Sunday, March 6, 2016

DOWNTON ABBEY WILL LIVE ON


2016-03-05-1457217405-2871074-DowntonAbbeySeason6SignatureImage.jpg
Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE






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
































The frenzy is full throttle for the series finale of Downton Abbey. Hashtag #DowntonPBS is afire with speculation about how it will end. Will Lord Grantham or Lady Violet die? Will Ladies Mary and Edith find true love?  Will the legacy of the Downton estate survive the changing times? Series creator and writer Julian Fellowes promises that all the current storylines will be resolved one way or the other.

If you think the critic and audience sensation is ending too soon, it isn't. It's ending just when it should because without Dame Maggie Smith playing the sharp-tongued Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (who told producers this would be her last season), the series would fall like a house of cards. As I say in this interview about the success of Downton Abbey for Emerson College, Voilet's the "fulcrum" of the series.

If you're feeling dread at the prospect of the plug being pulled on your drug of choice -- the soapy period costume drama set in post-Edwardian England -- don't lament, Downton will live on. In today's world of digital and transmedia content, strong brands live on forever. And the juggernaut Downton brand will be everywhere after the broadcast series ends. You can:
  • Binge-watch the series on PBS.org, On Demand on cable, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu, iTunes or Blu-ray/DVD
  • See the memes of key characters' zinger lines on social media
  • Check out the parodies on Jimmy Fallon, The Colbert Report, and The Simpsons
If all that's not enough, rejoice because there's talk of Downton Abbey's rebirth on other media platforms. The producers have been in serious discussions about a feature film set a decade after the finale in a pre-WWII England focusing on the younger characters. If Sex and the City and Entourage were big screen-worthy,  Downton Abbey certainly is. There's even speculation about a play and a musical.

And if you want the backstory on how Masterpiece Theatre, which was mainly watched by older viewers, became the "It Girl" of television drama for a broader audience, read about the series’ makeover with its new name, updated look, and fresh marketing strategy in "A Rebrand -- Masterpiece Theatre Meets Masterpiece" in Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media.

The launch vehicle for the brand refresh was the January 2008 Masterpiece Classic, The Complete Jane Austen -- a film festival of the classic author's entire oeuvre. I designed this Masterpiece launch campaign, which integrated publicity, events, and digital marketing. To engage rabid Austen fans, the series partnered with the Jane Austen Society of North America to create online and on-the-ground events, including one with Miramax's Becoming Jane and Anne Hathaway. The publicity and social media and online audience engagement for the mini-series were astounding. In Transmedia Marketing, executive producer of Masterpiece, Rebecca Eaton cites the brand relaunch as integral to the series' current success:
With the on-air look, social media, and publicity of The Complete Jane Austen, we were laying the groundwork for the phenomena of Sherlock and Downton Abbey. 
-- Rebecca Eaton, executive producer, Masterpiece
In the meantime, relish the final (for now) 120 minutes of the Crawley family and their merry band of servants. When Downton Abbey's over and the cravings return, you can partake of the panoply of other options to get your Downton fix.

Or, you can watch the original Upstairs, Downstairs.

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This story also appeared after the broadcast of the finale in The Huffington Post 
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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. With media partners from PBS and the BBC to Miramax and Sikelia Productions, Zeiser has successfully launched and marketed film studios and media organizations, feature and documentary films, television series and specials, mobile games and apps, and online video and media communities.  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.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A MORE SOCIALLY-RESPONSIBLE SUPER BOWL



By Anne Zeiser
Founder, Azure Media

When the price of a 30-second spot on CBS's broadcast of the 50th Super Bowl costs $5 million, you'd think advertisers would use every micro-second of that spot to sell product. In last Sunday's Super Bowl they did, but not necessarily in the conventional way.  First-time advertiser, Colgate toothpaste stood out in this year's pigskin fest among a mostly tepid array of ads with animals, celebrities in strange situations, and half-baked attempts at humor. Colgate's spot, "Save Water" showed us how running water while brushing our teeth wastes up to four gallons of water -- more than most people in the world have for an entire week. It also spawned a social awareness campaign and personal pledge about our responsibility to conserve water, #EveryDropCounts.



