Sunday, May 17, 2015


Stills taken from Mad Men Provided through the courtesy of Lionsgate 
Mad Men's key art and marketing materials from its Season 1 premiere 
through its final Season 7 were inspired by the series' signature title sequence image.

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

Mad Men ended tonight in keeping with the spirit of the series and the mini-film that introduced it. Not with a suicide, but with a raft of characters’ life shifts with unknown possibilities. Seven seasons ago, if you’d looked closely at the series’ 36-second opening title sequence, ushering audiences into the glossy, but conflicted world of ‘60s  Madison Avenue, you’d have known how it all ended -- more or less.

The title sequence for Mad Men that has opened the AMC series since it’s 2007 debut is rife with symbolism. Art pundits and superfans alike have imbued the series opener with silhouetted Don Draper’s existential spiraling loss of control. But, no one except Matthew Weiner, Mad Men’s creator and the steward of its story world, characters, and plot, knew that the title sequence foreshadowed the series’ entire story arc across seven seasons. 

In the iconic opener, viewers see the back of the enigmatic ad man enter an office building and, as that world crumbles, watch him plummet from the skyscraper. Seen from multiple POVs, he falls past juxtaposed ads peddling the post-WWII American Dream – alcohol, beautiful women, and wholesome family life. All this represents Draper’s metaphorical crises of confidence and authenticity, played out season after season, relationship after relationship, ad campaign after ad campaign. 

Weiner even teased us with the possibility of Draper’s figurative fall from grace transforming into a literal fall to death in the antepenultimate episode, “Lost Horizons.” As he enters his new McCann Erickson skyscraper office for the first time, Draper pushes on the sealed window, trapped and uneasy.  But Draper falling to his death is not the ending Weiner plotted for the ending seven years ago. "What I envisioned was vaguer, a feeling. The actual concrete version came to me about three or four years ago, and that's exactly how we filmed it," Weiner relayed to AP’s TV critic, Frazier Moore. Weiner added, "All I can say is, that we followed the rules of the show.” 

And follow he did. When viewing the title sequence as a précis to the entire series’ themes and rules, we never see the protagonist hit the ground. Deep into the fall, as the silhouetted man hurdles directly into the viewer/camera, the fall stops and the shot resolves on the cypher of a seated man viewed from behind— reconstituted as an ersatz Humpty Dumpty. And that’s exactly what happened to Peggy Olson, Roger Sterling, Joan Holloway, and Don Draper in Mad Men’s season finale. Peggy found love and respect right under her nose; Roger finally grew up; Joan let her true voice roar; and Don realized internal peace, which of course he segued into one of the world’s best ads of all time for Coca Cola, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)."

As the series drew to a close, we left all four sitting on that metaphorical couch, in charge of their own worlds. Fitting and in character.

If you watch the main title sequence one more time perhaps you can see the full arc of series and its characters in this brief 36 seconds.

For a behind-the-scenes reveal of the creation of Mad Men’s opening title sequence, I interviewed Mark Gardener, the sequence’s co-creator and Imaginary Forces’ former creative director. Mad Men is one of several vibrant case studies in my upcoming book, Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media on transmedia storytelling and engagement in media and entertainment from Focal Press in the American Film Market® Presents book series. To follow is a sneak peek of that case study,  Mad Men—Branding the American Dream” from Transmedia Marketing (publishing June 2015):

