Facebook Creative Shop’s North America head of entertainment, Jen Louis Barrett said in an Oculus blog post.

Jumanji: The VR Adventure, meanwhile, has users play a virtual table-top game with Oculus Rift and Touch devices. Together with characters from the movie, users must reshape elements of a 3D jungle to lift a curse before time runs out. The experience is also being distributed by VRX Networks, whose VR kiosks can be found in shopping centers and movie theaters across the US and UK. Jumanji: The VR Adventure, along with other Sony VR film-based content, will eventually be released for PlayStation VR (PSVR).

“We look to create aspirational moments for audiences,” Jake Zim, SVP of virtual reality at Sony Pictures Entertainment told AListDaily. “When, where and how these immersive experiences take place is dependent on the experience itself, but we believe they can exist in parallel with the movie.”

Amazon Prime members were offered an early screening of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle two weeks ahead of its official release, grossing close to $2 million according to estimates. The film’s opening weekend may fetch as high as $60 million.

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Marketing Brings The Galaxy Far, Far Closer

Star Wars: The Last Jedi blasts into theaters this weekend, fueled by nostalgia and galaxy-sized marketing efforts from Disney and its brand partners. With video game tie-ins to virtual reality (VR), 2017 has become the year of interactive Star Wars marketing.

For generations, Star Wars fans have dreamed of becoming a part of its vast world—flying through space, aiding (or impeding) the Rebellion and duking it out with lightsabers. No longer limited to our imaginations, VR makes it possible to embark on these adventures without leaving the safety of Earth.

Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay: Astro-Mechanic for the Resistance is a VR experience for HTC Vive and Samsung Gear. Sponsored by Nissan, the game challenges players to repair droids like BB-8 aboard General Leia’s ship. For those without a VR headset, a 360-degree, non-interactive version is available for iOS and Android devices.

Nissan also helped promote Star Wars: The Last Jedi by hosting an interactive tournament on Twitch. The livestreamed challenge featured two popular Twitch broadcasters competing against one another behind the wheel of a Nissan Leaf. Driving on a real-life course, the competitors navigated the “galaxy” while overcoming challenges along the way. Fans on Twitch chat helped determine the outcome by choosing a side, then deploying mechanics to either help their team or hinder the opponent.

Car dealerships across the US will also feature a ‘See The Unseen’ AR experience that has Star Wars characters such as C-3P0 explain safety features on the Nissan Rogue, Maxima or Titan vehicle models.

“While the competition is focused on Santa Claus and red bows this holiday season, we are filling our dealerships with stormtroopers, virtual reality and the new augmented reality experience—making the Nissan shopping experience much more fun, engaging and educational,” said Jeremy Tucker, vice president of marketing for Nissan North America in a statement.

Partnering with the Star Wars brand as it did for The Force Awakens appears to be serving Nissan well. According to an analysis by Amobee, 37 percent of all digital content engagement around the Nissan Maxima, 33 percent around Nissan Rogue, eight percent of Nissan Altima and 6 percent around Nissan Titan have been Star Wars-related.

Those with a Google Pixel phone can superimpose stormtroopers, droids and other characters from Star Wars onto real-world surroundings with AR stickers.

Lucasfilm, ILMxLAB and The Void collaborated to bring a new multiplayer hyper-reality arcade experience, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, to Void Experience Centers at Disney World for the holiday season.

Having worked on Ghostbusters: Dimensions, the team at Void learned that people are looking for wish fulfillment when they step into a movie universe.

“It’s important that a VR experience delivers on those dreams and desires people have from those properties and the worlds they love so much,” The Void co-founder and chief creative officer Curtis Hickman told AListDaily. “We also learned about flow and experimenting with space and we’re applying all of those things to Star Wars.”

No Disney marketing campaign would be complete without merchandise galore. App-enabled droids, droid inventor kits and augmented reality toys are a common theme this year for Star Wars merchandise.

Jedi Challenges, for example, works with iOS and Android devices and trains users on the art of battle with a lightsaber. It features a smartphone-powered Lenovo Mirage AR headset, tracking beacon and lightsaber controller.

