ESPN showcasing the Ultimate Dodgeball Championship

UDC Instagram & Facebook

Sky Zone is having a media moment.

In addition to the brand making its big screen movie debut in Bad Moms Christmas this week, Sky Zone’s Ultimate Dodgeball Championship is being featured on ESPN’s national TV schedule tomorrow night (Sunday, November 5th).

The 2017 semi-final and final matches will be showcased in a 1-hour special on ESPN2 and the ESPN app tomorrow at 8 PM EST.

Last year ESPN showed UDC content via online video, and this year the coverage was upgraded to primetime.

Congrats to the athletes who make the UDC matches so much fun to watch!  And thanks to the Sky Zone team members who put so much work into bringing UDC to life.

Bad Moms jump at Sky Zone

 

I can’t wait to see this movie.

Because it’s going to be funny? Yes.

And because it’s Sky Zone‘s theatrical debut.

The first Bad Moms was a hit. The sequel opens in theaters this week. The original bad moms are joined by by their own mothers, played by Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski and Susan Sarandon.

You can catch a peek of the characters’ visit to Sky Zone at 1:33 and 1:57 in the trailer above.

Check out the film at a theater near you this month. I’d be curious to hear what you think of the movie and the Sky Zone scene.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, here are a couple article sharing insights about the comedy.

Forbes – Interview with Bad Moms film producer Suzanne Todd

LA Times – “How ‘Bad Moms’ went from sleeper hit to female-driven franchise

Halloween. It’s back…. Again!

 

One year ago I wrote a post just before the start of Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 2013. It looked at how our use of social media to market the event reflected the major developments in mainstream U.S. social media since the days of MySpace.

Now another year has flown by. Tonight marks the start of the 2014 event, including the opening night Eyegore Awards ceremony.

Halloween Horror Nights is a great event to market. The nature of the content — gruesome entertainment largely created in partnership with horror-film directors and producers, TV shows (such as The Walking Dead), and musicians (like this year’s collaboration with Slash) — combined with the young-adult target audience allows for a lot of creativity.

The content and the audience are both perfectly suited to digital marketing.

As in past years, we’re creating videos to highlight the guest experience as well as our entertainment team’s creative partnerships; for example:

 

Social media fan engagement is a year-round activity but naturally intensifies during the event period. We have active fan bases on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This year we also started posting on Snapchat.

My team and I are responsible for the event website, a work in progress as we always continue to add videos and photos as the event progresses. Please check it out. (Note: it includes some gory images).

For commerce, this year’s ticket store is optimized for mobile check-out.

All this work keeps us busy but it really is a lot of fun.

If you’ve been to Halloween Horror Nights, please share your thoughts about the experience in a comment below.

(Disclosure and disclaimer:  As noted throughout this blog, I am an employee of NBCUniversal / Universal Studios Hollywood. All company information mentioned in this post is publicly available. All opinions are personal and do not represent the opinions of the company. See media relations website for official press contacts and press releases. To state the obvious, the achievements of Universal Studios Parks & Resorts are the result of the hard work and commitment of many people.)

The Muppets Take Social Media

Muppets angry old men (photo by Sifter)

As you may have seen, a fantastic television commercial for the upcoming Muppets Most Wanted movie aired during last weekend’s broadcast of the 2014 Golden Globes Awards ceremony.

The commercial had a built-in connection to the underlying awards show since Tina Fey both plays a character in the movie and was a co-host of the ceremony. (A solid marketing hook but not a surprising tactic.)

The commercial’s relevance to the show was increased by its storyline: feigned outrage about the movie’s lack of award nominations. (A more original hook.)

But what I really love is how the commercial spoofs both social media comment threads and, if I’m not reading too much into it, the way companies incorporate social media elements (Twitter icons, hashtags, real-life comments, etc.) into broadcast ads. And best of all, it achieves this using the Muppets’ brand of irreverent yet disarmingly cute humor.

What do you think?

