How creativity rules when an event goes wrong.
Lucky for, well, everyone--no one knows EXACTLY how the event is supposed to go save for you. Chances are that an overwhelming majority of the time the audience won't know that something didn't go as planned.
But sometimes BIG things happen. You can't know what will go wrong, but the best thing you can do is remain creatively agile. Have a backup plan in mind. We're not talking about moving the lunch inside when you're blessed with an epic tropical storm during your soiree, here. We're talking about content not going over, technical issues that stop the show, and things that just flat-out didn't play.
1. Have a contingency plan.
When you have many years of experience in events, you have a couple of activities or strategies in your back pocket that you can seamlessly insert into an event. It's good to have these planned out ahead of time. They can either be backup presenters (uh oh, if the CEO gets the flu, who is going to deliver her message the day-of?), backup activities (the team competition is incredibly skewed, how can you insert an activity that might balance the event), or other (we've gone 1 hour over time--what can be swapped out for something else or moved around).
Look at each place in your agenda and think, "What if?" We're not saying to start thinking like things ARE going to go wrong--just have a few tricks up your sleeve just in case. Sometimes plan b ends up going over better than plan a anyway.
2. Get a Character assist.
We realize that this is unique to our offerings in a way, but having an AniMate* to right the course can be an incredibly valuable tool at an event. One of the main issues with executing plan changes at an event is communicating the what, when and WHY. An AniMate can do this in the voice of the audience, make sure everyone is on the same page, and host additional activities or events without having to get an internal presenter up to speed on the fly.
3. Engage low-tech solutions for high-tech problems.
We've all had technology crash and burn (um, sometimes quite literally) at an event. You run the PowerPoints 100 times and the projector bulb goes out. You triple-check the video sound and someone unplugs and re-plugs a cable without running it one more time. The amazing event laptop AND backup system is wiped in the middle of the night by Event Goblins. Whatever. Technology is ubiquitous and can be flawed. The good news is that the low-tech solution can be a welcomed novelty when the high-tech plan fails.
Having a presenter sketch out their points on a flip-chart when the powerpoint goes down can be compelling and even force the presenter to speak more spontaneously and engagingly. Narrating a soundless video on the fly can be an exercise in improvisation with fantastic (and often humorous) results. Phone polling that ceases to function because ballrooms get notoriously poor reception can be replaced by a simple raising of hands...or an even more interactive standing up to respond.
The key with any event issue is agility and creativity. The best producers we've known have kept their head in times of uncertainty and chaos, taken a deep breath, and put forward several alternate solutions. They don't have to be perfect to work, and the audience doesn't know the difference most of the time anyway.
*An AniMate is a live, 3-D animated character who interacts with the emcee and presenters to communicate messaging, be the voice of the audience, add humor, and/or host the event.
Creating a Character: Porter the Penguin
|Porter the Penguin: Close to final.|
But sometimes, it only serves to further satiate one's appetite. I find myself thinking of watching hours of "behind the scenes" footage on DVDs for my favorite movies (in fact, this is maybe one of the only reasons to buy DVDs anymore...as an aside).
We're going to meet somewhere in the middle here, as we take you behind the scenes in the process of creating a character--but without spoiling any of the fun (in case you happen to be an audience member).
The process of creating a character pretty much goes like this:
|A mid-course correction to illustrate eye shape.|
2. Sketch the character
3. Animate-test the character
4. Put the character into their 3D environment
5. Refine the character
6. Refine the character
7. Refine the character... (And then refine, refine and refine.)
8. Get the final product.
Our latest character is Porter the Penguin. He's the coolest bird on either side of the equator, and he's showing up to help emcee the e4 event in Phoenix. We can make anything into an AniMate--a company logo, a person, a mascot, a spokesanimal, an abstract design, a talking product...anything.
We ended up settling on the Penguin because the event was titled "The Cool Wave" and, well, penguins are some of the coolest--and coldest--birds around.
We then did quite a bit of research (which entailed watching quite a few penguin videos) on different types of penguins and decided on general species that we wanted to emulate. Our first penguin animation was, well, a lot different than our final result. Observe:
|The emperor penguin's new clothes?|
We settled on doing a more cartoon-based look. The feathers and body and such would still retain realism, but we would then exaggerate some features; the eyes and the beak, chiefly. What we got was still recognizably Penguin--but was also a lot friendlier looking.
We liked this little guy quite a bit...but the shape of the eyes was off. We decided to change to a more horseshoe shaped form...and also started to experiment with eye color.
