Fortune 500 Company Seeks Parrot. Must Be Funny
Original articles are here (Huffington Post) and here (Chicago Tribune). More information on Greg here.
We have to add--the actors behind the voices of our AniMates (who interact in real-time) most certainly need dressing rooms and their share of the "bird seed".
Whenever I have my children's full attention, meaning they are only performing two simultaneous tasks on their cell phones, I attempt to offer fatherly advice on subjects ranging from drugs to fashion choices to not spending money like a Kardashian. So far they seem to be listening, although I know the day is coming when one bursts through the front door and excitedly screams, "Dad, don't you think this tattoo will be perfect for my job interview?"
Recently my eldest and I were discussing her chosen college major, physical therapy, a vocation that I wholeheartedly support for it meets the criteria I laid out during one of my advisory sessions: Do not choose a career that can be replaced by a computer. Physical therapist has only a 2.1 percent chance of becoming automated in the next decade or two, if one is to believe "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization," a 2013 study authored at the University of Oxford. Budding fashion models take note: The study predicts a 98 percent likelihood that robots, not humans, will be sashaying down Parisian runways in 2033.
Now, I fear, I may be searching for a new line of work, having just lost an employment opportunity to a parrot. And a computerized one at that.
I always assumed my longtime profession - stand-up comedian - would forever be immune to virtualization. "Comedian" doesn't even appear in the Oxford survey. And besides, I tell my children, "Nobody is going to sit in an audience and laugh at a machine." Of course, that was before presidential candidate and automaton Ted Cruz garnered some yuks at the last GOP debate, but I digress. "Sure, robots can build cars, cook gourmet meals and fill orders for cholesterol medication at the local pharmacy. But tell jokes? Nonsense," I said smugly.
Not so fast, as I discovered upon contacting a client who had hired me several years ago to perform live, human generated comedy at an annual meeting for a large, independent optometry network. At the event's conclusion, accolades of "great job," "funny stuff," "stay in touch and "we DEFINITELY want you back" poured in.
Last week I contacted the client, eager for him to make good on his promise. The original contract was on my computer screen; all it needed was a new date and maybe a slightly higher performance fee. Even comedians are not immune from the ravages of inflation.
"Actually, Greg, we've been using a parrot the last few years," the client replied.
"What kind of parrot?" I asked, as if losing a gig to a scarlet macaw as opposed to a green-cheeked conure would provide me with some comfort.
"It's an animated character," the client said. "I'll email you a link to the company that created it."
"But, but ..." I stammered.
I remembered another piece of advice I consistently give my children: Always stand up for your beliefs and your skills. This would prove difficult, knowing my competition didn't require a plane ticket, a king-sized bed at the local Marriott, meal per diem and a taxi ride to and from the airport. Out of curiosity, I clicked the link. The parrot was the brainchild of Live Spark, a Minnesota-based event production company and creator of "AniMates," computer generated characters that can humorously interact with audiences in real time. Live Spark President Dan Yaman was happy to talk with me, once I assured him I wasn't calling to name him - and his parrot - defendants in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
"We have a talking horse, talking eagle, talking building; basically whatever you can slap a face on, we can animate it," Yaman said. Heavy hitter companies including Intel, MetLife, Target, Pfizer and Xerox have used Yaman's creations at live events.
"(AniMates) can talk about things on the audience's mind. They can even challenge the CEO," Yaman said. But, he reminded me, AniMates are controlled entirely by creative human beings who sit backstage, generating the funny lines and controlling the character's movements.
"Let's talk next week," Yaman said to me. "Maybe we can work together."
And with that, Yaman reaffirmed yet another piece of grandfatherly-sounding advice I've bestowed on my kids: When one door closes, another opens.
Even if the object behind that door is a brightly-colored bird that doesn't need a dressing room.
Follow Greg Schwem on Twitter: www.twitter.com/corpcomic
Case Study: Intel's Best Buy DSM Event
We divided the audience into teams and gave them each their own audience-response keypad. Using this keypad, they all played along in a game show (called the Intel Ultra Bowl). In addition to the game show, there was also a live, 3D, AniMated game show host tasked with emceeing the event, hosting the show, adding in humor, and interacting with the audience in real-time. The game show both reinforced and taught the content, and the event was structured so that additional information from Intel experts was placed at key moments of peak attention within the game.