Halloween. It’s back…

It’s mid-September but Halloween is front of mind at Universal Studios Hollywood because this Friday is opening night of Halloween Horror Nights 2013.

Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) is our annual nighttime event featuring entertainment geared toward horror-lovers and Halloween aficionados. We say the event is for ages 13 plus; it’s definitely not for children or the faint of heart.

For many of us at Universal Studios Hollywood the event has become a year-round endeavor. This is especially true for the core group of people leading the entertainment plans as well as for my team working on social media.

Facebook and Twitter have become amazing platforms for keeping fans engaged throughout the year — which means we have momentum heading into the start of the broad advertising campaign in September.

Universal Studios Hollywood held HHN in the late 1990’s but put the event on hiatus from 2001 – 2005. (Universal Orlando had it running throughout those years). My involvement in the event began with its return to Hollywood in ’06.

The timing of the ’06 return — coupled with the fact that digital has consistently been a primary communications vehicle since then — makes the history of HHN social media programs something of a mirror reflection of the history of mainstream U.S. social media.

Following is a summary of Universal Studios Hollywood’s HHN social media evolution.

2006, the re-launch year

MySpace was king.

As you may recall, Facebook was only opened to the general public in late Sept 2006. Up until that point it was restricted to students and select others. Its user base wasn’t yet large enough to be relevant to HHN marketing.

YouTube was more mainstream, having opened to the public in 2005. We dabbled with YouTube in Fall 2006, but MySpace was much more popular at the time and that’s where we paid the most attention.

The event was themed around a fictional character named The Director — a twisted, violent, blacklisted filmmaker who was out for revenge on the Universal Studios backlot. We created a MySpace page for the character, filled with videos, photos and other content that set up his back story and told of his appetite for blood.

The page was very 2006. Luckily, it was 2006. The page was a hit.

2007 – 2008

YouTube became the focal point of HHN social media engagement, while MySpace faded out.

2009

While we continued (and still continue) to create videos for YouTube, 2009 marked the start of official HHN Facebook and Twitter accounts.

From the get-go we gave Twitter and Facebook their own voices and perspectives. Twitter is used to provide more of an “inside baseball” view of the event (which has been executed well largely thanks to the passion and commitment of the event’s creative director) while Facebook provides more general event news and related entertainment (e.g., via the posting of original horror-related images/memes).

On a personal level, the launch of these social programs led to what should probably be the only time my name is ever mentioned on Bloody-Disgusting.com

2010 – 2012

This period was marked by steady growth of the event’s Facebook and Twitter audiences, experimenting with YouTube video advertising, and the addition of social commenting on the Halloween Horror Nights website.

HHN Instagram launched in 2012.

2013

New for this year is the start of HHN’s Instagram videos (the capability was launched in June).

Onwards

Wow, a lot has happened in seven years. Who knows what’s in store over the coming years… for sure there’ll be ever more ways to share the HHN scares.

I must end with a very well deserved thank you to my teammates/co-workers who’ve contributed so much effort and creativity to all the above-mentioned programs.

(Disclosure and disclaimer:  As noted in my bio and is obvious from the post, I’m an employee of Universal Studios Hollywood and am personally involved with the programs discussed above. All comments reflect publicly available information. Opinions reflected on this blog are personal and do not represent the opinions of the company).

$hift to Digital

100 Billion

A few weeks ago I read a data point that struck me as noteworthy for anyone interested in the growth of digital marketing and the trajectory of the advertising industry.

That data point, highlighted in a WSJ article, is that “Procter & Gamble Co. is now spending more than a third of its U.S. marketing budget on digital media…”

The article continued:

P&G chief executive A.G. Lafley said the consumer products giant’s digital spending on things like online ads and social media ranges from 25% to 35% of its marketing budget and is currently near the top of that range in the U.S., its biggest market.

This budget shift is of particular interest because it’s P&G, owner of the world’s largest ad budget and a company renowned for brand marketing.

Traditionally brand marketing has foremost meant television commercials, but the WSJ article also highlights a significant media-consumption milestone:  2013 is projected to be the first year that Americans spend more time with digital media than watching TV.

