Monday, February 4, 2019


By Anne Zeiser,
Founder of  Azure Media 
Founder of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media

This year’s $5 million a pop Super Bowl spots delivered the requisite ads about cars, snacks, franchise movies, and beer en masse using the reliable devices of humor, celebrities, and CGI graphics. But a new mandate for Super Bowl ads has emerged in these tempestuous times –– ads with a social message.

While most spots played it safe, the brands and organizations that took the PR risk and dedicated the considerable funds to go socially conscious, went big and went high. Three of those social issue spots were clear standouts with strong narrative arcs, each underscoring relevant social themes.

Our Home-Our Planet

Budweiser’s “Wind Never Felt Better” combines three essential ingredients for this savory spot. First, Bob Dylan’s ‘60s protest classic, “Blowin’ In the Wind” proves emotionally gripping, ageless, and by the ad’s conclusion, a perfect fit for the overall message.  The anthem provides an entrĂ©e to the next key ingredient, Bud’s lovable animals.  The spot opens with a tight shot of the Budweiser Dalmatian traveling in a vehicle, languishing as the wind flaps his lips and ears.  It channels the trope of the funny dog-in-car ad, but as the camera zooms back we see the pup is atop an eight-in-hand Clydesdale-pulled beer wagon traversing a field (of barley). The viewer is already satisfied by seeing this display of equine power and beauty and the camera gives us what we want, training on the horses for a while. Finally, the camera pulls back again to reveal the third ingredient, unexpected wind turbines in the background of this heartfelt landscape.  At that moment, the music’s lyrics reach us at yet another level. The spot resolves to the messages, “Wind Never Felt Better” and “Now Brewed With Wind Power for a Better Tomorrow,” as the harmonica ends the song with a flourish. Simply brilliant. This one-minute film has the horsepower to remind us of our responsibility to Mother Earth and the need to combat climate change by using renewable energy. 
Those Who Look Different Are Able

The “We All Win” spot for Microsoft’s Xbox adaptable videogame controller starts with quick shots of kids introducing themselves. Just kids, it seems. Then it profiles nine-and-half-year-old Owen, whose father tells us he has a rare genetic disorder, Escobar Syndrome. Owen’s already undergone 33 surgeries and has visible physical limitations. In his own words Owen tells us who he is through common kid measures – how old he is, that he loves his friends and family, and that his passion is video gaming (repeats twice). Owen’s clearly not about his condition or any perceived disability; he’s about what he can do. And he brings his already introduced friends into the mix as we witness their animated video game session. Some of Owen’s friends are missing arms or hands, yet are able to play Xbox with the adaptive controller. Owen explains, “What I like about the Adaptable Controller, is now everyone can play.” Tears well up in Owen’s dad’s eyes, “He’s not different when he plays.” At a time when video gaming needs an image boost more than ever, Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller short story wins the game of placing gaming in a new light, demonstrating how accessible technology can make us all able-bodied. 

Facts Must Prevail 

Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the Washington Post’s Super Bowl installment of its ongoing multi-platform campaign (of the same name) about how facts beget enlightenment. The Jeff Bezos-owned stalwart of the Fourth Estate has taken the White House’s “fake news” assault on journalism, head on. Who more credible and honorable (among actors) to voice this spot than the inimitable, Tom Hanks? The simple, but powerful words and symbolic graphics of this one-minute social documentary show us how facts and the pursuit of truth underpin our grand American experiment:

When we go off to war. (Omaha Beach in WWII)
When we exercise our rights. (Selma Alabama Civil Rights protest)
When we soar to our greatest heights. (U.S. flag planted on the moon)
When we mourn and pray. (Casket lying in state in the Capitol rotunda)
When are neighbors are at risk. (Firefighters fighting wildfires)
When our nation is threatened. (Oklahoma City federal building bombing blast)
There’s someone to gather the facts. (Police in riot gear)
To bring you the story. (Various reporters in action from many media outlets)
No matter the cost. (Journalist profiles: Austin Tice, captured in 2012; Marie Colvin, killed 2012; Jamal Khashoggi, killed 2018)
Knowing empowers us. 
Knowing helps us decide. 
Knowing keeps us free. 
THE WASHINGTON POST- Democracy Dies in Darkness

This spot makes us tingle with pride about our democratic and journalistic legacy and feel steely resolve to use facts to stamp out the darkness of ignorance.