Colgate 2016 Super Bowl Ad: "Save Water"
Credit: Colgate

Why would Colgate-Palmolive use one of the last remaining mass audience platforms -- reaching 100 million viewers -- to deliver a message about protecting the environment? Because clean water is a finite resource and we squander it mindlessly. And, because Colgate understands their audiences. They understand that demonstrating their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and appealing to our better selves is smart business.  Corporate America can espouse a symbiotic double bottom line -- to make money and make the world a better place. With audiences being more socially-conscious than ever and demonstrating loyalty to brands that conduct fair trade, advance sustainability, and produce products that embody those philosophies, attending to both bottom lines is critical to the future.

These dual impulses aren't mutually exclusive. Nor are they new. When I helped open new resorts for Marriott's Hotels & Resorts throughout the Caribbean and Hawaii, I could still care about our impact on the ocean and coral reefs. When I launching new flavors and products for Brigham's Ice cream, I could also launch "KidSpeak" a program by and for kids, whose first effort was to collect books for the child victims of Apartheid in South Africa. My work in social responsibility and cause marketing  in the early '90s was inspired by the consumer goods corporate grandparents of CSR from the '70s and '80s, Ben & Jerry's, Starbucks, and Stonyfield yogurt. Many of the current CSR leaders are tech giants, including Microsoft, Google, and Apple.  (Though there are many modern consumer brand models like Panera Bread, Legos, and Tom's of Maine).

Colgate wasn't alone in social messaging during Super Bowl 50. In addition to the requisite Clydesdales, Budweiser aired an anti-drunken-driving social message spot. Standout British actress, Helen Mirren, tersely and sarcastically admonished viewers who drink and drive in #GiveaDamn.  Both Colgate and Budweiser paid full freight for these spots, proving the intersection of meaning and money can achieve both financial and social impact success for socially-conscious companies and brands.

And in a clever anti-sexual and domestic violence spot "Text Talk," the No More advocacy group educated audiences on how to recognize the signs of domestic violence through a back-and-forth text exchange between two friends. The NFL donated the airtime for this public service announcement (PSA), a wise messaging choice for a sport that's been riddled with violence against women.

Finally, Beyonce's half-time performance was a carefully orchestrated communication, both as the world debut of the brand new song, "Formation" and as a highly visible forum to deliver a social message. The all female performers were dressed in black berets like Black Panther activists and formed an "X" in the middle of the field, giving a nod to Malcolm X.  The Super Bowl performance and Beyonce's video of the single (with graffiti saying "stop shooting us") is the latest salvo in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which is taking cities and college campuses by storm. The media platform of music and the Super Bowl's world stage has given a new voice to the movement.

The power of media is incalculable. Nothing raises awareness or creates deeper understanding of an issue or a cause than storytelling through media. Archimedes said, "Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world." Media can be that place to stand. It can have a higher purpose. Since the first cave drawing or moving frame, media has had the power to influence and transform society. Media has affected Americans' perception of truth and justice -- from biting episodes about equality in All in the Family in the '70s to the harsh realities of the "live" Gulf War in the '90s to the sensitive presentation of gender identity in The Danish Girl this past year.

To all the world's companies and storytellers, don't stop exploring new ways to use the power of media -- from film and videogames to ads and songs -- to fuel social change.

"A More Socially-Responsible Super Bowl"appeared earlier this month in The Huffington Post 

Anne Zeiser is a critically acclaimed transmedia and social impact producer and media strategist. She's stewarded films and iconic TV 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. Zeiser is the author of the new book, Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media from Focal Press' American Film Market® Presents book series, which explores using media for social change in the chapter,"Media-fueled Social Impact."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Digital Geeks and YOU Can Win the War on Terror


tanuha2001via Getty Images
By Anne Zeiser
Founder, Azure Media

We think ISIS is unique, but young people getting caught up in extreme thinking isn't new. It's an age-old problem that's in play right now throughout this country. Gang members in major cities, Columbine-like shooters, fringe cults, and prisoners have all been radicalized or indoctrinated in the U.S. through the exact same formula.

The formula: disenfranchized young men (mostly), raised with little means and hope who are desperate for meaning, purpose, and a sense of community fall prey to evil ideologies and groups because they fulfill these deep-seated needs. The promise can range from money, drugs, glory, redemption, or fame, but the need is the same. So at its core, ISIS isn't a product of religion or even ideology, but a product of lack of opportunity and hope. Its demented dogma channels that disenfranchisement and its output is fear.