We also loved this Porter, but thought he looked a little, well, perpetually sad. Also a bit juvenile. We course-corrected by changing the size of the eyes...
|This is very close to the final result.|
|Feet-in-progress in the animation program.|
It's always an iterative process. Along the way we got plenty of client feedback. The character develops physically right along with the script, so it always feels like the "right" words are coming out of the character, and, conversely, that the character has the right look for the script. It's a highly customized process and it's always a joy to have a new AniMated character to interact live during events. Porter's name may change if future clients want to use this penguin for their events, but we'll never forget how he was born. Happy Birthday, Porter the Penguin!
How to Acknowledge Sponsors...in a Song.
We come across this issue frequently--especially in forums, associations, or events with a showcase/tradeshow component: How does one give sponsors appropriate face time in the main event?
We've seen logos on the wall, in PowerPoints...we've had emcees and presenters thank them, we've had sponsor signs in break tables, etc. All of these things are good, but in addition to those we like to thank sponsors...in a song.
Not only is a parody song funny and engaging, but it ensures that every attendee is paying complete attention when the sponsor is getting their name-check. Sponsors are often very important and they deserve a little fanfare.
The video in this blog is Neighthan the Horse, thanking the sponsors to the tune of "My Favorite Things" at an event. Not only do they get a name check, but they also have a line about what they do--elevating the sponsor shout-out above a slide with logos and a round of applause.
How to select an AniMate for an event.
(And why wouldn't you? They engage an audience, further your message, increase content retention, add humor and interactivity and become one of the favorite elements of any event for years to come...)
How do you know which AniMated character is right for you? There are two ways to think about an AniMate--what is their role, and what is their character.
Role: An AniMate's role encompasses what they mean to the audience. Who are they? Are they a mascot? One of the audience? These don't have to be clearly drawn along character lines--a member of the audience doesn't have to be a humanoid character and a mascot doesn't have to be an animal, etc.
Character: A character is the actual form the AniMate is going to take. Are they a human? A bird? A talking line? Characters can be humanoid, animal, logos coming to life, abstract designs, talking products, etc.
When our clients are selecting an AniMate, the selection process doesn't just happen one way (first we decide on a character, then figure out his role or vice versa), this can be inspired in many ways--from a beloved company mascot to getting inspiration from a location (our most recent AniMate was a horse after finding out the event was being held at Wild Horse Pass). The most important thing about the AniMate, however, is not what form it takes, but its role. The role determines what tone the characters' messaging will take and how they relate to the audience.
Company/Program Mascot: Some companies have pre-existing mascots that can come to life, others want to create a mascot for an event, program or as an ongoing part of their company. A mascot takes on an inspirational role and supports the event in a more company-centric way. A few examples of mascots we've AniMated: The Pillsbury Dough Boy, Geoffrey the Giraffe, Charge the Rhino, and several other logos/characters that have either come to life or have been developed specifically for the event.
Future Character: A character that knows what is going to happen in the future, and is excited to be at this event to share their wisdom/knowledge, and to urge the audience in a certain direction. They can be there because this is truly the time when everything all comes together, or because it's the moment where they need to make a decision to change things radically in order to succeed.
One of the Audience/Audience Advocate: This is a character who--in some way--represents a member of the audience. They could have either been "sucked in" to the virtual world somehow, or be someone/some thing who was planning on attending for the first time. (I.e. In a convention of meeting planners, we had Eddie the Eagle--who was the head of meeting planners for eagles.) They have the audience's interests in mind and ask the same questions that they would ask. These are usually the most compelling and effective characters; especially if the audience needs to be persuaded or the company is facing challenges ahead.
Skeptical Joiner: A character that appears at an event with ingrained skepticism apart and perhaps above what the audience could typically express. This could be a representation of a new-hire or someone applying to be one of the audience, something who is looking for a team to join, or someone who is not certain they believe in a new product or idea. Eventually, of course, they come around; taking the audience on the journey with them. Two examples of skeptical joiner characters we've done are Petey the Pirate--who was just a pirate sailing on into the event and seeing if this was the right sales force to loot and plunder with (if the company had the right plan and the right resources and were ready to go)--and Lenny the Louse (a louse that showed up at the meeting of a lice-removal product launch with confidence that he would still be okay...but then getting more and more frightened as he learned about the product, and eventually deciding, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em".)
Product Advocate: This character is more often used in tradeshow environments than in meetings. Their role is to promote a product to the audience in a variety of different ways. They can be a user, an expert (i.e. a professor) or they can even be the product themselves. They communicate the different features and benefits and can answer any questions about the product on the minds of the audience.