“The Best Buy folks are still talking about the event even today [3 days post-show],” and “One word: AWESOME! The feedback has been great!”
According to Best Buy:
“I heard GLOWING comments about the Intel Breakout…Thanks for putting together a great experience for our employees.”
5 Years of Service: The Staying Power of an AniMate
Sure, a 15-foot-tall AniMated head (or person, or animal...) is bound to be memorable. It's a 15-foot-tall talking-in-real-time AniMated head. That's something you don't just easily forget.
But the thing is, AniMates do more than make a flash-in-the-pan impact at an event. Even aside from making the content more memorable; reinforcing points through humor and recaps, captivating the audiences' attention and making them receptive to the message--AniMates really *connect* with an audience in an absolutely amazing way.
The certificate that you see in this entry is signed by the VP of Sales and the President of the Division for Honeywell. This is the same certificate that all Honeywell employees get when they've had 5 years of service. This year, they presented it to Petey the Pirate.
Occasionally, clients will use an AniMate one year, and then decide that they have to "do something different" the next year. They're missing the point. AniMates not only become part of the audience--but they're something that the audience looks forward to seeing every year.
I was backstage at this year's Honeywell event. Petey doesn't come out right away, of course. First, the VP of Sales--the host of the meeting--greets the audience and welcomes them to the event, etc. The last line of the VP's opening message was, "But I get the feeling we're missing someone..."
The audience started to chant: "Petey...Petey....Petey....Petey!"
Because Petey the Pirate is no longer just an AniMate. He's not--and never was--just a cheap gimmick to be discarded for the next new event-production fad. He embodied the spirit of the audience. He was their cheerleader, their comrade and their voice onstage in the type of an event where an audience is typically expected to be seen and not heard. He has become part of the culture of that division.
Petey is a prime example of the staying power of an AniMate. Five years and the audience snaps to attention whenever he comes on the screen. Five years and he is able to deliver key messages; both uplifting and the hard truth--in a way in which the audience can relate.
Five years, and Petey the Pirate has received a service recognition.
And he's definitely planning on showing up next year.
Engine Eddie in the New York Times.
As you might imagine, this attracted some attention.
In fact, Engine Eddie got his own spot in the New York Times. Check out the article here.
Here's a copy of the article text, also:
Pretty cool. :)
Going Viral in Pursuit of the Perfect Lawn Published: June 8, 2009
Back when being the chief executive of General Motors meant something, one of G.M.’s leaders, Charles Erwin Wilson, became the secretary of defense and was widely known by a nickname, Engine Charlie. Decades later, a marketer is centering a campaign on an alliterative alternative, Engine Eddie.
Engine Eddie is an animated character who encourages consumers to take better care of their lawns by offering them the chance to send “EddieGrams” to friends and neighbors. The messages can be personalized to enable the senders to talk up the condition of their lawns -- or suggest that someone else’s lawn needs some help.
And where, pray tell, would such assistance be available? Why, of course, from the sponsor of the EddieGram effort, the Briggs & Stratton Corporation in Milwaukee. As the leading maker of gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment, the company would benefit if Americans were seized with an overwhelming urge to improve the looks of their lawns.
The campaign is housed on a Web site where computer users can engage in some “backyard bragging with Engine Eddie,” who is a lawn mower with a head where the engine usually goes.
To indicate the origins of the character, whom Briggs & Stratton describes as its “online spokesmower,” he has a full head of grass rather than hair. (No need to buy Eddie a comb-and-brush set for Father’s Day, just a nice pair of lawn clippers.)
Visitors to the Web site can create e-mail messages in which Engine Eddie — bearing his own face or the sender’s, through the use of an uploaded photograph — “speaks” to the recipient. There is also a link to another Briggs & Stratton Web site, which describes why the company’s products “are on more lawn mowers than any other engine in the world.”