Extremists themselves reveal how to combat them. ISIS isn't a country, a political force, or even a single entity with a clear leader. With no centralized physical place, ISIS is everywhere -- literally and in our minds. Its tentacles grow wider and deeper by the minute. So, bombing ISIS targets does little good beyond making us feel a bit better. But ISIS does inhabit one common place. Members plan, proselytize, recruit, and promote online. Sometimes covertly; sometimes in plain sight. Digital is ISIS's main forum and its connective tissue. That's where we should meet them head on.

Also, perception is paramount to terrorists. ISIS is motivated by our fear and has little fear of their own, except for being marginalized, humiliated, or killed by a woman so they won't go to heaven. Loss of life is no deterrent to ISIS because they don't value it the way we do. In fact, becoming a martyr and going to "paradise" is an end-goal, bringing greater glory to the cause. But because they understand life's supreme value to us, they artfully peddle their currency of fear. A perception campaign that overcomes our fear and plays into theirs could cut them off at the pass.

Can we combat the elusive ISIS? Absolutely. Simply reverse-engineer the psychology of these radicalized extremists and wage war on the two most powerful fronts -- an invisible digital trail and a visible digital trail.

The Invisible Digital Trail

The first line of defense uses the strategy of big data collection and analysis to bring the hidden into full view. It may not sound sexy, but the "1" and "0" are far mightier than the sword. That's because the trail of data that each of us leaves is forever traceable. Where you go, what you buy, and with whom you hang out all leave a digital footprint. That also goes for almost every move of every member of ISIS.

War, now and forever, will be waged at a digital level. Not just with bullets and bombs, but with algorithms and analysis. Digital geeks and digital detectives are today's new warriors. They gather huge volumes of data, program it to reveal key insights, and connect the dots to help us find the pockets of ISIS members so we can root them out. Information gathering, data sharing, and data analysis by free nations at the highest level is the most effective means of nailing ISIS and thwarting their efforts.

So, the "silence" you hear and may misconstrue as inaction, in fact is the stealth-like wheels of geek-dom in action. Programmers, digital analysts, hackers, and even gamers are joining the cause. And if you rankle at the idea of Google and Facebook "owning" your personal data profile, ostensibly to upsell new products to you, remember that same kind of data can also be used to keep us safe. This just may be one of those moments when "Big Brother" can be used for the greater good.

The Visible Digital Trail

The second front is placing a vibrant collective consciousness publicaly on everyday digital platforms in response to ISIS's exquisite PR machine. They monitor our news and our social media, gleefully awaiting our "Shock and Awe" after a successful attack. They're exultant as we divide on whether to embrace the glut of their victims -- Syrian refugees. Yet ISIS has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion. They chortle as we miss the simple point of the Arab proverb, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

And when we succumb to blind ignorance and cowardice by assuming all Muslims are our enemy, we prove the very point ISIS is making about us. No Muslim as president; closing U.S. Mosques; helping only Christian refugees; requiring a Muslim registry. These impulses are as ignorant as our internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. And this thinking begins to enter the slippery slope of Hitler's full-on delirium that Jews were the cause of society's evils. ISIS has reverse-engineered the psychology of Americans and is watching us take the bait of fear.

This is where you and I can make a big difference. But, we cannot blink. We must fervently voice our resolve and courage through an outpouring of compassion. We must not fear, but rather embrace the Syrian refugees. They're also victims of ISIS, but have lost everything. By doing the right thing in the name of humanity, we'll also win the PR and social media war, disproving ISIS's claims about us. If you're afraid there will be a few bad apples among those Syrian refugees, you'd be right. They're in any given population -- at your school, in your workplace, and your apartment complex. But that doesn't mean that they're agents of ISIS. And for those who are, we can out-geek them.

In the end, doing the right thing always wins out over being a coward. Now's the time to shed our cloak of fear and flood the digital universe -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Periscope and every available web site and blog -- with support for all of ISIS's targets, whether Western or not. Do it online and do it in practice. Invite refugees into our communities, learn about their culture, show them the promise of the U.S. By being fearless and compassionate we can snuff out the power of terrorism over us.

The greatest humiliation for ISIS is if we are undaunted and are we are a vocal digital majority. If we can do it for Marriage Equality, we can do it against ISIS. The movement could be #Fearless #EnemyofmyEnemy #Dauntless #GoodPrevails #DigitalLove #ISISLoses or whatever you want to call it.  Just show ISIS that you're unassailable.