Emcee Only: Sometimes you need a little character in your event. Characters don't always have to interact with presenters and further the message. I mean, we think it's most effective when they do, but they are also engaging in their own right. They have the advantage of being a unique and novel host and can bring humor along with serving as a point of continuity throughout an event. Sometimes they aid a human (real-live-non-animated) host in their role, delivering essential housekeeping and other logistical notes in an engaging way.
Character roles are not limited by these categories, of course, just as they're not limited in form. We do, however, spend extensive time with our clients developing a character, role, and figuring out how the AniMate can best serve the event based on the event outcomes.
A Talking Horse (of course, of course)
There was excitement all around. The location was beautiful and the event was much-anticipated after its absence. We had previously done an AniMate for the same company's internal show with huge success and many, many raves--so they wanted to bring a little of that magic to the conference for their users.
But which character to use? There are many ways to choose which AniMate is right for your event (we'll get into that in the next blog entry), but in this case they looked to the resort for inspiration.
Wild Horse Pass? How about a talking horse? Enter "Neighthan" (pronounced neeeeeeeighthan).
But as fun as it may seem, one cannot just have a talking horse for the sake of a talking horse. This horse was entertaining and fun, but was also there for serious business. The client had specific goals that they wanted the horse--as co-emcee--to accomplish:
- Help introduce the new internal emcee to the audience and establish his credibility
- Foster a feeling of community
- Continue on a tradition of entertainment in the general sessions
- Make a big splash without losing meaning
- Communicate key message points about the product
- Help convey housekeeping, maintain general session flow, and other regular emcee duties
- Host interactive games that would inspire the audience to come *back* to the end-of-day sessions
The result? Neighthan was universally beloved by the audience; who looked forward to seeing him. Not only that, but his co-emcee (the internal emcee) described himself as being "like a rockstar". Neighthan elevated the other emcee in his role as well as entertaining and engaging the audience on a talking-horse level. Neighthan was positioned as a fellow forum attendee and user (only from a "one-man town" instead of a "one-horse town"), so he had permission to ask questions, recap product information that he was "learning" along with the audience, and become part of the community.
The next year's event won't be in Wild Horse Pass, but that doesn't mean our client won't be putting Neighthan in his virtual trailer and taking him along for the ride. In just two days, he became a part of the team--making our client look wonderful in the eyes of their users.
Now that's a horse of a different color.
From Skeptic to Believer: One AniMate's Tale
This is not always the case, of course, but sometimes an AniMated character is like fireworks: a video or picture just doesn't do the concept justice. You have to be there.
We recently had a client whose advisers had seen an AniMate in practice. The client was skeptical, but the advisers--seeing the widespread success of the AniMate at the event they were at--insisted that she use an AniMate for there event.
The client was, to say the least, skeptical. She wasn't sure how it was going to work. The event included their best clients...what if it was embarrassing? She went so far as to inform us that she would be waiting in the ladies room during the opening monolog just in case everything bombed so badly that there was no hope for recovery.
We assured her that in 20 years of event experience, we have NEVER had an AniMated character fail to be a hit with the audience. Ever.
Why an AniMate works:
- The AniMate is the voice of the audience; they get to express their questions, support, skepticism and inside humor.
- The audience relates to the AniMate. He/She IS the audience.
- It provides an unprecedented level of interaction at an event.
- It keeps the audience engaged throughout the ENTIRE event (no matter how dry the other material can be) with both humor and content material.
- It puts the audience in a positive emotional state and suspends their disbelief.
- It's a new experience for the audience; it's not just meeting-as-usual.
- They can introduce and interact with speakers; creating strong "what's in it for me" relevance for the audience.
- They can reinforce the corporate brand.
- They react to the presenters, the audience and the event LIVE--making the meeting an organic, interactive, changing thing.
- AniMates can influence and persuade the audience in a subtle, covert way.
Now in the case of our skeptical client (as in every other case) their audience LOVED the AniMate. Not only did it receive anecdotal rave reviews, but in post-event surveys on a scale from 1-10 the AniMate was rated 10.2. Attendees had actually filled in extra boxes and raised their ratings to express their enthusiasm for the character and its impact on the event.
