Ad Age Article on Blindside and Faith-Based Marketing

I finally saw something interesting on the new twitter “retweet” feature that shows you retweets of people who are followed by people you follow. It’s supposed to help you find new interesting people to follow based off who the people you already follow…follow.

Anyway, one such retweet mentioned this article from Advertising Age about how “Blindside” unseated “New Moon” at the box office.

From the article:

“When you open on Nov. 20 and you’re opening against the sequel to ‘Twilight,’ and you know that the ‘Twilight’ opening weekend did $69 million and ‘New Moon’ should do better, one of the things that crosses your mind is, ‘Who isn’t going to go to “Twilight”?'” said Richard Ingber, president of worldwide marketing at Alcon Entertainment. “I don’t know that much about the ‘New Moon’ audience, but I would imagine there’s a lot of faith-based people not into ‘New Moon’ and vampires who might be into ‘The Blind Side.'”

Enter Grace Hill Media. Led by Jonathan Bock, a Warner Bros. publicity veteran who worked on Christian-friendly films such as “The Green Mile” and “My Dog Skip,” the company has helped market some 285 movies to the Christian circuit since 2000 through its database of 155,000 ministry professionals and more than 1 million consumers. When a movie with religious or spiritual themes is about to hit the marketplace, studios often tap Grace Hill to connect the film’s message with its network of Christian media outlets or its highly valuable online community of ministry professionals who use relevant clips from new movies to give a pop-culture focus to their video-enabled Sunday sermons.

And later from a Q&A with Grace Hill’s Mr. Bock, a lifelong Presbyterian who attends the Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles:

Well, I consider it niche marketing, which is funny to say that it’s a niche when you’re talking about the size. But even if you’re a specialist in sports marketing, reaching out to mostly men, that’s still a niche. But like any sort of niche marketing, it really requires, to some degree, a familiarity with and respect of the audience you’re trying to market to. And just like I can’t imagine people involved in sports marketing don’t like sports, you got to be able to talk that talk. If you don’t, people see through that in two seconds.

The same thing is true here. You can’t just buy your way in; it does require a bit of a learning process, and it’s very relationship-based. It also just comes down to understanding who the audience is and what will work. I think people on the coasts tend to think of the religious community as very monolithic, that everybody’s an Evangelical and waiting on the next commandment from Rush Limbaugh. Once you understand there’s so much more, there is where the real success comes in.

I have been so long in encouraging people of faith to go see movies that are friendly to religious values. I have always looked at if from our view of trying to shape the culture, and entertainment. Here is a look at the other side, where they are not only making an uplifting film (So I hear, have not seen it yet. Don’t ruin the plot for me.) but then specifically making the content available to churches, hopes that it will cause attenders to want to see it. Makes complete sense from a marketing view.

The church takes advantage of a free resource, if they choose, and the movie get’s a plug. Websites like Wingclips have been doing this for years now, but for a fee.

As someone said to me today, “Free is good.”

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Facebook and Abusive Discussions

Recently Phil Cooke posted an political article on his facebook account. Shortly he got a mesage saying it had been removed because it had been reported as abusive. I read the article, and it is very direct, I wouldn’t characterize it as more abusive than other articles, from both sides, I have seen on Facebook.

Was this an overeager FB monitor? Or a case of people reporting an article they just don’t like? The comments on Phil’s post are interesting. One even suggests it was simply a technical glitch.

This line from his post resonated with me: “Whatever your persuasion, it’s a good reminder that your Facebook space doesn’t belong to you – it belongs to Facebook, and whatever over-eager site editors they employ.”

I agree. We use Facebook for free, and are subject to their policies, and to their whims on how to implement said policies. If this was someone “abusing” their power over labeling posts as abusive, at least it is not something rampant. I don’t know of any other deleted posts like this one.

Guitar Hero Trees

There are some very smart people on our staff. One of them figured out how to use a Guitar Hero controller to fire the midi lights on the Singing Christmas Trees.

I knew there had been some discussion about this, but did not know how far along into development things were. I came in to help tape some extras for the DVD of the Trees and found that the guitar was hooked up and working. Apparently the process bypasses the main racks, which we were concerned could be compromised before a presentation. As cool as it would be to play Guitar hero on the Trees, we could not put the presentation in jeopardy.