In other words, if Schlitz was “the beer that made Milwaukee famous,” as the old slogan proclaimed, Briggs & Stratton wants to be the engine that makes it even more so.
The campaign is similar to many these days in having multiple agencies involved in its creation. Marx McLellan Thrun in Milwaukee conceived of the Engine Eddie character. The Milwaukee office of Cramer-Krasselt provided strategic direction by suggesting the character be the star of a viral campaign.
Oddcast in New York contributed its new PhotoFace technology, enabling the personalized messages to talk and bear the likenesses of the senders.
And two agencies in Minneapolis, Live Spark and One Simple Plan, brought Engine Eddie to life for a so-called satellite media tour, during which reporters and anchors at local TV stations were able to “interview” the character.
The EddieGram campaign, with a budget estimated at about $250,000, is also similar to others nowadays in that it seeks to reach consumers who are younger than the typical audience a marketer communicates with through traditional advertising.
In this instance, the goal is to introduce Briggs & Stratton to home owners ages 25 to 35 who are “self-directed,” says Rick Zeckmeister, vice president for consumer marketing and planning at Briggs & Stratton, and “very Web-savvy; they like blogs and like getting customer information online.”
“We celebrated our 100th anniversary last year,” he adds, “and like any company around 100 years, what you make, and how you communicate, need to evolve.”
“For a conservative, 100-year-old company, it seems a little more out there,” Mr. Zeckmeister says of the campaign, “but we’re trying to connect with our younger consumers.”
“Honestly, when I presented it to senior management, the room would be divided,” he adds. “One part of the room would be, ‘I don’t get it.’ The other part of the room would say, ‘Man, I should send that to my brother-in-law.’ ”
One major change “in the last 5, 10 years,” Mr. Zeckmeister says, is that what he calls “generational information” is being shared less between, say, fathers and sons, in matters like “what car to buy, what power equipment to buy.”
As a result, “people don’t know as much about engines as they used to,” he adds.
Enter the self-directed consumer, who goes to the Internet to get filled in. As a result, “we’ve done several initiatives online for young homeowners,” Mr. Zeckmeister says, among them yardsmarts.com, a Web site devoted to lawn care that contains video clips, articles and a Yard Doctor feature. (Yardsmarts also has presences on Facebook and YouTube and offers e-mail newsletters.)
“We want to go where our next generation of consumers is,” Mr. Zeckmeister says,” and at the same time “have fun.”
“We need to have a little more fun,” he adds, laughing. “Yards and grass and family, it’s supposed to be fun; we forget that sometimes.”
The perceptions of Engine Eddie seem positive, based on the results so far of research into how the campaign is being received.
“It’s a confluence of fun and the viral element,” says John Feld, vice president at Cramer-Krasselt.
For instance, say “you’re 32 years old, you get e-mail from a neighbor that says your lawn looks like hell,” he adds. “You might send one back.”
The initial goal of a 70 percent “open rate” for the e-mail messages has been far exceeded, Mr. Feld says, with recipients “clicking multiple times.”
The goal of a 10 percent pass-along rate for the e-mail messages has also been exceeded, he adds, reaching 12 percent, while the goal for the number of repeat visitors to eddiegram.com, set at 20 percent, has reached 24 percent.
The only metric that has fallen short of its goal is average session length, Mr. Feld says, which has been running less than the projected 4 minutes. One theory is that people who return to the site spend less time there because “they know what they’re doing,” he adds.
If the ability to send talking e-mail messages sounds familiar, it may be because Oddcast is the agency that has developed many such applications including one for CareerBuilder — Monk-E-Mail, which dates to early 2006 — that was a huge viral hit.
There are still “hundreds of thousands of users a month, three and a half years later,” says Adi Seidman, chief executive at Oddcast.
“The first thing we look for in a viral application is entertainment value,” he adds, so in coming up with the EddieGrams the idea was to produce something that would appeal to “the Home Depot crowd.”
That is the reason for features like inviting the senders of the e-mail messages to “pimp your lawn,” and design unique backgrounds for Engine Eddie.