Which nicely segues to data included in an eMarketer article published yesterday:  eMarketer projects that in four years (2017) total U.S. digital advertising expenditure will be $61.4 billion, closing in on television’s projected $75.3 billion.

Within digital, the fastest growing format is video advertising. According to another eMarketer article from earlier this week, U.S. digital video advertising will increase by about 40% this year and next, and it’s growth is coming at the expense of television ads.

That article highlights research from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) that finds “much of that increased digital video spending will come out of former TV budgets. Seventy percent of buy-side US senior executives told the IAB they would likely move TV dollars to digital video in the coming year.”

Earlier this summer I wrote a blog post talking about the growth of online video. In that post I included an eMarketer projection estimating U.S. digital video ad spending will more than double from $4 billion in 2013 to $9 billion in 2017.

Putting this growth another way, eMarketer’s data indicates that video advertising will go from being approximately 6% of TV advertising in 2013 ($4.1b vs. $66.4b) to about 12% in 2017 ($9.2b vs. $75.3 billion).

A $9b market is relatively small but not insignificant. And as I explained in my earlier post, Google is especially well positioned to benefit from the shift in ad budgets.

More upside?

To add a personal prediction, I think there’s a good chance eMarketer’s forecast about upcoming video advertising growth is understated.

From my experience as a digital ad buyer, video ads have been surprisingly effective, not only for the brand-awareness building for which they were mainly purchased (targeted impressions were the primary goal) but also in terms of tracked view-thru conversions (i.e., online purchases made by people within 30 days of seeing the ad, meaning the video ad was likely at least one factor in the purchase decision).

As more digital marketers experiment with video advertising and as marketing departments overall continue to become more metrics focused, I believe there’s a strong likelihood that the shift to video advertising — and its increasingly sophisticated audience targeting — will rapidly increase.

Buenos Aires

TripAdvisor logo decal in window of Buenos Aires panaderia (bakery)

I recently returned from Buenos Aires. We try to go every year to spend time with my wife’s family; however, we didn’t make the trip in 2012 so it’d been two years since our last visit.

Like all vibrant cities, a lot can change in a couple years. Some of the changes I noticed included less people smoking in public places and the existence of more bicycle lanes along the edge of city streets.

I’d have called both of these “healthy changes” if I weren’t so skeptical about the safety of biking in such close proximity to Buenos Aires drivers.

Another noticeable change is the expansion of Starbucks in the city. That one can see Argentines in these shops is a testament to the power of Starbucks’ brand and “place making,” as Buenos Aires is definitely not a city in need of help on the coffee front. Fantastic, more-reasonably-priced coffee is available all over the place.

I also observed two changes related to digital marketing.

First, and not surprising given worldwide trends, is how widespread mobile Internet usage has become. (Including by my 60-something in-laws who now regularly use their phones to access information on the go).

Close-up of TripAdvisor and other decalsSecond, unlike two years ago, I saw TripAdvisor decals in the front windows of many hotels and restaurants.

The decals are a tangible reflection of TripAdvisor’s rapidly growing popularity around the world.

I saw most of the TripAdvisor decals while walking around Palermo, a neighborhood that’s very popular with international tourists. So the decals may foremost be valued as a way to generate business from North American and British tourists.

But even if that’s indeed the main motivation for Argentine venue managers to post TripAdvisor logo decals today, the decals themselves also serve as great brand-awareness and brand-prestige builders for the local audience. Palermo is full of high-end stores and restaurants and is popular with many locals as a fun place to eat, drink and hangout. TripAdvisor has the good fortune of having its brand name and distinctive logo visible on numerous storefronts in a fashionable neighborhood

TripAdvisor has been on a tear — gaining market share in countries around the world and seeing its stock price increase over 45% year to date. In Buenos Aires its growth is openly noticeable, like the spread of Starbucks. But unlike Starbucks, the TripAdvisor brand name is being posted by others, rent-free.