But they figured out how to make it work without lasting ill effects to the Trees programming:

Since this time we have had multiple successful presentations. For the DVD we have to cut out the actual audio from the game because of copyright concerns, but the concept is sound. The controller actually fired the lights.

Now, how do we incorporate this into next year’s presentation?

Singing Trees Reflections Video

Last night was the opening night of the Singing Christmas Trees. It’s quite simply the largest production we do. Hundreds upon hundreds of man hours go into getting ready for this production. Two 40′ trees with 266,000 mini lights controlled by MIDI hold hundreds of choir members.

This year the theme is Reflections. The drama shows scenes of people going into an attic, looking at their Christmas storage, and remembering Christmases… long long ago. I wanted to do something that allowed the audience to participate in this, as well as something kind of cool with technology.

If you have ever been the Disney’s Hollywood Studios here in Orlando, and seen the American Idol Experience, you may remember the video camera that came out into the line pre-show, and later that footage appeared in the production. I wanted to do something similar. I wanted to go into the crowd for the show, have them share a Christmas memory, and show that at the beginning of the presentation.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a wireless connection from an HD Grass valley into an editor, tied to a playback system. How could we do it? We talked about it, I asked for advice. There are two elements that take up time in the process from recording to playback that we would have to cut very short in order to accomplish the task. We had to be able to get the video into the computer quickly and we had to be able to get it out of the computer quickly.

In order to make this work we used a Sony Z1U with a FireStore FS-4 to capture the footage. From there we transferred the Quicktime files to a Final Cut Pro for a quick edit. The animation, graphics and music bed were already waiting on the timeline. Once done, we played the video directly out of the computer through an AJA, into the utility input of our video switcher. We practiced this a couple of times before the opening night.

It’s basically a 45 minute turn around. Last night the video finished final renders about 10 minutes before we needed to play it back. In order to cover ourselves in case of a equipment malfunction or human error, we will always have the video from the night before ready to roll, just in case.

It was nice to see this be successful, and well received by the audience last night.

From Friday:

And Saturday (we hold some clips over from the night before, if they were good or funny):

From Sunday:

Gratuity Included

I know why some restaurants do this, but it really bothers me. At many restaurants if you have a large party the tip is automatically included. This amount ranges from 15% to 18% added to the total of the bill.

I have no problem tipping. I have little problem with taking steps to make sure your server doesn’t get stiffed on a large party. If the party is paying with one check I can almost excuse it. But if the party is split into separate checks, adding and automatic tip makes less sense. The chances of getting completely stiffed on a tip drop drastically.

My frustration is compounded by the fact that most of the time I never know if the tip has been added in. The server never mentions it. The check lists it next to the tax,not among the other entrees. The last time this happened I only noticed because the slip I sign said “additional tip”.

As a rule, I do not tip extra when the eatery decides to add this gratuity to the check. That means that the server actually makes less money when they wait on large groups that I attend because I almost always tip 20% (unless the service was just horrible.). I understand that they are protecting the wages of the server, who is tied up with one table and would make next to nothing if they didn’t get a decent tip. I understand that.

But it still bugs me when I am not told about the auto-tip at the front, and have to review the ticket under a microscope to find out of I am being charged one.

Facebook Hits 350 Million Users, Plans Changes

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook posted a blog yesterday. The social media site has hit 350 million users, and they have some changes in mind.

One of those is to remove regional groups, since those have millions.

However, as Facebook has grown, some of these regional networks now have millions of members and we’ve concluded that this is no longer the best way for you to control your privacy. Almost 50 percent of all Facebook users are members of regional networks, so this is an important issue for us. If we can build a better system, then more than 100 million people will have even more control of their information.

Not sure how, or if, this will affect groups who buy ads on Facebook targeted regionally. I suspect they will still track the regional info, and still be able to advertise accordingly.

Merry Christmas VS Happy Holidays

Christmastime is here.