Other spots in Super Bowl LIII hit socially conscious notes, but these three were the most powerful. They were noticed and felt, trending on many online platforms and spawning considerable commentary and debate.  In an immediate Twitter post about the Washington Post spot, Donald Trump, Jr. opined about the mainstream media, “how about report the news and not their leftist BS for a change.” Scorching across social media, this comment made the “Democracy Dies in Darkness” spot’s very point. 
Anne Zeiser is a critically acclaimed transmedia and social impact producer and media strategist. She’s stewarded films and iconic series for PBS, produced news for CBS, managed national brands for marketing firms, and founded Azure Media, which develops transmedia projects on air, online, and on the go that fuel social impact in communities, in schools, and in capitals. She’s the author of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Mediafrom Focal Press’ American Film Market® Presents book series.
Follow Anne Zeiser on Twitter at @AzureMedia

Saturday, January 27, 2018



By Anne Zeiser
Founder of Azure Media 
Author of  Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media

The semantics of climate change have evolved from global warming to climate change over the last 25 years, but have focused on the science. This week, Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, in which 194 countries pledged to step up their commitment to cutting carbon emissions. In his announcement, Trump reframed the discussion away from the science of fossil fuel’s effect on the environment toward economics:
“The Paris climate accord disadvantages the United States, to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.”
Trump’s always planned on pulling out of the Paris accord because he’s a self-proclaimed America Firster; he’s cozy with the petroleum industry; and he thinks whatever Obama did is inherently bad. He chose an economic argument because he thought his background as a businessman would bestow unquestioned credibility upon him. Plus, his fake science and conspiracy theories might no longer fly.
But Trump’s economic argument for why it’s OK to sully the Earth and jeopardize our future is just as specious as his climate science reasoning, fixing him as the “laughing stock” of the world. Once again, Trump’s hubris has backfired: the science and environmental reality of climate change won’t go away; his fact-free economic reasoning is easily shredded; and pulling out of the Paris Agreement is wildly unpopular. The accord is supported by almost 70 percent of Americans, every major global economy, and scores of major U.S. and multinational corporations.
Trump’s alienated himself and the U.S. from most of the world by making a morally bereft and financially short-sighted decision about climate. But he’s made a fool of himself by making assertions about climate change based on Bad Science and Bad Economics, which simply don’t add up to sound arguments.
Bad Science
Trump has a legacy of misunderstanding and spewing bad science about climate change. He ignores decades of peer-reviewed scientific studies on global warming that predicted the climate change that’s happened. And he dismisses the current science on the state of the planet and future effects. Like fossil fuel advocates who push out misinformation andpeople who don’t understand climate science (Trump is both), Trump confuses weather and climate to try to disprove climate science:

Of course, weather is the short-term natural variations in temperature, clouds, precipitation, humidity and wind in a region and climate is the long-term average of those characteristics in a region. Meteorologists summarize it as, “Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.” So, a snowstorm in the southern U.S. is a normal weather fluctuation and doesn’t disprove the growing trend of climate change. 
Trump regularly misstates the scientific facts, here suggesting the ice isn’t melting in the Arctic and Antarctic:
Ironically, the vast oil reserves beneath the Arctic are now drillable because global warming has melted the Arctic ice enough to reach them. In the many decades Big Oil was denying global warming, it was secretly preparing Arctic operations to reap huge profits from it. In 2012, Exxon Mobil’s former CEO, and current Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson forged a symbiotic relationship with Vladimir Putin to commence those operations. Trump’s stance on climate is reflected by his cabinet picks of four fossil fuel supporters from Texas and Oklahoma. It also may explain his bromance with Putin. Perhaps Trump’s shift in his anti-climate change argument from science to economics hints at his true agenda – personal economics.
In his Paris Agreement speech, Trump misstates the science again to suggest the global pledges wouldn’t have a significant effect:
“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount.” 
The MIT scientists who published the April 2016 study Trump cited, actually reported that global warming would slow by between 0.6 degree and 1.1 degrees Celsius by 2100. That’s huge when the overall goal is two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 
When in doubt, Trump throws out inexplicable conspiracy theories, which appeal to the irrational. Here he blames the hoax of climate change on China:
All this adds up to Trump’s penchant for science fiction ― fueled by his lack of understanding of the scientific process and his unfettered pursuit of political and personal gain.
Bad Economics
Trump’s financial and jobs arguments aren’t any better. In his Rose Garden climate accord speech he relies on hyperbole, saying the Paris climate accord imposes “draconian financial and economic burdens” on the U.S.
If that were so, why would the U.S.’s economic leaders – from tech, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Intel, Hewlett Packard, and Adobe; manufacturing and infrastructure, GE, Johnson Controls, Ingersoll Rand; consumer products, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Tiffany, Levi Strauss, Mars, The Gap; financial services, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, The Hartford; automobile, Tesla, General Motors; and even fossil fuels, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and BP – all support the Paris Climate Agreement? None of these companies wants to be “hamstrung” or penalized.
In fact, 25 big companies placed full-page ads in major U.S. media outlets to urge Trump to stay in the pact. In their plea to stay in, they cite key economic reasons that obliterate Trump’s claims:
  • Strengthening Competitiveness: By requiring action by developed and developing countries alike, the agreement ensures a more balanced global effort, reducing the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies.
  • Creating Jobs, Markets and Growth: By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth. U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets. Withdrawing from the agreement will limit our access to them and could expose us to retaliatory measures.
  • Reducing Business Risks: By strengthening global action over time, the agreement will reduce future climate impacts, including damage to business facilities and operations, declining agricultural productivity and water supplies, and disruption of global supply chains.
To make his assertions, Trump cherrypicks proof points without presenting the full picture. He says, “Compliance with the terms of the Paris accord ... could cost Americans as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025.” Referring to fossil fuel-associated industries, he further calls out his poster child, the obsolete coal industry, yet ignores the economics of the burgeoning renewables energy industry.
His math is simply inaccurate. According to a new report by the U. S. Department of Energy, solar power alone currently employs almost twice as many in the U.S. as coal, natural gas, and oil and petroleum combined. Adding wind and nuclear, clean energy outpaces traditional fossil energy jobs by almost three-fold. Advanced energy – seven business sectors committed to clean energy – employs 3.3 million in the U.S., while coal mining employs about 86,000.