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. With media partners from PBS and the BBC to Miramax and Sikelia Productions, Zeiser has successfully launched and marketed film studios and media organizations, feature and documentary films, television series and specials, mobile games and apps, and online video and media communities.  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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

STAR WARS' TRANSMEDIA MYSTERY IS SECRET TO ITS SUCCESS


Walt Disney Studios



By Anne Zeiser
Founder/CEO Azure Media

Author, Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media


The long-awaited first full-length trailer for December's Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted a week and a half ago on Monday Night Football on Disney-owned ESPN. Anticipation for the trailer was palpable because Disney (which bought Lucasfilm in 2012) had meted out the drip-feed of information about the J.J. Abrams-directed film so carefully, it left more questions than it answered.
The "public" mystery began in April 2014 with the film's top-secret production at the UK's Pinewood Studios and on location in Abu Dhabi and Iceland. A year ago, in November 2014, Disney released the first 88-second teaser introducing some new characters in the franchise; in December, the studio revealed more of the film's key characters through Topps trading cards; in April 2015, a two-minute teaser unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, CA; and in May, Vanity Fair's exclusive cover issue showcased new and reprieved characters.

 In July, a panel at the 2015 Comic Con in San Diego revealed behind-the-scenes film footage; in August, attendees of Disney's D23 Expo received a commemorative poster and Disney released a 15-second video on Instagram; in September, a line of branded toys, books, clothing and various other products available at Disney Stores and other retailers launched live on YouTube as part of an 18-hour global broadcast; and most recently, in October, Disney unveiled the film's theatrical release poster (sans Luke Skywalker) and just days later, released the two and a half minute full-length theatrical trailer. 
Super fans were voracious for more clues to the story, universe, and characters for the seventh installment of the transmedia wonder, set three decades after the Return of the Jedi. The trailer introduced a new villain, Keylo Ren, who channels Darth Vader and followed two new heroes (and possible Jedis), desert scavenger, Ray and Stormtrooper, Finn. It also brought back franchise faves Hans Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca... and tantalized us with a glimpse of Luke Skywalker's robotic hand. And, to offer plot and thrill in equal measure, the trailer thrust viewers into the maw of signature raging battles -- all against the backdrop of John Williams' new arrangements of older themes and new music.
Sixteen million people saw the trailer on Monday Night Football, garnering 17,000 tweets per minute while it aired on ESPN. With its additional release on YouTube and Facebook, the trailer racked up a new record-breaking 112 million global views in 24 hours
That's it for big reveals before Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits the big screen on December 18th. Disney and Lucasfilm are segueing all that built-up demand into ticket sales, evident in their entreaty on StarWars.com: "The Force. It's calling to you. We can't wait for you to let it in, again, this December." The frenzy for tickets on starwars.com and other ticket sites crashed them the first night they became available -- some five weeks before the film's premiere.
This is a brilliant example of transmedia marketing in action. The multi-platform strategy Disney and Lucasfilm used to tease their film is explained in my new book on transmedia engagement for media and entertainment, Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media:
Many successful digital and viral entertainment marketing campaigns develop content that first, creates mystery around a passion topic or project; and second, rewards audiences by making them feel special or in the know. The powerful tension between these emotions has an amplifying effect. It's accomplished first by providing teaser content that asks as many questions as it answers to create pent-up audience demand; and then, by releasing desired content and clues in a drip-feed to sustain the demand. This places superfans in the position of having content or information first. They share because their tribe will be interested andbecause they want to show they're in the know.
So, you must reverse-engineer your content. Design a carefully-orchestrated narrative around it and decide how, to whom, and when to tell your story. Seed "Rabbit Holes" or clues to connect audiences to a story universe or simply deliver ongoing project news. Use online content to reveal a character's POV, deliver production news, or release poster art, teaser trailers, or preview Web sites to flesh out an intriguing fictional or non-fiction narrative. This technique works well as a teaser campaign for films, TV programs, and games. Over time, the narrative takes shape on both digital and traditional media and your audience helps sustain the storyline's momentum.
Just as Disney and Lucasfilm have orchestrated it, you must go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens to untangle all of its mysteries. But in the meantime, you can scour Star Wars-themed products on grocery shelves and retail stores to look for more clues.
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Photo by Anne Zeiser
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. With media partners from PBS and the BBC to Miramax and Sikelia Productions, Zeiser has successfully launched and marketed film studios and media organizations, feature and documentary films, television series and specials, mobile games and apps, and online video and media communities. 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.

This story appeared in the Huffington Post