Part 2: Digital Content Newfront 2009, Skylight, New York
June 3, 2009
OK, so last time we met, I gave a play by play of Al Gore's keynote at the Digital Content Newfronts. You're right, there was more. Thing is, I took copious notes as our former VP spoke, because I was having one of those pinch-me moments. It's been a long road from the cow pastures of Mantua, Ohio to the street sewage of Manhattan and again, I'll never take for granted these ridiculous opportunities that come my way.
Ah ah ah, but wait, I wanted to call out one more thing our buddy Al said, and that is: while Current TV may get 250 viewer-created commercials and only choose one, what the brands learn from the other 249 is invaluable. Each digi-vid failure is a peek into the minds of the viewer -- the ability to see how a brand is perceived.
Moving on. Jake and Amir from CollegeHumor sprinkled the day with weirdo levity that may or may not have been lost on some of the older folks. They had a tough job as the day wore on and people forgot their manners -- breaking into mini jam sessions between each panel and making it impossible to hear our goofy emcees.
The panel following His Goreness was the Marketers Roundtable: Bringing Digital Programming to market. MySpace's Jeff Berman moderated (wonder what he thought when Amir said "MySpace is social networking for people too cheap to afford Facebook"), where Andrew England, CMO of Miller-Coors, stole the show from IBM's Deirdre Bigley, Subway's Tony Pace, and only gently outshone Kraft's Mark Stewart. Berman's first bait? If 80% of ad budgets are still going to 15s and 30s (spot length in seconds), how do we shift those dollars to digital -- how does this evolve? Mark Stewart, who doesn't believe the 80-20 rule stands anymore, argued that "the real battle is about relevance... you have to respect the consumer and how they want to be communicated to." How is that different than any professional relationship? Does this mean that up until now, no one was listening? That's interpersonal communication and people management 101.
Regarding control over what employees pump out digitally, Deirdre Bigley referred to the Business Conduct Guidelines that I signed back in the day, assuring "you don't want to over-control this...[we say] if you're speaking as an IBM employee, know what it means to be an employee -- don't swear." Maybe that's why IBM and I broke up, I really like to swear. Andrew England piped up: "I don't sweat control."
Let's move onto the Tom Green panel, or what I like to call "Butter, Faith, Music, and Fart Machines" because seriously, what the hell went on during that panel? Panelist Craig Brewer, Screenwriter and Director of $5 Cover, Paula "one stick of butter is one stick too few" Deen of "Get Cookin' With Paula Deen," Milo Ventimiglia, actor, producer, and Co-founder of Divide Pictures, and Faith Ford of MSN's Mind Body Balance found their seats ok, but the rambunctious Kevin "Nalts" Nalty, self-proclaimed YouTube genius launched himself up onto and off the back of the stage. Once he was settled, I realized this pratfall was a precursor to some attention-starved-eight-year-old behavior.
I kid you not, the topics ranged from how Brewer's seven-minute Web eps chunk nicely together and are served into a 30-minute Friday midnight portion of local-music-artist-exposure on MTV, to Tom Green trying to entice some Miller-Coors sponsorship while sucking on an MGD onstage. While sweet Faith Ford tried to participate in the online content vs. traditional content debate, she was interrupted by Nalts' fart machine. Yes, I said fart machine. This wouldn't have irked me or reeked of respect if suddenly, after interrupting Ford, Nalts hadn't launched into "Nalts' 5 magical things" with a "listen up!" sudden seriousness. It's all fun and fart machines until it's your turn to talk, isn't it? In between the interruptions and Tom Greenery, the paid vs. ad-supported content debate was regurgitated. "I'm all about narrow casting [vs, broadcasting]" announced Green, "I'm looking for a small group of really really weird people" willing to pay 6 bucks to subscribe to his content. Nalts chose "ad-supported," noting that "my content's not worth paying for."
Milo V seemed the most serious of the panelists, sitting sedately with his crooked hair offering up little brain bits here and there. At one point Paula Deen misunderstood him and heard the word "varmint," which sent them all off on a butter-lubed tangent. One thing that Milo V said that struck a chord and probably won't make him the favorite of all those "everything should be free!" fanatics was that "I use Hulu as a guide, but it's a free site, so it takes money out of the artists' pockets." As the panel wrapped up, Tom Green suddenly burped out that a video of Paula Deen dropping trou on YouTube hit 1 million views. Deen was such a good sport, retelling the moment when "my britches hit my knees" to a hysterical crowd. Audible groans filled the room as the panel ended -- back to reality.
The day ended with a cocktail hour, where I ran into Dave Ford of Branded Evolution, I finally connected with C.C. Chapman, Partner of The Advance Guard, and met Adam Erlebacher, co-founder of PlaceVine. While snooping around during the breaks, I grabbed a picture of the host of "Closet Crashers," Anthony Padilla, Ian Hecox of Smosh, and Michael Carrasquillo, organizer of NYC Media Makers. Michael was chatting with a fellow whose belt bling was blinding. His belt read "davidjr.com." Of course the lovely DiGennaro Commnications crew was there, making sure everything went smoothly. And -- if you had the Vermont cheddar sandwich with fig spread, did you say "oh, this is yummy" in between every bite, like I did?