The branding for the Emmy award-winning Mad Men, some of the most distinctive and stylized creative work in television, was not an accident—not if Matthew Weiner had anything to do with it. And Weiner’s artistic vision and attention to detail had a lot to do with it. Weiner had been incubating the series about the halcyon years of the post-WWII advertising industry for a very long time. In fact, it was Weiner’s 1999 Mad Men script that compelled David Chase to bring him on as a Sopranos writer. After the Sopranos ended in 2007, Weiner tenaciously pursued a network for the drama he believed in. To Weiner, the period in US history from the late 1950s through the early 1970s spoke volumes about past, present, and future life in the US. HBO and Showtime passed on it, but eventually he sold 13 episodes of Mad Men to AMC, a network with no successful original programming to date. 
So in 2007, the untested period drama with unknown actors needed a brand and a look. Mad Men’s creator Weiner had a clear vision, not only for what the series was about, but also how to communicate it. The series’ key theme was encapsulated into the credo of Don Draper, the series’ primary ad man, “Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness.” Mad Men was a reflection of an era that sold the American Dream, but Draper, as a stand-in for many other Americans, was confused by what that truly meant and how to genuinely find himself within that dream. 
It was the irony of this man’s success at hawking happiness, while struggling to find a modicum of his own that Weiner wanted to communicate. That and the inner conflict of this Madison Avenue boys’ club, who were doting suburban family men on weekends, and hard-drinking, chain-smoking, and philandering rakes during the week. 
Imaginary Forces’ creative directors Mark Gardner and Steve Fuller were tasked with creating an open that matched the series’ complexity and emotion and communicated its core themes. They had two amazing assets to work with: the series’ pilot and direct access to Weiner. Weiner wanted the title sequence to communicate two stories: the one that you see, and the real story that you only see in glimpses. And he didn’t want it to have a 1960s pastiche look, but rather to be placed firmly in the era. Gardner and Fuller sought a visual style representing the 1960s that was also contemporary. And they wanted to convey the dual life of a man who was both cool and sophisticated, but also out of control. 
He essentially didn’t even know who he was and he was a conflicted character. We wanted to show everybody that on the surface he’s very in control, a very confident person, but is living a lie. And that’s something that’s obviously come out far more over the seasons, but was there even just in the pilot. And so we wanted to have something that got to that.                                         
—Mark Gardner, creative director, SYPartners
Weiner presented the concept of a man walking into an office building, entering his office, placing down his suitcase, and jumping out the window. But of course, the title sequence story needed to be much more than that. The creative directors explored the loss of control that falling represents by gathering their favorite falling scenes from films. Saul Bass’ final title sequence for the film Casino and many Hitchcock films, including North by Northwest, inspired the creators. 
We were trying to get at the heart of what the show was about in falling. It just seemed like this is something everyone recognizes. Everyone dreams about it. It’s a very powerful metaphor.
 —Mark Gardner, creative director, SYPartners 
And with the benefit of CGI (computer-generated imagery) they created a more modern, stylized look. They had the man fall into a chasm of false and conflicting advertising promises—from pantyhose and alcohol to wedding rings and families—abstractly and monochromatically depicted on the sides of skyscrapers. Rather than present the fall in a continuous CGI camera move, it looked like a real film shoot, as if there were cameras on the surrounding buildings creating a variety of shots—wide shots, medium shots, and telephoto lens shots.
Stills taken from Mad Men; Provided through the courtesy of Lionsgate The multiple "camera" POVs of the falling man created in CGI.
In early creative rounds, the sequence was one continuous fall. But Weiner wanted something to set up the fall. So the creators created an abstract office world that shattered and led to his fall. The clincher was how the man was depicted. The creative directors chose the power and mystery of a black and white silhouetted man, ostensibly Don Draper, shown first from behind as he entered an office, echoed in tight silhouetted shots of his foot and briefcase. The motif of the backside of inscrutable figures has penetrated culture—from the brooding photo of JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Following fan movie clip montage of people shot from behind on YouTube. 
Stills taken from Mad Men; Provided through the courtesy of Lionsgate
Mad Men’s Don Draper is a mysterious and conflicted silhouetted man.
And the title sequence resolved on a signature, seated silhouette of an enigmatic Draper, in control, holding a burning cigarette. The silhouette shot sealed the deal for Weiner when Imaginary Forces pitched their initial work to him, and it ended up carrying the series’ marketing materials. 
It was that image of him from behind, sort of unknowable, but full of confidence and mystique that was the thing. He said, “That’s my show. You summed it up in one frame.”   
—Mark Gardner, creative director, SYPartners 
Stills taken from Mad Men; Provided through the courtesy of Lionsgate
The signature final silhouetted shot of Mad Men’s title sequence, which drove the series’ branding and marketing materials.
The team developed three or four ideas, but it was clear to Weiner that the approach in the final title sequence was the best. But this sequence concept was chock full of problems for AMC and Lionsgate. First, they had concerns about associations of the falling man with photos of 9/11 victims jumping from the Twin Towers. And then there was the overt depiction of an indulgent, if not decadent, lifestyle. 
I was witness to some of those conversations such as, “We can’t have someone falling out of a building. We can’t show someone with a cigarette in their hand. We can’t have references to alcohol,” which all are there in the title sequence. And Weiner said, “No, we need all of those in.” It’s quite inspiring to hear someone defend their project. You see how these things can get ruined by people insisting on compromising. And he just didn’t.          
—Mark Gardner, creative director, SYPartners 
In the end, the network and studio took a chance on Weiner’s singular vision and Gardner and Fuller’s unique expression of it. Silhouette Man’s reappearance, back in control, in the final frame, sold them on Falling Man. To bring the title sequence fully to life, Weiner chose “A Beautiful Mine,” a moody and evocative jazz arrangement by RJD2 as the open’s theme music. The song has a Hitchcockian quality, akin to Bernard Herrmann’s music. Its foreboding is realized with a major break in tone and tempo when the man’s world falls apart and he tumbles downward. 
Mad Men’s title sequence is a 36-second cryptic, dream sequence of a silhouetted man lost and trapped in the American dream that he peddles.