In honor of Force Friday II—the massive unveiling of Star Wars: The Last Jedi merchandise on September 1—the official Star Wars app placed AR characters and creatures around participating retail locations. Users could collect them all and each day, unlocking new characters to encourage repeat visits.

EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II is hosting The Last Jedi Season—free downloadable add-ons that include maps from the film, new characters and community challenges.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has already earned over $45 million in Thursday night screenings alone, per early estimates and may reach $200 million by the end of the weekend.

‘The Grand Tour’ Courts Twitch Audience With Exploding Cars

Michael Benson, head of marketing at Amazon Prime Video

Promotion for the season two premiere of Amazon Prime Video’s car-themed show The Grand Tour has literally become explosive.

Following the success of its first season premiere last year, which became one of the digital entertainment service’s most watched episodes, Amazon is appealing to the Twitch audience for the first time by having influencers blow up cars in an interactive Battleship-style live game event called “Battle Cars Live.”

“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 AListDaily. “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.”

Broadcasting across two days the weekend before the show’s second season premiere, “Battle Cars Live” was inspired by a scene in episode five of The Grand Tour, where May and Hammond compete to drop small cars packed with explosives onto larger cars placed on a grid.

On Twitch—which is owned by Amazon—things were kicked up a notch using popular personalities who played against each other using cars and trucks that were rigged to explode at the push of a vintage-style dynamite plunger. Whenever a player scores a hit, the loser spun a wheel of defeat to receive penalties—such as being slapped with a fish or eating an especially stinky cheese. Viewers could also get involved by voting on grid points, but there was no penalty for being wrong.

“It was a clever way to bring the show and the audience together with an engaging activity that provided a great marketing opportunity for both Twitch and Prime Video,” said Benson.

Although this isn’t the first time Amazon Prime Video has teamed up with Twitch, it is the first of its scale. Previous cross-promotions involving shows such as Jack Ryan, Lore, The Man in the High Castle, The Tick and others usually involved influencers doing on-air stunts such as using Amazon Echo devices to break out of an escape room.

Benson believes Twitch’s core audience of 18-to-34-year-olds who consume most, if not all, of their entertainment online is the perfect fit for shows such as The Grand Tour—and like the hosts of the show, Amazon Prime Video looks to create fitting activations to engage with them in spectacular ways.

He also said that Amazon Prime Video would continue to partner with Twitch on other show campaigns in ways that can best leverage the livestreaming platform to bring value to its users.

“Twitch users often like to be together with friends when watching compelling events, so they can share in the moment,” Benson explained. “Twitch’s live video and real-time chat enable the creation of a room with unlimited users who could collectively interact and share in real-time on a global scale. It also provides a platform that allows us to bring video from the show directly to an audience who is interested in what The Grand Tour has to offer.”

“Battle Cars Live” was mainly promoted on Twitch, through social media and via traditional press outreach. Influencers encouraged their followers to play from their personal Twitch channels in the days leading up to the event.

Hosts Kelly Link and Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico talked about the show while playing clips and trailers during the event. Two episodes of The Grand Tour are also available for non-Prime members to watch on Twitch.

The show premiered on Friday with a fiery stunt-gone-wrong lighting up social media. Co-host Richard Hammond crashed a £2 million supercar at 120mph and was caught inside the blazing wreck. But even though the spectacle left many fans stunned, Hammond survived the stunt with just a fractured knee.

‘Coco’ Marketing Focuses On Music, Family And Tradition

Disney/Pixar’s Coco is now in US theaters, poised to top the Thanksgiving weekend box office as Moana did last year. Together with Disney’s brand partners, marketing for the film focuses on Mexican culture and tradition, a love of music and the importance of family.

Disney stories tend to center around finding one’s place in the world, and Coco is no exception. The film’s main character is a young boy named Miguel who dreams of becoming a famous musician like Ernesto de la Cruz, a deceased Mexican musician and film star. Unfortunately for him, his family has banned all music, so Miguel and his dog Dante travel across the Land of the Dead to find his idol while uncovering the truth about his family’s aversion to music.