But that wasn't all. After the event, we received this letter from our skeptical client:
Well, I must take my licks – I have to admit that I was definitely short-sighted on what Live Spark would bring to our conference. You guys were awesome, and were a vital part of the success of [Redacted Event Name]. After a few tense moments on Monday morning, when none of us were sure what the reaction would be, it took off – successful beyond what I think any of us imagined. As I have de-briefed with various members, we’ve all agreed that it was, by far, our best conference on record. There was something about the energy and engagement of both [redacted] members and clients alike. And as I think about what [Redacted] said about starting the day in a positive frame of mind, I truly think this was the beauty of what Live Spark/[Character] brought – we started each day laughing, and then left the room charged up and ready to go. The energy and positive feeling was truly different, and had a direct impact on the success of the conference.
I’m glad we took the time to really focus on the voice and persona of the animate – you really nailed it, and it was clear that you listened to us. But it was also evident that you maintained your level of creativity and originality. Thank you for all you did, and you can now list me as an official Live Spark convert!
Thanks again, and looking forward to 2013.
We would say that the success of the AniMate speaks for itself, but the amazing, overwhelmingly positive feedback from our clients, the audience, and past clients is what *really* speaks.
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.”
@e4 With Ellie the Eagle
The answer is the Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando, Florida at the e4 (Experient) conference.
Last year, Eddie the Eagle--an AniMated character produced by us--was the co-host of the event with Experient's Teri Tonoli. Eddie couldn't make it this year (due to various family commitments and a need for variety), so he sent his new wife (and nest partner) Ellie to fill in for him on hosting duties.
Ellie looks quite similar to Eddie--only with a bow--and, like Eddie, belongs to an association of meeting planners (of the eagle persuasion). She and Eddie first flirted at eHarmony--that's eagleHarmony--being matched on 5 different levels of compatibility. (Not least of which, a mutual love of roadkill.) They then grew their romance in the feather at e5--the e4 event...for eagles.
Now Ellie is at e4 to learn how to talk the talk and squawk the squawk. The opening session on Monday already went really well, and you can bet she'll be sitting in on one of Dan Yaman's "Brain-Based Events" presentations on Tuesday at the Exchange Cafes. (Hey, if an eagless can't shamelessly promote once in a while. . . )
So if you're at e4--look for us here! And if you're not, well, this introduction to Ellie the Eagle probably seems kind of out of place...but you should definitely explore how an AniMated character could add humor, engagement, reinforce key points, and be a delight with impact at your next event.
What's New Versus What's Needed.
No, I'm not opposed to change or to doing something different within an event, but this approach is extremely problematic and it tends to create extreme parties and disparate event elements: The "it's not broke, don't fix it" camp and the "we can't do something they've seen before" camp.
All with attention on what's NEW instead of what's NEEDED.
Because I highly doubt that whatever new and novel juggler/act/entertainment/technology/game/etc. is really going to hide the fact that all the attendees have seen the same old PowerPoint from presenters. And novelty is great, but novelty with a purpose is even better.
Oftentimes, we'll be asked to do an AniMate for an event--something that a lot of attendees have not seen--or at least experienced--before. When we produce an AniMate character, the first thing we ask is how it will further the outcomes of the event. No outcomes? Okay, let's put down your outcomes. A presenter wants to interact with the AniMate? Okay, let's work on your presentation.
We end up doing much more than adding a novelty and consequently, though the attendees will have "seen it before", the characters are frequently brought back in subsequent years (for example).
The most frustrating thing to hear is this conversation:
"But we've done that before."
"Did it work?"
"Yeah, they loved it! And it was very effective."
"Then why aren't you doing it again?"
"Because we've done that before."
I understand the tendency to gravitate toward the novel, to impress with new technology and new elements, but if the rest of the event isn't going to change (it's still going to be a line of presenters one after another--a proverbial death-by-PowerPoint firing squad) then adding new bells and whistles is going to be a waste of money (and no wonder audiences will have little tolerance for what has "been done" if it's not on-purpose).
The point is, the search for novelty without factoring in what the event really needs is a futile endeavor. Sometimes what the event needs is what worked the last time. Sometimes the event needs something different. And sometimes the core elements of the event need to be reevaluated, and the novelty is nice to have, but not needed.
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.
Getting AniMated about Gender Roles
Because they add humor and let audiences know that they are being represented and taken into account, audience advocate AniMates are extremely popular.
And these characters are most often male.*
Occasionally we're asked the question: what if we made the AniMate a female?
A good question--and very appropriate when the audience skews female. And yet, we usually advise against a female AniMate save for cases in which the audience is *overwhelmingly* female.
It's not that we don't want to do female characters, but the reasons are--perhaps--more indicative of gender roles in most corporate cultures than anything. Whereas a male AniMate can get off telling an executive that they have to prove themselves, and that they're skeptical about the new plan (before the executive gives a refined and credible argument that turns the AniMate around--along with the audience, of course), when a female brings up the shortcomings of an authority (male or female) she can come off as...well...whining.