The complete Mad Men case study appears in Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media, which skillfully guides media makers and media marketers through the rapidly changing world of entertainment and media marketing. Its groundbreaking transmedia approach integrates storytelling and marketing content creation across multiple media platforms – harnessing the power of audience to shape and promote your story. Through success stories, full color examples of effective marketing techniques in action, and insight from top entertainment professionals, Transmedia Marketing covers the fundamentals of a sound 21st century marketing and content plan.

Friday, May 15, 2015


By Anne Zeiser, founder/CEO, Azure Media
author Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media

In 2003 I had the great fortune to design and manage the marketing, engagement, and transmedia strategy for Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues — a week-long  film festival that fired on air, online, in print, in schools, and on the road. As the torch bearer for the music genre, B.B. King was instrumental to the project, appearing in the ad campaign (above), performing in the Radio City Music Hall concert and concert film, and donning the cover of Parade magazine the Sunday before the series premiered on PBS. King was a consummate professional, had an enormously generous spirit, and transmitted his love of humanity and music to everyone he touched. 
As a tribute to him, I share a bit about The Blues project, the largest of its kind about blues music.The project is summarized below and will be one of several vibrant teaching case studies in the upcoming book, Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media, a new title on transmedia storytelling and entertainment engagement from Focal Press in the American Film Market® Presents book series.