Advanced energy is one of the most vibrant global industries, generating $1.4 trillion in global revenue last year, “nearly twice the size of the airline industry, equal to apparel, and close to global spending on media, from newspapers to movies to video games,” according to Navigant research. And it’s growing twice as fast as the overall economy (7 percent vs. 3.1 percent). An International Renewable Energy Agency report predicts that global renewable energy will nearly triple employment by 2030 to 24 million jobs. If unfounded dire economic predictions aren’t enough, Trump heightens fear or anger towards perceived enemies. He suggests that China and India aren’t being held to the same standards as we are:
“China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So we can’t build the plants but they can. According to this agreement, India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it. India can double their coal production. We’re supposed to get rid of ours.”
Context matters. China and India are behind the rest of the developed world in having access to cleaner technologies, but are working at lowering their emissions at breakneck speed. To catch up, China’s now building a new green power infrastructure as big as the U.S.’s entire electric grid. China’s also pledged $3.1 billion in aid to the U.N. Green Climate Fund to help climate-vulnerable countries (now, the U.S. won’t honor most of its $3 billion pledge). China’s already shown exceptional climate and clean energy global leadership and is poised to fill the big void that Trump created by pulling the U.S. out of the accord. India plans to source 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030, passing Japan as the third largest solar market behind China and the U.S. 
Finally, Trump resorts to blatant scare tactics. He says the U.S. “will be at grave risk of brownouts and blackouts.” Two of the country’s biggest providers of electricity to industries and consumers, National Grid and Schneider Electric, support the Paris Climate Agreement. They understand that using combined energy sources during the transition will prevent against blackouts. 
All this adds up to fuzzy math and “Trumped up” economics fueled by Trump’s fear of innovation and his patent disregard of the future. It’s as if he’s advocating for the long-term future of the manual typewriter while the personal computer is flourishing and demonstrating its promise. 
During his Paris climate accord announcement, Trump asks, “At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?” If not at previous inflection points, surely it was the moment Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. France’s President, Emmanuel Macron captured the world’s sentiment with his slogan, “Make The Planet Great Again!”

Anne Zeiser is a critically acclaimed transmedia and social impact producer and media strategist. She’s stewarded films and iconic series for PBS, produced news for CBS, managed national brands for marketing firms, and founded Azure Media, which develops transmedia projects on air, online, and on the go that fuel social impact in communities, in schools, and in capitals. She’s the author of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Mediafrom Focal Press’ American Film Market® Presents book series.
Follow Anne Zeiser on Twitter at @AzureMedia

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Boston Women's March/Courtesy Anne Zeiser

By Anne Zeiser
Founder of Azure Media 
Author of  Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media