They're the same words written by the same writer--the only difference is the face and the voice behind the argument--yet in the perception of the character there is a world of difference.
We're not saying it's fair or it's right--it's just how it is right now with most audiences that we deal with. It's interesting that while an AniMate in general is a mirror of an audience, that the bias for a male or a female AniMate is a mirror of society.
*It's interesting to note that the scripting for these AniMates is written by a female writer.
Eddie the Eagle on the E4 Blog
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.”
Our Submission to Meetings Mean Business
While we come at this issue from a slightly different perspective, we also decided to submit our own video--highlighting why corporate meetings are critical--both for the travel industry AND for corporations.
Take a look at one of our AniMated characters giving his perspective:
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.
Deja-Conomy and Audience Advocacy
The impact on businesses--particularly in regards to how they view their events and meetings--is also similar.
We reflect back to when Live Spark was in its infancy, and Dan Yaman, our founder, regales us with tales of companies in difficult times; merging, scaling down, participating in acquisitions, etc.
In fact, Live Spark's predecessor company was started on Black Monday--and the term ignorance is bliss had never been more true. It may not have seemed like the best time to start a business, but it ended up being the perfect time for the company to introduce itself to the world.
At the time, Live Spark was known as Interactive Personalities--specializing in AniMate technology--real-time animated characters--instead of the entire spectrum of event design.
What happened during that time, was that companies going through significant change due to the economy or simply restructuring started contacting Dan and company.
"We need an audience advocate," was the request. Companies were still bringing their employees together for meetings--in fact, meetings were even more critical than ever for getting everyone on board and reassuring them with the new company visions. But what companies realized was that their audience needed a voice.
An audience in a state of uncertainty, or sitting in a meeting unconvinced, is an audience that is not receptive to new messaging. Likewise, when a company has issues that are unresolved, not addressing these before moving forward into mission-critical content is like putting a drop of water in a bucket of soup; the water is still there, but it's diluted by the simmering broil of the pot at large.
An audience advocate--in the form of an AniMate--was a transformational presence in these events.
Instead of CEOs and Executives talking AT the audience, they were able to talk TO them in an intimate way--even in a crowd of thousands.
The audience advocate:
- Kept the audience entertained and focused by interjecting humor.
- Brought up questions that were on the minds of the audience when an new concept was introduced.
- Voiced issues and objections so they could be addressed and the meeting could move forward.
- Provided an opportunity for top-level personnel to show that they understood what was going on, and were "with" the audience.
- Increased unity and feelings of company loyalty in a time where boosting morale and motivating employees was absolutely critical.
As we experience a deja-conomy of sorts in 2008 and heading into 2009, we're seeing more and more need for the audience advocate. As businesses find themselves in undesirable positions (or, sometimes, great positions, but with a high degree of change), the need for the audience to have a voice in the process grows. Though these AniMates have always been part of our toolbox, they fill a very specific niche in tough times that truly makes an impact.
Getting Tooned Up
Reposted from the MouseKingdom Blog:
For those who have seen real-time animation at the popular Disney attractions—“Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor” and “Turtle Talk With Crush”—take note. Here’s a clip that shows how Disney utilized the same type of interactive technology almost ten years prior to featuring it in their attractions.
The following video is a sample of what Disney did at a tradeshow for cable television executives. Toon Disney was just launching its cable station and wanted to expose the tradeshow attendees to their channel. They offered a draw in the booth; where the attendees could become “Tooned Up” (turned into a cartoon character) and walk away with a tape of their experience.
In the Disney booth, there was an area where an attendee could sit down and look at an off-screen monitor. There, the attendees saw themselves AND a real-time computer animated character that was digitally inserted into the video. The attendee was also wearing a microphone headset that contained a sensor that transmitted the position of their head and relayed movements to a computer. Hidden from the attendees was an actor performing the character’s voice and movements (interacting with the attendee) and a technician who operated the computer controls to change the attendee’s “Tooned Up” appearance; gender, hair color, skin color, etc.
The end result was magic—but then again, what else would you expect from Disney?
The attendees received a copy of their interaction with the real-time character and of their own transformation from person to Toon to take home to their colleagues and families.
It goes to show you that Disney has been ahead of the curve– seeking out ways to interact with their audience for years in the virtually animated world.
Note: Video provided courtesy of Live Spark; the company responsible for the animation technology.