The Blues Executive Summary

By the turn of the twentieth century, the supremely American music genre—the blues—had suffered a downward slide in popularity and was underacknowledged for its profound influence on virtually all music—soul, country, rock ’n’ roll, hiphop, and jazz. While a handful of blues legends remained, very few recognizable younger artists represented the next blues generation. Blues music sales were down and the genre was often combined with other categories to form hybrids with broader appeal. Common perception was that the blues was a nearly defunct, sad, and overly simplistic art form that spoke only to African Americans.
To change all that, on September 28, 2003, Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues—a week-long primetime film festival broadcast of seven impressionistic independent documentary films—each directed by a different film visionary including Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Clint Eastwood, Mark Levin, Richard Pearce, Mike Figgis, and Charles Burnett—premiered nationally on PBS. Produced by Vulcan Productions and Road Movies, executive produced by Martin Scorsese, and sponsored by Volkswagen, the TV series anchored a cross-platform media project—on air, online, in print, in schools, and on the road—designed to raise awareness of the blues and its contribution to American culture and music. In addition to the TV series featuring scores of blues and music greats, The Blues cross-platform project included a content-rich Web site on; a 13-part companion radio series distributed by Pubic Radio International; a companion book by HarperCollins; a high-profile concert at Radio City Music Hall; a theatrically-released concert film directed by Antoine Fuqua; a cadre of music CDs and DVDs/videos from Sony and Universal; a traveling museum exhibit by Experience Music Project; high school music and social studies curriculum; and an extensive “On the Road” grassroots tour of film, music, and cultural events.
To capture the authentic emotional resonance of the blues, The Blues took to the road and to the people with “The Year of the Blues.” Kicking off in early 2003 with the Congressional Proclamation and a landmark, star-studded concert at Radio City Music Hall with 50+ artists, “The Year of the Blues” was celebrated “On the Road” with a national schedule of 120+ high-profile and grassroots film, music, and heritage events. The Blues cross-platform media event crescendoed in the fall with the TV series and was amplified by immense media coverage and buzz. Throughout, The Blues was supported by a massive awareness campaign with music icons such as B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, and Mick Jagger and newer artists such as Chris Thomas King, Shemekia Copeland, and Chuck D. In tandem with the grassroots tour, the campaign included media relations; TV, radio, print, online, and mobile advertising; online and guerrilla marketing; on-air, in-store, and in-flight promotion; and strategic partnerships with American Airlines, House of Blues, W Hotels, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Experience Music Project, and the Blues Foundation. The project reached music and film aficionados, cultural leaders, educators, the press, Hollywood, and Capitol Hill. The Blues was the “can’t miss” media event of the fall of 2003, creating a true cultural awakening and resurgence of the blues.
One of the most extensive awareness campaigns in PBS’ history, The Blues garnered 1.7 billion positive media impressions via publicity, online marketing, events, and on-air and online promotion. It delivered 1.2+ billion impressions via traditional media coverage, 113 million online, and 2+ million on the ground, through the project’s “On the Road” tour.
As many as 60 million people intersected with The Blues media components, including 19.5 million TV viewers in the first week of broadcast and 20 million unique Web visitors to the project site in the first three weeks. The project also created lasting cultural impact, reaching key target audiences including 50,000 high school teachers and 1 million students who would study, celebrate, and play the blues for years to come. And, it reached numerous social, media, and political influencers in Congress, in Hollywood, and at cultural events — from the Kennedy Center to the Cannes Film Festival. Finally, The Blues project lifted the blues music genre and its artists, generating an overall 40 percent uptick in the sales of blues CDs, a staggering 500 percent increase among key retailers in the few weeks after the project’s launch, and the donation of revenue to The Blues Foundation for aging artists.

Popular interest in roots music [has] grown in recent years, especially after . . . The Blues.—The New York Times (3/21/04)

More About Transmedia Marketing

Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media, skillfully guides media makers and media marketers through the rapidly changing world of entertainment and media marketing. Its groundbreaking transmedia approach integrates storytelling and marketing content creation across multiple media platforms – harnessing the power of audience to shape and promote your story.
Through success stories, full color examples of effective marketing techniques in action, and insight from top entertainment professionals, Transmedia Marketing covers the fundamentals of a sound 21st century marketing and content plan. You’ll master the strategy behind conducting research, identifying target audiences, setting goals, and branding your project. And, you’ll learn first-hand how to execute your plan’s publicity, events, advertising, trailers, digital and interactive content, and social media.
Transmedia Marketing pioneers the powerful idea that successful entertainment projects must blend storytelling and marketing across multiple platforms. Creatives, business execs, and marketers alike will devour this book’s clear guidance and real-world examples of how to shape a project so audiences will love it, participate in it, and share it.
Linda Reisman, Producer, Jeepers Creepers, Affliction, The Danish Girl 
Transmedia Marketing is an in-depth, authoritative, and extremely timely survey of multi-platform marketing in the age of pervasive communications. Anne Zeiser has a unique understanding of the vital role that narrative plays in connecting a mass audience with your content or brand, and her advice for how to close that circuit is some of the best I've seen. There is more than a little bit of secret sauce contained in this book.
Jeff Gomez, CEO, Starlight Runner Entertainment; Transmedia Producer, Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tranformers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Halo, Hot Wheels
[One of] the best books for those interested in storytelling, play and design. 
Lance Weiler, storytelling pioneer, “40 Must Read Books on Story, Play, and Design,” Culture Hacker
Anne Zeiser has earned the industry’s respect by taking a strategic approach to everything she does, and this book is no exception. It takes full advantage of Anne's deep experience and expertise in 21st century transmedia marketing.
Lesli Rotenberg, Senior Vice President, PBS Marketing and Communications

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

THE GREAT PUPPY BOWL -- Budweiser-6; Go Daddy-0

Courtesy of

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

In the great American advertising faceoff at this year's Super Bowl, two adorable Golden Retriever puppies serving as proxies for two mega brands - Budweiser and GoDaddy - almost went head-to-head.