The Women’s March on January 21, 2017 - the day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration - was momentous. Not only for the moment it represented, but also for the movement it’s unleashing. Young people are feeling their agency. Creatives are producing social commentary. Journalists are reestablishing their craft. And democracy is galvanizing populist support. 
While it’s harder to get people to show up at events than to donate money, they turned out in droves for the Women’s March. At least 500,000 marchers peacefully protested in Washington D.C., for the “protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”  Some 400 sister marches popped up in every major city and minor burg in the U.S., garnering 1.3 million participants. Hundreds more sprung up in Paris, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and Antarctica. In all, there were 672 separate marches worldwide, firing up 2 million activists.
By way of historical comparison, the Women’s March on Washington was the largest combined protest in the U.S. and the second largest in D.C., second to the 2013 March for Life to protest abortion, which attracted 650,000. The 1963 March on Washington, the historic civil rights rally on the Mall where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech drew 250,000 people; from 1965 to 1971 there were a series of anti-Vietnam marches, the largest being the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium, which attracted 600,000 over a week; and the 1995 Million Man Marchfor black rights drew between 400,000 (National Park Service) to 837,000 (Boston University/ABC research). 
But activism alone doesn’t automatically translate into change. Change happens from long-term organized actions that strategically exert pressure at critical pivot points. Strong movements operate both from the bottom up and the top down. Your actions matter because grassroots movements influence leaders and power brokers to make bold moves and break with party lines. The drumbeat must be unrelenting and sustained - for as long as it takes. Therefore, everyone who marched and everyone who marched in spirit must act in some meaningful way on an ongoing basis. 
You can contribute to real change by acting and participating in myriad ways. You can: volunteer, donate money, lobby elected officials, raise money, protest, contact the media, write articles, make art, spread the word. Here are five practical means to translate your energy and activism into change:
1.   Find a Group or Cause to Champion - Connect to an organization or a cause you care deeply about and stick with it. Don’t spread yourself too thin with too many causes, but rather commit to fewer things over the long haul. Whether you choose a larger organization like Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Center for Accountability, or Climate Reality or a local educational or health group, make a concerted effort to contribute in some way every week. Over time it will be a fulfilling part of your life, rather than a task.
 2.   Talk to Your Elected Officials - Elected officials represent you. You must make your opinions heard throughout officials’ terms, not just on Election Day. Your town, city, and state websites have your local officials’ contacts and the National Priorities Project has them for your Congressional representatives. Go to your officials’ offices hours. Call, e-mail, and write them to let them know how you feel about the issues of the day. Flood their phone banks and their mailboxes. Organize your own petition via or sign onto organized petitions by CREDO, or Sign the petitions, tag the links with hashtags, and share them widely on your digital platforms - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, blog, vlog, podcast, and website.
3.   Get Involved in Public Service - Be active in the political process. Run for office or support candidates who represent your ideology. You can start locally on school committees or in state legislatures. Virginia, New Jersey, and North Carolina have key state-level elections this year. There are 38 governors’ races in 2017 and 2018 that may affect gerrymandered districts (recarving the borders of a district to ensure a party or candidate wins). The mid-term Congressional elections in 2018 are critical to the complexion of Congress. Because the Electoral College is likely to remain in the 2020 presidential election, the best way to elect a president who represents your values may be to work in a sister battleground state such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maine, or New Hampshire to swing those electoral votes.
 4.   Register to Vote/Get Out the Vote - Voting is the most powerful tool of democracy, yet it’s the most overlooked. If everyone eligible had voted last fall, we might have had a different outcome today. Ensure everyone you know who’s a citizen of 18 years or older is registered. Many people don’t register because they don’t know how. Work with your town hall and state to spread the word on how to register. Help voters sign up in inner cities, on farms, and on college campuses. Check out Rock the Vote’s efforts to increase voter registration and The League of Women’s Voters initiatives to make registration easier and stop voter suppression. During elections, encourage people in your sphere of influence to exercise their franchise. Drive those that need help to vote or volunteer at your local polling place. 
5.   Support Journalism and Freedom of the Press - The days of believing fake news are dead. Sound journalism - supported by verified facts - is central to an informed citizenry. That’s why freedom of the press is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. To develop a discerning eye, read various news sites, watch news programs, and subscribe to a newspaper or publication. Note the difference in how media outlets report on the same issue. Understand the difference between reporting and opinion (public affair programs and op-eds). Watch documentaries on many subjects. PBS has some of the best. Cultivate and share your trusted news sources widely on social and digital media. Hold social media sites and news outlets responsible for fact checking. Support #Truth and #Journalism and denounce #FakeNews and #AltFacts.
There’s much that you can do, but these five avenues will focus your energy in ways that matter. If you want to keep following the Women’s March thread, its organizers have outlined “10 Actions for the First 100 Days” of Trump in office. They offer 10 doable, actions with easy-to-follow steps like socializing and sending postcards to elected officials. There’s no dearth of means to sustain the momentum and make a measurable difference. Add your ideas, organizations, and links in the comments below. 
But, don’t wait to be led by others to become a change agent. 
“If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.” -- President Barack Obama
This story also appeared in the Huffington Post

Anne Zeiser is a critically-acclaimed transmedia and social impact producer and media strategist. She’s stewarded films and iconic series for PBS, produced news for CBS, managed national brands for marketing firms, and founded Azure Media, which develops transmedia projects on air, online, and on the go that fuel social impact in communities, in schools, and in capitals. She’s the author of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media from Focal Press’ American Film Market® Presents book series. Chapter 29, “Media-fueled Social Impact” outlines how to create social change movements using the media.

Follow Anne Zeiser on Twitter @AzureMedia