Music is at the heart of the film’s story and Miguel’s motivations, so Disney/Pixar teamed up with Cordoba to create custom acoustic guitars inspired by Coco. The guitars are available at Guitar Center and several were given away as a surprise to fans on social media.

“Remember Me,” the film’s theme song, was prominently featured on Dancing With the Stars in October.

The Land of the Dead is as much of a character in Coco as Miguel, if not more so. So, it’s fitting that this colorful world of the afterlife would become the subject of Pixar’s first-ever VR experience.

Coco VR allows up to three people to explore and interact with The Land of the Dead using Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift headsets. The free 20-minute branded adventure has users create their own calaca avatars—skeletons decorated in the traditional Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) style. A photo studio inside the experience lets users take selfies, an art studio displays concept art with behind-the-scenes footage and users can ride a gondola above the city or hang out in a central plaza.

“Going to the theater is a semi-social experience—you watch a film together, but it’s passive,” explains Oculus executive producer Yelena Rachitsky in a company blog post. “In VR, you can actually go on an adventure with a friend. These experiences can create lasting memories, just like going on a trip together.”

Demos of Coco VR were provided at select Dia de Los Muertos festivities, and at participating Disney Stores and movie theaters through November 19. Disney/Pixar even participated in the festivities with a Dia de Los Muertos parade float.

Dia de los Muertos is a yearly Mexican celebration that honors family members who have passed away. Family—both alive and those living as skeletons in the Land of the Dead—play an important role in Coco.

Since Miguel is discovering his heritage, Ancestry teamed up with Disney/Pixar to help two of the Coco filmmakers do the same. The historical records site is offering special discounts in honor of the film’s release through November 23.

Latino-American network Mitú further explored family members and tradition by paying an unexpected visit to a host’s abuelita (little grandmother). The video earned over 2.5 million views over a span of a week.

Mexican food company Herdez hosted a cooking stream on Facebook Live and is offering free tickets to see Coco, as well as a trip for two for a culinary tour in Mexico.

Meanwhile, Airbnb is promoting Coco by suggesting family-friendly trips and experiences in Mexico.

Coco is already the largest single film release in Mexico, thanks to its native themes and a well-timed premiere with Dia de Los Muertos. In the US, the Hispanic population has reached a record 58.6 million in 2017, according to the Census Bureau’s latest estimates. Appealing to the second-largest racial/ethnic group in the US, along with select Spanish dubbed and subtitled engagements, should bode well for Disney/Pixar’s new animated tale.

Coco is expected to bring in between $55 million and $60 million over its first box office weekend in US theaters and will likely overtake Justice League for the number one position.

Schick Hydro Emphasizes Innovation To Connect With ‘The Game Awards’ Audience

Anastasia Tobias, Schick Hydro senior brand manager at Edgewell Personal Care

Since its first appearance at The Game Awards last year, Schick Hydro has been working to connect its non-endemic brand with the gaming audience. Now, Schick is ready to take on the awards show circuit yet again, this time as the official sponsor for the Best Debut Indie Game award, one of over a dozen different categories fans can vote on.

By aligning with the growing indie development scene, the brand aims to connect with the spirit of innovation in the gaming space.

The “passion for innovation” is the crux of Schick Hydro’s partnership with this year’s The Game Awards, Anastasia Tobias, Schick Hydro senior brand manager at Edgewell Personal Care, told AListDaily.

“Innovation is about challenging the status quo to create something that enhances people’s lives,” said Tobias.

Tobias described Schick Hydro as a challenger brand that’s continually evolving, and that’s why it has chosen to spotlight indie games and developers at The Game Awards this year. She said that as a brand that invests in innovation, it’s important for Schick Hydro to support other innovators, too.

As part of the sponsorship, Schick Hydro recently hosted its first 48-hour indie game jam in partnership with Playcrafting. Twenty developers worked to create games inspired by Schick Hydro’s “protect and defend” message, referring to the signature gel strip found on its razor products. Game jam creations will be shown alongside Best Debut Indie Game nominees at the Schick Hydro sponsored arcade experience at the Microsoft Theater when The Game Awards premieres on Dec. 7. Additionally, Schick will be giving away game keys for Best Debut Indie Game nominee titles that include CupheadMr. ShiftySlime Rancher and more.