The best advertising captures audiences' imaginations. It tells a story, produces emotion, and fulfills deep-seated needs. Humans love to laugh, feel smart, affirm their lives, and be part of a community. Good creative does all that. So, despite knowing they're being sold to, audiences love great ads. That's why a huge part of Super Bowl viewing is attributable to the promise of seeing some of the most creative or compelling ads of the year.

Here's how each brand suited up their pups for the big kickoff:
  • Budweiser pulls at our heart strings with its warm and fuzzy sequel to last year's "Puppy Love" spot, chronicling the inseparable bond between a Golden puppy and a Clydesdale horse. In the Super Bowl IV, "Lost Dog" installment, the puppy is inadvertently lost and we follow his quest - braving harsh elements and miles fraught with nefarious threats - to get home safely. No spoiler here, with a little help from his friends, the #BestBuds are united. This heartwarming and life-affirming ad plumbs our emotional depths, and by association makes beer family-friendly (no mean feat within the alcohol category). This spot was directed by Jake Scott (Ridley Scott's son) of RSA Films.
  • GoDaddy reaches beyond its limited ad portfolio of the inexplicably raunchy or anything with Danica Patrick to parody this saccharine canine saga of lost puppy "Buddy's" treacherous "Journey Home." But upon the pup's victorious return, he is promptly sold online (thanks to GoDaddy technology) and coldly shipped out to places unknown. This sarcastic and mean-spirited ad gives more homage to the Budweiser brand than its own and reveals the creators' huge blind spot for what is and isn't funny. This ad was created by agency Barton F. Graf 9000.
Budweiser's ad scores a touchdown of big love before the big game and GoDaddy's gets an incomplete pass, with its ad yanked from the Super Bowl just hours after its debut on "The Today Show" due to a hue and cry from offended fans and animal rights advocates. Why does the beer company's more predictable and syrupy ad achieve a giant win and GoDaddy's riskier and potentially more creative spot score an epic fail?

There are three key reasons that Budweiser's campaign connects and GoDaddy's fumbles - all rooted in key tenets of sound marketing and promotion. These marketing principles and other fundamentals of entertainment and media marketing are covered in my upcoming book Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media.

#1: Know Your Story 

Since the days of cavemen, humans have been impelled to tell stories, spinning a good yarn enhanced by the special effects of the flickering campfire. Ancient storytelling is documented in France's Chauvet Cave walls from almost 30,000 years ago. There are seminal stories that we all relate to that are retold millions of times in many forms - from oral storytelling traditions and ballads to films and multi-player games. According to Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots, there are seven archetypal stories that appeal to universal emotions: Slaying the Beast, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth.
  • Budweiser's "Lost Puppy" ad is The Quest - the protagonist's journey toward a major goal. Some key examples from literature include Homer's The Odyssey, Jason and the Argonaut's recovery of the Golden Fleece, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, and from modern entertainment, The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, and Finding Nemo. In The Quest stories, we want our heroes to make it "home" almost as much as we want to breathe. When they do, it is profoundly comforting and satisfying.
  • GoDaddy's "Journey Home' parody was aiming for Comedy. This plot needs a light and funny hero who triumphs over an adverse situation or unteases misunderstandings, resulting in a happy ending. Some key examples from literature include Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night, and from modern entertainment The Importance of Being Earnest, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Lizzie Bennet's Diaries. In "Journey Home," if there had been several humorous happenstances (perhaps all powered by GoDaddy) along the puppy's journey that ironically landed the puppy home, the ad might have worked brilliantly. But our canine hero made it home on his own steam, only to be callously sold. Hence, the ad became a heinous abomination of the Tragedy, a storyline in which the protagonist is a villain, (not an innocent puppy) who falls from grace (not a speeding truck) and whose demise is a happy ending. Some key examples from literature include Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Les Misérables, and from modern entertainment, The Great Gatsby, Chinatown, and Crash. But since this puppy is not a villain, the unhappy ending is a massive emotional assault. The spot delivers on neither Comedy nor Tragedy.
Courtesy Daily January 27, 2015

