Welcome to Televution. My companies create intellectual property and provide services at the nexus of media, entertainment, marketing and technology. This blog is a personal perspective on those themes.


Branding the Apprentice

apprentice.jpgSo, the Celebrity Apprentice ended tonight, and I can finally reveal that my company Phenomenon had been retained by Mark Burnett and Donald Trump to help find and integrate brands into this season’s episodes. The statistics and results of Branded EntertainmentTM initiatives are becoming undeniable, but as media and production companies are starting to see interest, prices and rules are also getting out of control. 

Starting tomorrow, I will begin a series of articles on the concept of Branded EntertainmentTM, and why I believe it must now become part of every serious brand’s strategic budget planning. For those interested, I will provide a series of guidelines that will help brands plan, budget, strategize and execute appropriate Branded EntertainmentTM initiatives. I will also describe evaluation criteria and methodologies for multi-channel activation using those initiatives. 


A Bridge Too Far?

I recently participated in a private conference called BRIDGE, the purpose of which was to bring together artists (actors, directors, writers and animators,) media entities (studio heads, network presidents, producers and heads of media companies) and technology progenitors (venture capitalists, visionaries, innovators and heads of technology companies) in order to help set a course for a plausible future in which these three components of the emerging entertainment value chain could find a way to work together.

The discussion lasted a whole day in a single room, moderated by Donny Deutsch, and proved to be an exhilarating (and sometimes heated) exchange of ideas and concepts.

The artists were represented by the likes of John Cusack, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Mann, John Singleton, LL Cool J, Matt Stone, Anthony Zuiker, and Scarlett Johannson. Media reps included Kevin Reilly, Dawn Ostroff, Doug Herzog, Dana Walden, Jeff Berman, Brad Grey, and Matt Cohler. Technology progenitors included folks like Mark Kvamme, Marc Andreessen, David Sze, and Mike Volpi.

One of the biggest questions at the gathering was, “Are we all in this together?” Having had some time now to reflect on this, I think that question needs to be qualified to some extent.

The CPM model (cost per thousand) works for aggregators of content because the sheer volume of individual items they have.

Let’s look at an example, for the more creatively inclined: Let’s say one of the content aggregrator sites, let’s call it MyTube, has 20 million visitors a month. Lets say that on average, each viewer looks at 10 individual pages within MyTube during the course of that month. Now, let’s say that each “page” has 3 ads on it.

That means, in any given month, MyTube has (20MM X 10 X 3) ads that it will serve up in total. Which is an amazing 600 million ads. At the standard of $20 per 1000 ad views, our aggregrator MyTube stands to generate $12 million per month in ad sales.

That same logic doesn’t apply to individual content creators because the transactional value of sharing in the ad revenue for their specific, individual pieces is only a very, very small portion of that $12MM per month. Even if a content creator, over time, were to generate over a 100 pieces that sat on this aggregrator, the sheer volume of other things people can look at on the site doesn’t guarantee a very large amount of traffic to the content creator’s stuff.

THOUGHT: The ONLY way (outside of a systemwide subscription model), in my humble opinion, for a content creator (in this case, I’m referring to the type of content creators that came to Bridge — those who are used to getting paid millions for their work) to generate true transactional value from a content aggregator site is to form some sort of a “digital content coalition”. In this case, the content creators would own a piece of this coalition, and in exchange for this equity, would create content for the coalition to distribute digitally.

Let’s say this new consortium is called “Content Creators Coalition” — the CCC. In this case, anyone who joined the CCC (other than the founding members, who would have founder’s equity) would own a piece of the company. The company, in turn, would raise production funds from a VC firm or private equity firm in exchange for stock. Then, the content creators make proposals for specific content to the CCC, asking for budgets that would allow them to create their pieces. The CCC, in turn, would then digitally distribute the created content to various aggregrators, and given the volume of talent and content coming from the CCC, they would be able to get far more favorable deals with companies like “MyTube” than the content creators would be able to by themselves.

Over time, as the library of content owned by the CCC grows, and as more talent joins the coalition, the “asset value” of the CCC grows, as does the transactional base of revenue coming from the various forms of distributed content. The key is for the coalition to agree that the money that comes into the CCC from transactional revenues must be used in almost a ‘socialist” mechanism — for the overall good of the coalition, shared by all, and not split unevenly within the CCC.

Anyway, just an initial thought.  


America's Prom Queen -- The TV Show

So, I now officially have a show out of development, and airing on television. I’ve always though that Prom was ripe for reality television, and the kind folks over at ABC Family agreed with me. The result is the Neutrogena-sponsored America’s Prom Queen, which airs at 9PM E/8 C, Mondays on ABC Family.

The ratings have been strong for the demo, and contextually, it proves that my theory of television show concept development can work — weaving a format from an existing cultural phenomenon, and building watchable characters around it.  


Democracy in a Box

For months, I’ve been telling Raj that he should use LinkedIn. His answer was always the same — “It’s for you agency types. We brand marketers don’t use it.” Then, one recent afternoon, as we sat in the mild contention that Chinese food brings, both of us peering happily into our laptops, he looked up and said to me, “Wow, there’s a lot of people on LinkedIn I didn’t think would use it.”

True, that.

I was recently browsing profiles — the corporate equivalent of surfing on Myspace — and discovered an interesting one. His name is Rick, and his profile says he is “currently in development on the world’s first “political appliance.”

Just so you know, I love the word “appliance.” It has the most delicious quality to it when used as a qualifier, as in “acceleration appliance, or “cultural appliance.” It even makes “love appliance” seem not as sleazy.  When I went to Rick’s Web site (by taking the name of his company, removing the spaces and adding a .com at the end), I was presented with a very George Orwellish flash intro, that ended with an esoteric, but beautiful thought: that the greatest product of democracy is hope. It then simply reveals the logo of the company: Democracy Machine.

So, what could a “political appliance” called the Democracy Machine be? A job posting on LinkedIn gave a further clue. It states thus:

From the PTA to the Presidency, if it involves participatory governance, the Democracy Machine will be the “go-to” application that empowers everyone equally, regardless of background, wealth or contacts.

This is interesting, and hearkens back to a speech I gave at a Web 2.0 conference last year. I presented the evolution of  social network into a toolkit that would help an individual with a specific perspective manage the entire lifecycle of her personal enterprise. If that paradigm were to applied to politics in its truest definition — social relations involving authority or power — then a “political appliance” could potentially become a set of tools for an individual of any political strata (from you local elderman to an independent running for councilman, to an organization supporting the relection of a governor) to manage his or her communictations and campaign cycle.

Think about it — most political Web sites activate primarily during campaign season. They are smorgashboards of applications — random acts of outreach, if you will — and end up creating a management nightmare. Now, imagine if there existed a Web 2.0 application that could allow a politician connect and collaborate with an active community of voters,  giving them the social-networking versions of all the appropriate and necessary tools: surveys and polls, marketing material, communication protocols, and campaign management. Here, “politician” could be someone running for school  government, or even president of the local lemon grower’s club.  It could even be a 501c3 executive director, in which case the “network” becomes one of donors and philanthropists.

The possibilities are mind-boggling. Well, whatever Rick’s up to, one thing’s for sure.

He’s got a knack for naming and copywriting! 

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