Tobias said that, as a non-endemic sponsor, it’s important to support developers and gamers that use entertainment to enhance the lives of others through “experiences that cultivate their creativity, encourage their individuality and passion and enable them to continue sharing their craft.”

The Game Awards partnership further proves that non-endemic brands don’t necessarily have to turn to esports to get into the gaming scene. The grooming brand developed a shaving-themed video game that was featured at New York Comic Con in October while the Schick Hydrobot posed for pictures and professional groomsters gave attendees shaves.

“Schick Hydro is committed to creating unique opportunities to celebrate the shared passion we have with the gaming community—to create and make people’s lives better,” said Tobias. “This community is rooted in diverse self-expression, motivated by a desire to create their own story.”

How The New York Yankees Will Shape Esports

Stratton Sclavos, general partner at Vision Venture Partners

If there are still brands sitting in the outfield wondering whether esports is a legitimate business to explore, the New York Yankees have provided a great reason to swing for the fences. The iconic Major League Baseball team is the latest traditional sports organization to enter into esports by investing in Vision Esports (part of Vision Venture Partners), the umbrella company for Rick Fox’s Echo Fox, Jace Hall’s Twin Galaxies and Vision Entertainment, which creates video content for esports.

Stratton Sclavos, general partner at Vision Venture Partners, told AListDaily that the Yankees bring great credibility to the esports world in general and Vision Esports in particular, thanks to the team’s global brand recognition.

“Their endorsement signals to the world that esports is going mainstream,” Sclavos explained. “We’ve already seen tremendous new interest in Vision Esports and our three portfolio companies since the Yankees’ announcement.”

Sclavos said that the Yankees’ marketing and sponsorship teams have longstanding business relationships with in-demand non-endemic brands, so the introductions and bundling opportunities alone are invaluable.

The Yankees will bring its marketing, sales and partnership experience to help all three companies accelerate their growth and expand their business relationships. The sports franchise and Vision Esports leadership will manage the three esports properties in a manner that’s similar to traditional professional sports properties. Sclavos said this philosophy includes seeking to maximize revenue opportunities for advertising, sponsorships, media and broadcast rights, merchandise and ticket sales, naming rights and original content programming for both broadcast and streaming distribution formats. In addition, the two will collaborate on marketing and sponsorship initiatives across assets.

“The Yankees have a number of business assets that we hope to access through our new relationship,” Sclavos said. “Beyond the obvious brand affiliation, we hope to find ways to work with their sales organization to create new advertising and sponsorship packages that couple their traditional offerings with our esports offerings. We will look for opportunities to utilize their physical venues for live event productions.”

Vision Esports has been designed to service the professional esports ecosystem, which itself has grown to replicate the traditional sports ecosystem through league level governance, official league sponsors, and revenue sharing with teams. There are also team-level sponsors, advertisers, fan base monetization, and player endorsements in addition to broadcast rights licensing for national, local and international distribution of live event programming. Not to mention the creation and distribution of original content programming with media rights licensing.

Sclavos said Echo Fox mirrors a traditional professional sports team organization with rosters, players, fan base monetization, and original content for “local” programming. Echo Fox teams compete in games such as League of Legends, Call of Duty and H1Z1 along with several fighting game titles.

Twin Galaxies mirrors a traditional professional sports league with governance, broadcast rights licensing, official league sponsorships and original content licensing while Vision Entertainment mirrors a traditional entertainment studio focused on development and production of professional esports content, both in scripted an unscripted forms

“Gaming culture is unique, and our management team has decades of experience in video game publishing, technology innovation, original content production for both broadcast and online distribution, and professional sports team ownership and management,” Sclavos said.

One of the early Vision Esports initiatives is the H1Z1 Pro League, which will launch in early 2018 through a partnership with Daybreak Games. Twin Galaxies was on hand at the recent $500,000 H1Z1 Invitational at TwitchCon 2017 to capture video content and begin organizing the league.