#2: Don't Mess With Babies and Puppies

Another key tenet of effective marketing and promotion is that celebrities, sex, babies and puppies sell. Celebrities have endorsed products to make them "cool" since the '20s when Chesterfield and Lucky Strike cigarettes used actors, comedians, and opera singers to create a whole new generation of smokers. Beyoncé endorses Pepsi and LeBron James endorses Nike. Selling with sex appeal is one of the oldest saws in the advertising industry, predicated on Boy Gets Girl and visa versa. Clairol's "Does she . . . or doesn't she?" signature 1957 campaign was about the lengths women go to look beautiful. The car industry has adorned cars with beautiful women to make men take notice. David Beckham's almost-nude 2012 Super Bowl ad for H & M clothes garnered almost 110,000 social media mentions within 45 minutes. 

Then there's the adverting cliché of babies and puppies. The mere sight of them elicits an emotional reaction, which is why animal and kid photos and videos are the most shared on social media. We are evolutionarily wired to feel compassion and a sense of protection toward young creatures. That's why we think babies - and by extension puppies and kittens - are cute. It ensures our species' survival. These scientific and psychological truths haven't escaped advertisers. For more than 60 years, Coppertone has used "Little Miss Coppertone," an energetic little girl whose fun-loving cocker spaniel grabs her skivvies to reveal her tan line. This still vibrant brand offers a two-for-one special - a cute little girl and her dog.
By Alexf; licensed under creative commons via Wikipedia Commons
  • No surprise, Budweiser's huggable little Golden Retriever Puppy (the most popular dog breed in the U.S.) juxtaposed against the grandeur of the beloved massive Clydesdale draft horse makes for an irresistible strange bedfellows animal love story. This original story and its sequel leverage the equity of the Clydesdales, which have captured Americans' hearts for almost three decades, and adds another huggable character. Twice the lovability.
  • The moral of this story for GoDaddy is you can't add an evil twist that jeopardizes the heartwarming appeal of babies and puppies. It's a simple, straight-forward emotion. You can add some humor to hit another emotional note like Geico's "Camel Hump Day" does - the obnoxious camel crashing offices to celebrate Wednesdays and therefore him. But it still must be a happy, uplifting resolution. So when Buddy's owner says, "I'm so glad you made it home! Because I just sold you on this website I made with GoDaddy. Ship him out!," GoDaddy messed with the requisite happy ending, thereby breaking the rules of story plot and of how to treat cuddly babies.
#3: Don't Underestimate the Power of Digitally-Engaged Audiences

Sound marketing, like all good storytelling, engages audiences by reaching the limbic part of the brain. It creates opportunities for audiences to find meaning in and authentically participate with a brand on various media platforms. This translates into audience loyalty for and ambassadorship of a project - the Holy Grail of branding, marketing, and engagement. When fans use, love, and tell others about your media content or project, that's a smash hit.

Social media enables audience ambassadorship of a product. That's because the social universe is about self-expression through personalized social storytelling - audiences sharing what they deem interesting, important, or funny; telegraphing who they are and what they believe in; and recommending products or supporting causes. The trick is to get social audiences to become co-protagonists, connecting their personal stories to your brand's narrative. 