“We were all about making the pimping fun,” Mr. Seidman says, so senders can “put a barbecue on the lawn, put a cool chicken on the lawn.” “I would always push for the wilder and the more novel, for sure,” he adds.Hmmmmm. Perhaps the recipient of the next EddieGram will hear Engine Eddie echo “Engine Charlie” and say that “for years I thought what was good for the country was good for Briggs & Stratton and vice versa.”
The Weight of Recognition
Well, today a box arrived at our office. A black, hefty box that just oozed importance. (Well, not literally, but the yell of, "Hey, look...we got a box and it looks shiny!" echoed through the office, drawing *all* employees to a central location.)
What was in the box?
Why, it was the Emmy. And yes, they're just as heavy as everyone makes them look on TV. Here is our Producer--and named Director on the Emmy--David Stewart, holding up the substantial statuette.
Once again--congrats to David, Brendan and the Minyanville team on the Emmy win! We're awfully proud of all of them.
Hey, do you think the board would go for an AniMated Emmy at the Emmy awards next year? We think it'd be a great idea!
Now who do we talk to about that...
And the Emmy Goes to...
Hoofy and Boo are the character creations of Minyanville--a next-generation digital media company that creates branded content to inform, educate and entertain all generations about the world of finance. The bull (Hoofy) and bear (Boo) of Wall Street, Hoofy and Boo are dedicated to reporting the latest financial news of the world in a witty, informed, and often irreverent format.
Hoofy and Boo are brought to life by Live Spark and are examples of Live Spark's AniMates. This unique animation technique allows for quick production on each 2-minute segment--essential when rolling out 2 episodes a week; one for Fox Business Channel and the other for Yahoo! Finance (all episodes are housed and replayed on Minyanville's own site). Episodes are also assembled through Live Spark, and go through an extensive post-production process adding in all graphics, sound and additional media content.
Click here to watch episodes of "World in Review with Hoofy and Boo".
[Click on image below to make larger.]
From the Minyanville News Release:
Minyanville Media Wins Emmy
“Minyanville’s World in Review With Hoofy and Boo” Wins Award For Business and Financial Reporting
New York, Dec 2- Minyanville Media, the fast growing financial information and entertainment company today won a Business and Financial Reporting Emmy for its animated news show “Minyanville’s World In Review with Hoofy and Boo”.
The show was honored by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, in the New Approaches to Financial Reporting category for its groundbreaking weekly show starring the animated icons of finance, Hoofy The Bull and Boo The Bear.
“It is a humbling honor for us, to be recognized as a leader of business news reporting,” said Minyanville Founder and CEO Todd Harrison. “ We continue to do our part in helping narrow the gap between what people know about managing their money and what they need to know, “ he added.
The show, which is an entertaining and educational look at the world of business, money and the financial markets runs on Minyanville’s fast growing web site, www.minyanville.com. It also runs on Yahoo Finance each week and ran weekly on The Fox Business Network.
Hoofy and Boo could not be reached for comment as they were taking a meeting with their new agents.
To view episodes of “Minyanville’s World In Review With Hoofy and Boo” visit www.minyanville.com/mvtv
“Minyanville’s World In Review With Hoofy and Boo”
David Stewart [With Live Spark]
Brendan Stern [With Live Spark]
Minyanville is a next-generation digital media company that creates branded content to inform, educate and entertain all generations about the world of finance.
Led by a cast of animated "Critters" – including Hoofy the Bull and Boo the Bear – Minyanville uses a combination of smart analysis and entertainment to highlight the need for better financial understanding. Targeting segments at all stages – from kids to the most sophisticated professional investors – Minyanville reaches its audiences through their Buzz and Banter subscription product, a website (www.minyanville.com) attracting nearly 1.5 million monthly unique visitors and content distribution deals with Yahoo! Finance, T.D Ameritrade, Dow Jones MarketWatch, Bloomberg, AOL, MSN and others. They have the first and only animated business news show "Minyanville's World In Review" that premieres weekly on Yahoo! Finance. The show was recently nominated for an Emmy. Minyanville "professors" are regulars on Fox Business Network, CNBC and Nightly Business Network. Meanwhile, the company is reaching more than 280,000 kids through an educational virtual world at www.minyanland.com.