“We believe that the H1Z1 Pro League will be the next successful esport league,” Sclavos said. “The battle royale format, where 15 teams all compete against each other every week, is full of drama and ripe for team and player rivalries. We’ve already seen interest from established esports team organizations that is five times our expectations.”

The H1Z1 Pro League will use Twin Galaxies for league rules, team selection, league governance, official league sponsor sales and broadcast rights licensing. Rick Fox was one of the first team owners to commit to H1Z1 as an esport, and Vision Entertainment will handle the production of all 24 weeks of Pro League live events and shoulder both original and player streamed content. Pro gamers are being offered a baseline salary of $50K, a comprehensive Player Bill of Rights, no entry fees for teams joining the league, and revenue sharing between the teams and league and much more.

While H1Z1 faces formidable challenges from similar games and other esports titles, this is one area where the marketing muscle of the Yankees can come into play. H1Z1 has the potential to appeal to both core gamers and a more mainstream audience, so Vision Esports needs to leverage the Yankees marketing muscle to help it take off.

Wild Turkey, Matthew McConaughey Take Up Fight Against Hunger

Wild Turkey and Matthew McConaughey teamed up to spread Thanksgiving cheer to the distillery’s hometown of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The cause marketing activation was to show appreciation to the town, help those in need and promote a fundraising campaign to fight hunger.

With a population of just over 10,500 residents, Lawrenceburg is usually a quiet town—the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbors. So when the doorbell rang on November 4, residents were more than a little surprised to see a movie star standing on their front porches holding a turkey.

McConaughey, master distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell and some 250 volunteers combed the town to hand-deliver fresh turkeys donated by Butterball. Together, they delivered 4,500 turkeys, including 580 to the town’s food pantry and nursing home. Wild Turkey wanted to thank the town for supporting it over the last 100 years, say a personal thank you to those who help out in the community, and aid those who need it most.

Distillery employees had no idea the actor was going to be there until he walked in on the morning of the big giveaway, which also happened to be his birthday. Their reactions, as well as the reactions of Lawrenceburg residents, were filmed to commemorate the event.

McConaughey’s appearance was no coincidence. Last year, he joined Wild Turkey as creative director and chief storyteller, working with the brand to write, direct and star in a series of ads. The veteran actor poured himself into the role as he would any other, and his passion shows what happens when a brand and an influencer become more than business partners.

“We have great relationships with a lot of influencers but I think that Matthew is, for us, the influencer that can give us that draw on a global scale,” Melanie Batchelor, vice president for Gruppo Campari, the parent company for Wild Turkey, told AListDaily.

When he’s not on the big screen, McConaughey is also an active philanthropist, aiding such organizations as Autism Speaks, the Red Cross and relief for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Cause related marketing can be an effective way to showcase a brand’s values and put its money where it makes a difference. A recent survey from marketing research firm Toluna found that 46 percent of respondents think cause marketing is a great way to bring attention to national or global issues. Hunger was the top cause respondents thought brands should support.

In addition to its door-to-door poultry delivery, Wild Turkey made a donation of 50,000 Thanksgiving meals to Share Our Strength, a charity that helps feed families in need across the country. The brand has partnered with Share Our Strength and its No Kid Hungry program for a fundraising campaign called “Friendsgiving to End Hunger.”

Those who wish to help can sign up to host their own fundraisers, schedule ongoing contributions or make a one-time payment. Wild Turkey will match all gifts up to $5,000.

Now that’s some good, old-fashioned Southern hospitality.

‘Jigsaw’ VR Ad Case Study Shows Brands How To Play The Game

To market the theatrical release of Jigsaw, Lionsgate partnered with Unity to create the first display ad in VR that when selected, launched an interactive experience. Running the campaign for two weeks, Unity simultaneously ran a case study to measure its emotional impact on users.

When Unity partnered with Lionsgate for the activation, the team knew it couldn’t display the ad just anywhere. But with more than 60 percent of AR/VR content created with Unity, the company had no shortage of apps to consider for the activation, and it ended up finding the two that best served their campaign.