To harness its immense power, social media is used as the vital connective tissue to various elements of a brand or its marketing. Hence, most Super Bowl TV spots are launched online before the big game and promoted leading up to and after the event.
  • Budweiser's "Puppy Love" spot from last year's Super Bowl was the most shared and beloved ad in Facebook history. This year's "Lost Dog" promises even more audience engagement. First, the Super Bowl spot was treated like a feature film with its own online teaser campaign of images and animated GIFs of the pup's journey home, created by Anomaly. In addition, Budweiser developed an online campaign for audiences to find the pup, launching on Twitter on January 7th with a photo of the rancher and his Clydesdale hanging "Lost Dog" signs. It was followed by a January 21st tweet, "Help our rancher find his puppy and you could win tickets to the Super Bowl. Watch to learn how. #BestBuds #sweeps" with a video explaining the contest. Daily tweets entreated fans to be on the lookout for the lost dog and participate in the sweepstakes. Fans nationwide have posted pics of the "Lost Dog" and other brands - from @USATODAYmoney to @lenovoUS - have lodged support for the pup, all using the campaign's hashtag, #BestBuds. The online "Lost Dog" spot has garnered 55 million views before the Super Bowl.
  • Because GoDaddy's spot features a puppy that is sold online, animal rights advocates felt it implied endorsement of illegal puppy farming. The animal protection charity, The SPCA posted tweets using hashtag #GoDaddyPuppy, condemning the spot and explaining why buying a puppy online may be irresponsible. As a result, the animal anti-cruelty crowd erupted online. Animal rights advocate Helena Yurcho launched a petition to pull the ad, securing more than 42,000 signatures in a day. GoDaddy capitulated quickly with CEO, Blake Irving saying on a January 27th statement, "....we underestimated the emotional response. And we heard that loud and clear. The net result? We are pulling the ad from the Super Bowl. You'll still see us in the Big Game this year, and we hope it makes you laugh." Cynics think it was all on purpose. Most likely, it was a big gaffe, because "all publicity is good publicity" simply isn't true. "The Journey" satire reveals the dangerous flip side of the power of engaged social audiences who critique with as much fervor as they support.
This puppy saga demonstrates that ads are short stories and that there are some key storytelling principles that good ads most follow. What is says about the Patriots' and Seahawks' face-off is hard to divine, but surely there was a narrative to the big game. It may fall into one of the seven archetypal stories: Slaying the Beast, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Of course, who's the protagonist and who's the antagonist depends on your football team allegiance.

Which of the seven seminal storylines you think the Super Bowl followed and why? Follow Anne Zeiser on Twitter @azuremedia

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Credit: "Ring-a-round-a roses" by Artist Jessie Willcox Smith (1863–1935), published 1912; Wikimedia Commons 

By Anne Zeiser, 
President and CEO, 
Azure Media

Transmedia Marketing--From Film and TV to Games and Digital Marketing 
(Focal Press 2015)

Current generations may not know that the innocent childhood game “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” is a cultural holdover to the devastation that diseases like the Great Plague and the Black Death wreaked on human populations. Even in the 20th century, infectious diseases were such a dominant threat to the quality of life that Jonas Salk became an unintended folk hero for developing a safe polio vaccine. Today, most people don’t remember the heartbreaking and sometimes lethal effects of not vaccinating, hence can’t see their own vital role in public health. 

By 2000, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) declared a public health victory, that measles, which had once infected 3 to 4 million people and killed 500 yearly, had been eliminated in the U.S. through effective vaccines and public health systems. Yet in the spring of 2014, the CDC reported thatmeasles was back, placing it at its highest level in the U.S. in 20 years. This past June, California declared an epidemic of whooping cough – life-threatening for babies – with 800 cases reported in two weeks alone. The CDC and the California Department of Public Health were declaring public health failures.

You and I own that failure. Each of us is responsible for our collective health – a foundational principle of public health. With highly infectious diseases like measles, 95%of a community must be vaccinated to maintain “herd immunity” – the tenuous threshold of vaccination required to prevent outbreaks, thereby protecting the most vulnerable who can’t vaccinate, including the very young and the immune-suppressed. (When I was undergoing chemotherapy and wore a mask in public, I was grateful to each of you who vaccinated.)  When the vaccination rate drops below that threshold by just a few percentage points in a population, this safeguard can break down, often resulting in pockets of outbreaks. That’s happened within our borders – from California and New York to Ohio and Maine. And that can happen in your community when too few people vaccinate.