And so is the controversy over saying Merry Christmas, or not saying it, or saying it alongside other holidays. Happy Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Winter Solstice. Happy Holidays! But don’t be insensitive enough to wish someone a Merry Christmas. Or at least that’s where the conversation has gone when people push not using Merry Christmas. But really it’s about retailers trying to sell more stuff.

Retailers don’t want to say that their sales are just for Christmas, because there are 3 other “holy-days’ out there this time of year, and why make four commercials when you can just make one and cover them all? Sure, Christmas is the primary one and the ads are decked out in Christmas trappings, but Happy Holidays allows them to be all inclusive in their directed sales pitch. As a result we have a new Christmas tradition in America, the AFA boycott of retailers.

From an article on Brandweek about this year’s Gap ad:

Randy Sharp, a rep for the AFA, said that a Gap rep sent the group an e-mail alerting them to this year’s campaign, via Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, that does use the word “Christmas,” but Sharp said the ad, which features the line “Go Christmas, Go Hanukkah, Go Kwanzaa, Go Solstice,” and beckons consumers to “86 the rules,” is offensive. “It looks like an attempt to patronize people,” he said. “What they did was almost make a joke of it.”

A Gap rep, however, said the advertising mentions different holidays because the brand “is and has always been an inclusive, accessible brand in which everyone can participate and we embrace diversity across all of our customers, and more importantly respect their beliefs as individuals . . . We focus our marketing on the joys of the holiday season as a whole.

The retailer claims that it was unable to share its TV or marketing strategy with the AFA because it hadn’t been publicly announced when the group started the boycott. Gap issued a statement, saying that the Gap marketing campaign includes the use of Christmas in its commercials. Later this month, Old Navy will unveil its holiday ad, which will also mention Christmas, per the company.

“Our brands have periodically used Christmas in their holiday season advertising. With this year’s Gap and Old Navy ads, we hope that the AFA will update its Web site, which has claimed that Gap Inc. ‘refused to use the word Christmas in its advertising,'” Gap’s statement reads. “This is untrue.”

Did you catch that part about how the good folks at Gap focus their “marketing on the joys of the holiday season as a whole”? They roll all of the holidays into one ad. They are smart enough to know that not saying “Christmas’ generates heat, so they say them all. Basically, they say do whatever you want, celebrate whatever you want, but buy your gifts from us.

The controversy when I was growing up was about “Xmas” as a contraction for Christmas. “You’re literally taking ‘Christ’ out of Christmas!” Sadly, we as a nation did that a long time ago. Funny thing about this one is that the Greek word for “Christ” starts with “X” and it was a common practice to use the first letter to identify a known group, so using “Xmas” has a religious history. A Wikipedia article says, “The term “Xmas”, the subject of controversy during the mid-to-late 20th century, originated from the use of the Greek letter chi, Χ, as an abbreviation of Christ (Χριστός)” But people weren’t using it to honor religious tradition, they were trying to fit more letters on a sign, so they could sell more stuff. Sound familiar?

The commercialization of Christmas started long before this round of controversy.

My bigger issue comes when people move this out of the context of retail sales, and into how we, as individuals, communicate our well wishes to each other. I’ve had people tell me they think it is offensive to wish someone you don’t know a Merry Christmas. Their point is that they may not celebrate Christmas, and I should not force my religious view onto their day. I was once told that we should not have a Christmas party or do “Secret Santas” because it might be religiously offensive. Yeah, Secret Santas and Jesus go hand in hand.

Have we really come this far? I know that Christianity as a religion has been sidelined in society. I know that all religion has been compartmentalized in our lives. But are people really going to get hacked off if I wish them a Merry Christmas?

They won’t if they take it in the spirit it is offered. When I say “Merry Christmas” I mean that that during this time of year that means a lot lot me, I hope that you are well and happy. The word Christmas identifies why it means a lot to me, and why this time of year might be special to me.

I will not be offended when people wish me Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanzaa, or anything else. I will take it in the spirit it is offered.

In return, I will continue to say “Merry Christmas” because of what this time of year means to me. I hope that no one is offended by the fact that I celebrate a time when Jesus Christ came to earth. Yes, I know he really wasn’t born on December 25th, but this is when we take time to celebrate it, so I will continue to wish people “Merry” days during this time of year.

Merry Christmas!