Jigsaw is a mass market horror movie, so we worked with Lionsgate to find apps that made sense for their audience,” Agatha Bochenek, head of mobile and VR/AR advertising sales at Unity Technologies told AListDaily. “Samsung Internet for VR is a mass reach app that tapped into the gen pop audience. Nanite Fulcrum is a comic book app with a younger male, demographic that reached horror movie fans. The apps worked well together.”

From October 23 to November 6, display ads for Jigsaw Virtual Room appeared within the Samsung Internet for VR app and Siraloid’s Nanite Fulcrum. When selected, users were instantly transported into the Saw movie franchise as one of Jigsaw’s intended victims.

Four possible interactions followed, allowing the user to control the story while a two-minute timer ticked down. Although users could opt to do nothing and let the timer run out, 73 percent chose to “play a game” and make a choice on whether they or a stranger would survive. If they chose life, gears were dropped down that needed to be placed on the correct spokes to win their freedom. Over half—56 percent—attempted the puzzle. Solving it allowed users to explore Jigsaw’s room for 30 seconds.

Regardless of the outcome, users were teleported to a room where a 30-second trailer for the film was played. Users could leave at any time, but 70 percent chose to watch the preview in full.

In addition to measuring engagement, Unity teamed up with Isobar’s Marketing Intelligence Practice to see just how scary Jigsaw Virtual Room really was to users. Isobar performed biometric measurement and an emotional response survey of people who experienced the movie trailer in VR and in mobile video.

Heart rates elevated by 24 percent, sweating by 44 percent and muscle activation associated with smiling increased more than three times, according to the findings. These statistics apply to those who completed the entire VR experience and not just the trailer at the end. Unity concludes that the act of being in VR alone doesn’t elicit such emotions, but rather the fully interactive format of the ad.

“When looking at the focus group results by the individual, we saw that people who chose not to interact with the experience still had strong emotional reactions,” said Bochenek, “but only during the interactive portion—not the video trailer in VR. This leads us to believe that giving the user agency and engaging them with a responsive story, even if they ultimately choose not to engage, is where the power of interactive content lies.”

Bochenik says the key to a successful VR ad of this type is to make the user feel like they’re part of the action but warns against making interactions too difficult.

“The story needs to be compelling regardless of interaction,” she noted. “Adding three-to-four interactions in an ad ensures that the experience is effective for all users as they can choose how the story progresses and their individual engagement level. It’s truly personalized advertising.”

Advertising in VR can be challenging—after all, a user isn’t going to tolerate anything that disrupts immersion.

“Deep, immersive VR works and can be done at scale,” said Bochenek, adding that brands shouldn’t assume that VR is inaccessible or niche. “VR is gaining more and more penetration by the day and there will come a point where users are desensitized to the medium, just like they become to everything.

“The time is now to use this medium to create a lifelong relationship with your consumer and it is possible for every brand to engage in this space with positive ROI,” she added. “Additionally, the responsive storytelling techniques that elicit a much stronger emotional response than traditional media are also the format for augmented reality. This means advertisers can run cross-platform VR, AR, and 360 ads that reach hundreds of millions of users making the format even more accessible. I think a lot of marketers know that VR is effective. Now they can see just how effective and hopefully having those stats translates to more of them creating these types of campaigns today.”

Xbox One X Partners With Brands For ‘Drop Zone’ Augmented Reality Game

Larry Hryb, Xbox Live’s Major Nelson and director of Xbox programming at Microsoft

The Xbox One X has hit store shelves, and Microsoft is intensifying its efforts to make gamers aware of its premium console.

Xbox One X’s latest promotion has become a literal walk—or jog—in the park due to the augmented reality activation Drop Zone. Doritos and Mountain Dew have teamed up with Microsoft Xbox to host events at Randal’s Island in New York, Whittier Narrows in Los Angeles and Lincoln Park in Chicago to mark the launch of the new gaming system. The events are part of the larger “Xbox One X Every 60 Seconds,” campaign, which started in September and will continue until the first week of January.