Science continually demonstrates that when vaccination rates drop, herd immunity collapses and outbreaks re-emerge and travel. There were 30,000 cases of measles in Europe in 20112,000 cases in the UK in 2012; and, there are almost 600 measles cases in 21 states in the  Public health policy is set based on that science and relies on you and me to protect vulnerable populations – which could be your newborn niece, your brother undoing cancer treatment, or your aging grandmother. Those with immature or compromised immune systems are even more vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases than healthy individuals. By not vaccinating, we’re all but placing them back in the era of the Bubonic Plague. Is that humane or socially responsible?

 Outbreaks in the developing world are an understandable byproduct of political strife or inadequate infrastructure. But here in the developed world, where we’ve had the science to hold these vaccine-preventable diseases at bay for decades, why are outbreaks of measles, mumps, and whooping cough back in the news?

Because of huge cultural differences between the 20th and 21st centuries. As we’ve enjoyed high levels of health, we’ve also lost our understanding of the urgency of public health. Preventative health is invisible. It’s hard to communicate until it's lost and its effects become visible. For some, then it’s too late. These outbreaks aren’t due to the lack of medical know-how or resources, but because some people don’t vaccinate or delay vaccination from fear of perceived risks or religious beliefs. While 90% of parents do vaccinate, and most do on the CDC’s recommended schedule, 10% of parents choose to delay or skip their children’s shots, and many parents have questions about vaccinating.

That hesitancy lies at the nexus of where science meets culture. Vaccinating children is inextricably linked to parents’ love and fear. The acute fear of deadly diseases that fueled panic about not vaccinating in earlier times, has been replaced by a new kind of pervasive fear about vaccinating, also born from parents’ abiding love of their children. That huge change in the CDC's reported measles rates in just 15 years may be attributable to one bad study and the panic it incited. In 1998, many parents fell prey to Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent study of 12 patients citing a link between MMR-based vaccines (measles, mumps, rubella) and autism, peddled through the media by well-meaning celebrities. Understandably, some fearful parents opted out or delayed vaccination.

Fifteen years later, the MMR/autism link is one of the most researched areas in vaccines. The worldwide scientific consensus from myriad peer-reviewed studies of many thousands of subjects is that there’s no association between the MMR vaccine and autism. Wakefield has been fully discredited – his medical license was revoked, Lancet retracted the paper, citing Wakefield’sethical misconduct, and study authors acknowledged, "We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described.” But the urban myth persists among entirely new generations of parents because it was so effectively perpetrated through word-of-mouth.  And it stuck because some parents are less likely to trust scientific institutions and medical experts than celebrities and information circulating on the Internet. For them, questioning vaccinations is a sign of love and vigilance.

Social media myths about such an emotionally-charged subject can influence the reception of expert information from dedicated scientists, doctors, health care professionals, and public health officials. Resulting slips in vaccination rates can put public health in the balance.  To protect their constituencies, state policy makers are tightening vaccination exceptions. this increases vaccination rates and minimizes outbreaks, it doesn’t close the science understanding gap, which is paramount for the long-term vibrancy of communities and economies. 
One way to close that gap is to present science in accessible ways that acknowledge and tackle parents’ questions. NOVA’s Vaccines – Calling the Shots, produced for NOVA by Tangled Bank Studios in association with Genepool Productions, recently premiering on PBS, does just that. Featuring scientists, pediatricians, psychologists, anthropologists, and parents wrestling with vaccine-related questions, the hour-long film explores the history and science behind vaccinations, tracks outbreaks of previously eradicated diseases, sheds light on the risks of opting out of vaccinating, and presents new science on the genetic causes of autism. The film is streamed online along with a rich array of digital assets, together examining the science and the cultural, policy, and public health implications of vaccines.

Hopefully, this new entrée to vaccines will seed an informed, non-polarizing dialogue about the best way to protect our families and communities.  And, perhaps it will help you and me see how our understanding of science and our choices about vaccination are critically linked to public health and to each other’s well-being.

Anne Zeiser is a media professional, including working in science and health communications. She contributed to NOVA’s Vaccines – Calling the Shots. (You can join the conversation at #vaccinesNOVA) Anne Zeiser tweets via @azuremedia

This article can also be seen in the Huffington Post at this link