The press was given a live preview of Drop Zone in New York’s Central Park this week as actor and comedian Joel McHale hosted the event by giving a play-by-play commentary with passers by looking on.

Larry Hryb, Microsoft’s director of Xbox programming, better known as Xbox Live’s Major Nelson, was also on-hand to engage with gamers before the event opened to the public.

“We worked with Doritos way back with the launch of the original Xbox, so this is a natural extension,” Hryb told AListDaily.

With “Every 60 Seconds,” redeeming codes found inside Doritos bags or bottles of Mountain Dew enter fans into a contest to win an Xbox One X every minute throughout each day. Each code also earns points that can be used as currency in ongoing auctions to pick up Xbox One X bundles or big ticket items such as the Forza Motorsports 7 console bundle paired with a trip to the Porsche Experience Center.

Drop Zone is designed for attendees to download an AR app that enters them into 30-minute competitions where players use their smartphones to track down and capture virtual Xbox One logo markers found within the real-world. Then they must protect it from being stolen from other players by moving around and using special power-ups. Players that successfully hang on to these markers by the time the clock runs out wins a free Xbox One X.

Dew and Doritos, both PepsiCo brands, similarly hosted the “Every Two Minutes” campaign for the launch of the original Xbox One in 2013. According to Hryb, awareness of the Drop Zone events is being spread primarily through word-of-mouth, particularly through the “Every 60 Seconds” contest itself and social media channels across all three brands.

Microsoft launched the Xbox One S one year ago, which supports 4K streaming entertainment, but not 4K gaming, at a lower cost. Hryb is confident that consumers, especially the gaming audience, will understand that the Xbox One X is a premium console while those who want a more economical system can pick up the Xbox One S. He said that the most important point for audiences to understand this holiday season is that all Xbox One games, which currently include over 1,300 titles, will work on any console in the Xbox One family—with many enhanced to take advantage of the Xbox One X’s capabilities.

The approach worked with the Xbox One S, which has been selling quite well despite releasing in the middle of the console generation’s traditional five-to-seven-year cycle.

“There’s a certain segment of gamers who want to have the latest and greatest all the time, but what we hear universally is that they love the fact that their games are going to work regardless of which Xbox One they buy,” said Hryb.

Hryb described the Xbox One X’s target audience as those that “love power,” and “want to play great games and have them look the best they can on a console.” But that description isn’t necessarily limited to hardcore gamers or even those who either already have or are planning to get 4K HDR TVs. The premium console’s graphics will look sharp on regular HDTVs, and the extra enhancements await gamers should they choose to upgrade.

To help people better understand the benefits of 4K HDR graphics, Microsoft released an app called Insects, which allows users to turn features on and off and compare them. Beyond that, Hryb reiterated that Microsoft is relying heavily on its extensive library of games to attract gamers of all types to the Xbox One X.

While hardcore players may be drawn to enhanced games such as Star Wars Battlefront II, Call of Duty: WWII, and Assassin’s Creed Origins, casual gamers can look to family-friendly titles like Disneyland Adventures and Pixar Rush.

Hryb has been in direct dialogue to gamers since 2003, and he is continually active on Twitter, YouTube and Xbox Live. He stated that the best way to engage is by having honest conversations with them.

“All they want to do is talk about games,” said Hryb. “They want great games and they want to talk to people about great games. [It’s about] being involved in that conversation and being honest.”

Having authentic conversations is especially important in the digital era, and Hryb stated that Microsoft wants to “go where the gamers are,” whether it’s on Reddit, Twitter or even a different gaming platform. He indicated that it was that kind of approach that prompted the launch of the Play Anywhere initiative last year, where buying select Xbox One titles also includes the Windows 10 PC version for free from the digital Microsoft Store.

Microsoft’s efforts to bridge its Xbox One and PC gaming communities may one day extend further, since the tech giant made moves to prominently enter the virtual, augmented and mixed reality verticals in October by acquiring the AltSpaceVR social platform and announcing multiple partnerships with hardware makers to develop inexpensive mixed reality headsets.

Interest in AR may have helped inspire Drop Zone, but the mixed reality initiative is currently limited to the Windows 10 platform.